What is an Expat


January 23, 2022

Last week I published a post that reintroduced me and my expat story, which you can read here. One of the things that I touched upon was the definition of an expat. As someone who grew up as an expat, I know what they are, but I realized that it’s not a commonly known word for people who are not! I guess the whole idea of my blog may be a little confusing if you don’t know what it means – oops!

You may have noticed that I’ve recently been trying to write posts to kind of reintroduce myself and get everyone on the same page, as I’ve gained a lot of new readers since I first started this blog. So this week I decided to write a post explaining what an expat is and what kind of activities and what lifestyle comes along with it!

A quick definition

In my post last week I briefly described what an expat is. An expat is basically someone who has moved away from their home country. They’re usually people who have moved away temporarily, usually for a job abroad. That’s why in a city like Dubai with a large expat population, you’ll find that most middle-aged people working out there are expats who will be there for around 2-5 years (a lot of people stay for longer like my family, but 2-5 is usually the average). A lot of people will also move with their families, which brings in a whole group of expat children – that’s how I became an expat! After a few years people might move back to their home country or they might move continue to move onto new places. A lot of the teachers in my school had lived and taught all over the world which is so cool! Being an expat is such a great experience not only because you get to see a whole new way of life but also because you meet so many other expats with different experiences who have lived in different places.

The community

Moving abroad can be super disorienting and lonely at first before you find your feet, but something that can be really helpful in a new place are the expat communities. There’s something about going through the same experience that brings people closer together. There are huge communities of expats on social media, from people who have blogs and Instagram pages to different Facebook groups; these platforms create this community of people sharing their experiences and looking out for each other. In some expat heavy cities there will also be businesses or physical groups that bring together expats. For example, in Dubai, there are all kinds of expat social groups and events to attend. I would definitely say that, at least in my opinion, there’s a fine line between being a part of the expat community and letting yourself become immersed in the culture of the place where you’re currently living. It’s good to connect with other expats, but hopefully in a way that doesn’t hold you back from fully embracing living in a new place!

Some examples

You can of course read all about my expat story on this blog, I did a whole in-depth blog post here. But here are some other examples of expat stories. These are taken from my Expat Wisdom series, where I share the story of one expat each month.

Me: UK –> UAE –> America

Valeria: Ukraine –> Italy

Gabriele: Lithuania –> Germany –> Spain

Julie: USA –> Spain

Natalie: Hawaii –> Armenia –> Lebanon

Lara: Solvenia –> USA –> Germany

Stephanie: South Africa –> Greece

The pros and cons

The way you lead your expat life really depends on how long you have been in the place and how much you choose to integrate yourself into the culture. I think one of the pros of expat life is that you get the opportunity to learn about a new culture and try to immerse yourself into it. However, one of the cons is that sometimes this can be extremely difficult and can lead to confusion about what your identity is. It can also sometimes feel like you’re not fully part of the culture no matter how much you try.

I would say that one of the biggest pros is the people you get to meet and the connections you make with others. But one of the cons is definitely that expat life is so transitory, so friends usually come and go every few years. And knowing that you will probably move onto a new place in a few years, can also make you feel like you have a time stamp on your experience in that place.

I think one of the biggest cons is the absence of feeling as though you’re “home” and being away from family and close friends. But one of the pros is that this is an experience that really develops who you are as a person – something I’m continually reminding myself.

There are so many more little nuances of expat life that I’ve gone into more detail in various blog posts, but I hope this blog post was a good little overview of what an expat is!

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