Facts Nobody Told You About Living as an Expat

I always want to live abroad. Six years ago, we decided to move to the Middle East after my husband received a job offer from an airline company.

I didn’t worry about anything before we left because all I felt was the excitement of living in another country.

When you move somewhere, every day is an adventure because everything is all new. You overcome the daily challenges, and it eventually becomes routine.

The first few weeks were a challenge. Challenges which may be unexpected if you’re not well prepared. It was not easy.. I used to cry after a very long and tiring day. I miss the comfort of having a housekeeper, the help from my Mom when I need someone to watch my kids to run some errands, the endless chismisan with my friends and the food.

As challenging as it was, I don’t regret our decision to move even for one minute. All the lows have brought me to the highs, and that is just part of life. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Here are some facts about living as an expat.

You’re not in a holiday; it’s real life.

It’s not like you will be travelling somewhere for a long holiday. In reality, you will be on your own. You’re the first to wake up in the morning and last to sleep at night. You still have to do the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking. Your rest will be a playtime with your children. You have to do pretty much everything.

There is always a language barrier.

When you move to a country where there are different nationalities, expect that not everyone speaks English. Something that would be simple ‘at home’ can seem insurmountable when you’re dealing with a new language and culture. The best thing you can do is at least learn the country’s language.

Finding new friends is hard.

When you’re in a foreign country and you don’t know anyone, you’d want to meet people. When you do find new friends, they become your extended family. You spend holidays with them, their kids become your kid’s best friend. They understand what you’re going through because they are going through it too. And once you find your new friends, they move again. When you find your new bff–they leave, sometimes their job contract ends, or they just feel it’s time to move on to another adventure.

Friends/family from home don’t really understand your expat life.

Expat life is simply life in another country. People think you’re living the good life because you’re earning good and you’re living abroad. What they don’t understand is that you also work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. No one is at fault, but it is difficult to understand something you’ve never experienced. It’s almost impossible to imagine life as an expat if you’ve never been one.

Don’t get sick as much as possible.

There are times when you get sick and you can’t avoid it. Thinking who will take care of the children is the hardest part. You cannot bring them to the hospital with you and you can’t leave them alone in the house.

The culture is different, and you adapt.

Living as an expat is an amazing way to experience other countries, cultures and people. You will learn how to adapt. In a muslim country, traditional wear long black robes called the abayah and a headdress called the hijab. A burqa is worn by some women to conceal the face. I would never have tried Date fruits in the Philippines because it’s not readily available. But here, it is literally everywhere!

You become resourceful.

You want to eat pandesal, you learn how to make it. You want kangkong for your sinigang, you use spinach as a substitute. You want malunggay leaves, you grow it. You learn to be creative in a place where you can’t buy everything you need or crave for.

You will miss holidays.

Muslims don’t have Christmas and they don’t celebrate New Year unless you’re in a modern middle eastern country. Although we have “Simbang Gabi”, there are no children singing almost every hour outside your house, or “inaanaks” who knock on your door early in the morning.

You compare your new country to your home country.

The safety of my family is very important to me. Here, I can let my kids go to the restroom without a companion. We can leave our bags in a shopping cart without worrying that someone might steal it. You will realize how safe you are in your new country when you see every day in the news all the crimes that is happening in your home country. It will make you think twice of having a quick vacation back home.

Moving abroad was one of the most challenging decisions we made. But I love my life here, and I am glad we made the move. I’ve been through it, survived, and I will do it again if the need arises.

-Jaycel Collantes-

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