One of the most repetitive questions you will be asked as an expat or foreigner living abroad is ‘where are you from?’ I often wonder what it is like for people, such as my husband, who comes from a very recognisable place (you may have heard of it, London UK?). The ease they must have explaining it. London. It comes out, people process the information, understand and move on to a story about London – either they have been there or they wish to go there.
My answer? Thunder Bay. Not at all the same to my husband’s response. Not even to CANADIANS who should know better but often don’t.
In the past few years I have found myself saying, ‘do you know where Toronto is? Ok well drive 16 hours northwest and that’s where I’m from.’ This is often met with blank stares and questions like, ‘is that even in the same country?’ HA! Same country? Try the same province, even! I often field polar bear and igloo questions and have even been asked if I have ever seen a beach before I left my northern life.
So imagine my delight when last week a video of my hometown started splashing across Facebook. The video, put together by cinematographer Damien Gilbert, demonstrates the vast beauty and complexities that Thunder Bay offers. People are often confused by me as I am a huge fan of both city life and Jimmy Choos as well as hiking and being in nature. Perhaps spending 2 minutes watching what my hometown looks like, you’ll understand me a bit more. Enjoy!
Thank you, Damien for putting Thunder Bay on display for the world to see. Maybe NOW people will stop asking if I mean North Bay 😉
A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info hereand get in touch! You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading.
Becoming an Expat
By: Jason Mueller
“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.” Roman Payne
Many people don’t even get a chance to travel outside of their own country of origin or even their home state or province so the thought of becoming an expat in a completely strange country may seem overwhelming and scary. For me I think I was destined to become an expat, I got addicted to traveling when I was a kid I believe, I was privileged to be in a family that took family vacations to some pretty cool places like Disneyland and Reno. It was only natural that I turn in to a wanderlust when I was all gown up. I couldn’t imagine having an anxiety order like agoraphobia, in fact I am the complete opposite, if I stay in the same place for too long then I get anxious and look for change. This seems to be a trait that you seem to have or don’t have.
Becoming an expat is not easy, probably the hardest part is not knowing what the outcome may be, for me I was conditioned to take risks. When I was living a life that I didn’t necessarily enjoy in my early 20’s I made a life changing decision to follow a dream I had and quit a decent paying job and become a full time poker player. I made this decision shortly after watching The Secret, thankfully a friend frantically introduced me to the life of conscious thinking and the law of attraction. It was through taking a big leap of faith and having everything work out that I realized I could do anything I wanted.
After winning some money from playing poker I decided to go an epic backpacking trip for 3.5 months to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. It was in Australia that I almost became an expat for the first time, I was contemplating moving there but decided not to. For anyone that thinks expat life is for them I would highly recommend going traveling for extended periods of time. It is good to get to know other countries cultures, there are many differences in the world and chances are you have it way better than you could ever imagine.
If you are thinking about moving to another country it is best to spend some time getting to know the specific country and city or town that you plan on moving to. I would recommend at least 6 months, now I pretty much jumped in and decided that I was moving to Costa Rica after taking a 1 month vacation there but remember I am known for making decisions very fast, I can’t say I have any regrets but I have watched many Youtube videos warning people not to move to Costa Rica or other Latin American countries.
One character attribute that expats must have is the ability to make adaptations and be willing to accept changes. For instance the original business plan that I had intended to do when I first moved here fell through because I had a falling out with a business partner/friend but I opened up another business named Jaco Ropes which ended up being totally different than the original plan. Of course things starting out with a business are usually slow but we had a really slow year for tourism in Central America so I had to make the decision to pick up some online work for A-1 Auto Transport. I also started a separate business to try and help bring in some extra income and tourism to my existing business named Costa Rica Vacation Rentals. The point is that you have to do what it takes to survive and most often things do not always go as planned.
Expat Life in Costa Rica Life in Costa is hard to beat when you are on vacation but living here as an expat can be challenging at times. For instance the fast passed life of living in Canada that I had become accustom to came to an almost drastic halt. The pace of life is very slow around here and if you are looking to get something done fast then this is the wrong place, for instance if you are planning on going to the bank or running an errand chance are it will take you way longer than you had hoped. The locals are referred to as ticos and they are notorious for operating on “tico time” They are basically never on time and projects can be delayed for months, sometimes years.
Of course Costa Rica’s native language is Spanish so it is best to learn if you are planning to live here. Although in Jaco, where I live and much like in other tourist parts of the country, lots locals speak English but it is always going to be natural for them to speak Spanish when socializing in groups.
Are you ready to Become an Expat?
Jason Mueller is an entrepreneur living in Costa Rica with family from Canada. Since graduating from high school and getting his pilot’s licence, he has lived to travel the world looking for adventure. You can find him on Facebookand Instagram.
There are so many reasons I am proud to be part of this anthology. The biggest reason of all has been making more expat friends around the world. We are the sisterhood of women carving out lives that don’t have a conventional flow. We make it work where we can and laugh and cry together when we can’t. From a fellow co-author…
A few months after I arrived in Saudi Arabia, I found myself at dinner with a group of teachers. You know, school teachers. Ladies that taught English at Saudi girls’ schools. Old maid school teachers.
You got that picture squarely in mind?
Good. Now flush it. Whatever scars you still carry from that time you walked into the teachers’ lounge as a child (teachers? relaxing? aghhh!), it’s time to forget about them. These ladies were cool.
I am now firmly convinced that a memo went around when I was in high school, inviting interested students to come learn how to live an exotic, independent, globe-trotting life, and I missed it. I was never aware that there was more than one path available to humans. High school. College. Job. Maybe marriage. House. Family. The things responsible people do.
These ladies, though, got the memo and went to the meeting. These…
Dear Readers, Friends and Fans of Domestic Bliss Abroad,
I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about an upcoming project I will be launching in September 2016 on repatriation. I will be looking for participants (you can remain anonymous) to give first-hand experiences, anecdotes and insight to this often glossed-over part of our lives. There will be a questionnaire to fill in and additional stories are voluntary yet very welcome! Just as our lives are varied around the globe, I’d like to hear back from as many people in as many different places as possible.
Repatriation seems easy on the outside as moving ‘home’ should be seamless, right? But as many expats know depression, reverse culture shock, saying goodbye to new expat families, exclusion, grief and marital troubles often accompany this process. Coupled with friends and family back home frequently not understanding what you are going through, repatriation can alienate returning expats in a way they did not imagine. I want to explore that topic WITH YOU and put into words things that need to be said but often aren’t.
If you are interested, please send an email with the subject line Repatriation to firstname.lastname@example.org including a brief overview of your expat life.
I will be in touch soon to update you as the project develops.
PLEASE pass this along to anyone you think needs their story told.
Are you an expat? Traveller? World Citizen? International? Do you have a story or photo journal to share about your experiences living life on the road less travelled? Would you like to be featured on this blog as a guest writer? If so we’d love to hear from you!
Starting in June 2016 I will be posting Friday Featurette featuring, well, YOU! The longer I live abroad (in my 11th year now) the more I know how much we need to share our stories with each other. Help each other to know we aren’t alone and gain experience from those that have been there before!
Topics can include:
-long-term travel (i.e. not just a weekend spent somewhere, you must really have a feel for a local culture and impressions about how it changed you)
-Foodie-inspired international topics
-original recipe and culinary/cultural explanation (i.e. your take on a traditional dish where you are currently residing)
Your idea pitch only needs to be a few sentences long. As an option, you may include a photo added to help me visualise how the post might look. The final text needs to be between 500 -800 words and include hi-resolution photos. You must also include a bio and any social media links (i.e. twitter, Facebook page, instagram). Your material will be credited and owned by you and hosted by Domestic Bliss Abroad.
If you have previously syndicated/published an article elsewhere and want to reuse it, we can still discuss this. Changes may need to be made to fit different audiences but I’m willing to hear what you have to offer!! 🙂
I am, without a doubt, a very visual person. I need to see things to understand them and make stories I’ve been told make sense. So, when I came across this video that shows what life in Morges, Switzerland is like, I knew I had to share it.
With vivid imagery from the local market to remembering Audrey Hepburn, this little video demonstrates the richness of our new home. Morges may be little, but she is definitely mighty!! Enjoy…and don’t blame me if you crave chocolate by the end of it!! 😉
Video Credit: D3 Studio
Photo Credit: Jennifer Hart
”The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.”
— Adam Gopnik (Paris to the Moon)
In the last decade or so, the word ‘expat’ has rolled off my tongue more times than I can count. A short form of the word ‘expatriate’, Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a person who lives outside their native country.” While this definition is true, to actually describe the life of an expat is incredibly difficult. I have toyed with whether or not to start writing a series here on being an expat as the internet is full of posts and articles already. After doing some quick searches, I became frustrated with two themes that popped out at me (this is definitely unofficial research): 1) Expats are living the high life in a luxury compound in some far, exotic place and, 2) Expats are miserable, suffering from issues of making friends and trying to fit in with locals.
Yes, there are many articles discussing the merits of expatriation and the downfalls with more finesse than that, but with the amount of annual lists of ‘best and worst places for expats’ being published these days, I thought it important to discuss ACTUAL expatriation. We they move abroad, expats are doing more than just leaving their life behind, they are gaining a new one (or many) in the process. They become exposed to differences they never knew existed. They learn things about the world they shamefully admit they hadn’t been aware of before. They change. They also change how they view life ‘back home’. They see things in their native culture that might bother them. They see imperfections they didn’t see before. They see a place that they called ‘home’ for years from a different perspective. It can be scary to go through this process but it is normal and a balance between being from one place and being cultural enriched by another place is often found. This doesn’t mean expats all think their home countries are flawed. What it does mean, though, is that many find themselves no longer feeling 100% at ‘home’ in a place that they once were scared to leave.
With expatriation and all the changes that arise, expats often find friends and family back in their native countries unable to grasp the complete picture of what life their new life is really like. This should come as no surprise since they themselves were unable to foresee what their lives would be like once they moved abroad. Family and friends not understanding is normal and OK but it can cause frustrations, upset and misunderstandings. At this point, even those who strongly believed they wouldn’t move somewhere foreign just to make other expat friends, find themselves seeking others that ‘get it’. Expat friends often come on fast and strong. Someone I once knew, who eventually returned to her home country after a couple incredibly homesick years, told me expats can’t be choosey when making friends. I strongly disagree, but I will say the shared experience of leaving your native country and relocating somewhere vastly different not only tends to bond people together quickly, it can also trump other socio-cultural-economic differences which might have seen you not becoming friends with someone else if the situations were different. I don’t see this as not being choosey, I see this as sharing a mutual life-changing experience. Like new parents seeking other new parents to share their experiences with. It’s a needs-based relationship that plays an important role in an expat’s happiness abroad. Family and friends back home, don’t worry, we haven’t replaced you, we’ve merely added to our life and hopefully by doing so have stopped griping to you about things you don’t understand, such as why French bureaucracy is truly a mind-numbing experience.
Expatriation is scary. For some it comes with a clear end date depending on work contracts, visas, etc. For others, it is something more organic and undefined. When I moved to France, Mr H had 18 months left on his expatriation package. I moved there with the idea that in 18 months this might no longer be my home, therefore I struggled to really get involved in French life at first. I eventually got past that and made Paris my ‘home.’ Rather quickly, it seems, that 18 months turned into a decade, two Paris-born children, a labrador retriever and an eventual relocation to Switzerland. Along the way, I have learned that my home is where my children, husband and dog are. I have learned I can be both foreign and local at the same time. I have learned that expat life is definitely for me, despite the challenges and uncertainties it can sometimes cause.
I will be continuing this topic in the near future with subsequent topics that relate to expats and those out there who love us and miss us as we galavant across the globe. Stay tuned. I’m obviously not done with the expat train and therefore this topic is not done, either.