It’s almost been 18 months since I relocated halfway across the world from Australia to Germany to experience life as an expat. My, what an adventure it’s been! Building a completely new life from scratch, brick by brick, without the support structures in place at home has been the single most challenging experience in my life. At the same time, it has also been the best decision I ever made. Here are 10 reasons why you should become an expat:
1. Travel opportunities
Living as an expat in a country as central as Germany means endless opportunities for travel. Since moving here, I’ve travelled to 14 different countries around Europe and have also journeyed back home to Australia as well. The ease of a weekend trip to Rome, Barcelona, or London (among countless others!) really makes those feet itch and ensures that there is always a little getaway to look forward to.
2. Learning a new language
Although my German is far from acceptable, I am learning more every day. I am finding the whole process of learning a new language fascinating and am intrinsically motivated to absorb more and more. I hope to resume lessons again soon, but in the meantime, am working through the wonderfully comprehensive online courses that Babbel offers. I guess the motivation comes from being able to apply your knowledge immediately in a real-world setting; something that is impossible in my isolated island home.
3. Making friends from all over the world
In your life as an expat, you find yourself forging some of your strongest friendships; relationships that you will treasure for life. When you join a community where everyone is bound by a common experience, this becomes the glue that binds you together so closely. Ties to these people are strong; you rely on each other constantly and intimately share those highs and lows which interplay together so frequently.
4. Learning to let go
Trying to micro-manage and control every aspect of our lives, as hard as we may try, is realistically impossible and once you become an expat, you have no choice but to loosen your grip a little! From visa uncertainties to the frustrations of job hunting, learning to let go and allow things to happen when the universe sees fit (not your impatient self) is a skill that gets a lot of practise, that’s for sure!
5. Becoming independent
As an expat, problem solving becomes second nature. The reality check of being entirely on your own and no longer having the comfort of loved ones helping to sort out life’s everyday difficulties is certainly confronting at first. In this foreign land I am forced to sort out important documents on my own, deal with tax and immigration officials who don’t speak my language and travel solo internationally. These challenges cultivate independence like nothing else.
6. Boosting self-confidence
The realisation that ‘Hey, if I can handle this crazy expat business, I can do anything’ is a nice moment in any expat’s life. Moving literally as far away from home as possible, plunging head-first into the darkness of the unknown and learning to cope with it all without those reassuring cuddles from mum, really boosts your sense of self. You realise how strong you actually are.
7. Realising that people not things matter
When you have to fit your life into a 30 kilogram suitcase, you understand pretty quickly that material possessions don’t mean much when you move around. In fact, they become cumbersome, weighty and altogether inconvenient. Instead, spending money on experiences with the people you love is so much more fulfilling than accumulating ultimately worthless objects. Aarti Khurana has the right idea: ‘while you are alive collect moments not things, earn respect not money and enjoy love not luxuries’.
8. Gaining a broader perspective
Removing yourself from the little, comfortable bubble you have built around yourself in the city you grew up in opens you up to a completely different world view. You find yourself being exposed to so many new ideas; ideas that challenge you to think in different ways, that prompt you to question the status quo, that open your eyes and move you to question. As a result, inevitably you find that you are far more accepting and open-minded than you would ever have been if you stayed at home.
9. Realising that home is expensive
Coming from a country such as Australia, recently named the fourth most expensive country in the world, where living costs are through the roof, I still find myself surprised almost daily at how cheap Berlin is in comparison. Here beer is cheaper than water, my monthly gym membership costs €18.50 and I regularly eat dinner out for only €7. In Berlin, living in the centre of the city, dining out regularly and being social on a single income is very possible. Back home in Melbourne? No chance.
10. The opening of new doors
The new, inspiring people that you meet when you move abroad can expose you to new industries and opportunities that you probably would never have considered if you had stayed at home. You might very well find yourself moving into different fields and discovering and focusing on new interests, creating exciting opportunities for yourself. There’s no telling where it might take you!
Are you considering embarking on an expat life abroad or are you an expat already? Share your thoughts below!