5 misconceptions about expat life

  • Misconceptions about expat life
Published on 2017-09-15 at 14:43 by Veedushi
When you first move abroad to live as an expat, you are probably too thrilled with your new life to bother with what other people think about expats — misconceptions are unfortunate but who says you cannot break them? Here are some of the most common myths around expat life that you may notice passing from person to person, and the reality behind them. Don't let misinformation distract you from moving abroad and achieving your expat goals.

Expats are holidaymakers


If you are moving to a sunny country (not to mention a tropical island), be prepared to hear a lot of this type of comments throughout the year: “How is your permanent vacation going?” You won't even dare to post on social media pictures from a day spent on the beach in fear that your network will take for granted that this has now become your life — sipping cocktails on chaise lounges and going to al fresco yoga classes. But expats can tell you that this is the case only when they aren't commuting to work, dropping their children to school, and staying at work till late trying to resolve a crisis most likely happening in the headquarters on the other side of the world.

Expats are wealthy

Successful businessman

Even though many expatriates look abroad for better career prospects and a higher salary than what they earn in their home country, there's a common belief that expat employees are by default receiving a massive income from multinational companies. Of course, it's not rare for executive (and high paid) positions to be taken by expats but there are always available roles that come with less — if any — benefits (e.g. housing and transport allowance, international school fees, flights to home, etc.). It's up to you to research on the countries where your sector of interest is booming, and decide whether it's a viable option for you to quit your current job and move abroad (considering the cost of living, salary, social life, contract, etc.).

Expats need to speak only English

Social interaction with expats

While English is the lingua franca, and it might be enough for you to get by even in remote areas, it may not be sufficient to build strong bonds with the local community, and adapt to the new culture. However, there isn't a unified rule when it comes to social interactions and communication among individuals — there are things that connect us with people that often are above and beyond language, and there are people who are more open than others to make an effort to understand us and be understood. So, wherever it is that you are looking to move to, don't let the language barrier stop you but also don't take for granted that everyone around you must speak and understand English. Instead, keep in mind that you can (at least at a basic level) learn a new language (maybe with the help of your new local friends), and be confident that the people in your host country will appreciate every little effort you make to communicate in their language.

Reverse culture shock doesn't exist

Reverse culture shock

You may hear your non-expat friends advise you: “If things don't turn well, just come back.” Of course, such words come from a good place, and your friends are trying to reassure you that they will be there for you no matter what. However, what most non-expats may not realise is that sometimes it is equally hard to return home as it was to leave home at the first place. Reverse culture shock opens your eyes to things you hadn't noticed before or were the norm — from mentalities and behaviours to habits and everyday activities that you are finding hard to go back to. Prepare your family and friends of the fact that you have changed by talking to them about your experiences abroad, the things that you would like to continue doing, and how your perceptions about certain matters have changed.

Family and children make expatriation impossible

Expat family

It is often believed that it is impossible to start a whole new life abroad when you have children. It's not going to be easy for sure, but many expats who have done it will tell you that it's a rewarding experience for everyone involved, which has actually brought the family closer. Deciding to move abroad with your family, suggests that all members will somehow benefit from the moving — for example, the children will learn a new language, get to know a new culture, and probably get a better education and the parents will be more satisfied with their career. Just remember to give the space to everyone to have their say, and to not neglect anyone's feelings thinking that you are the only one who knows what's the best. Last, do your research about the place you are planning to move to and how family-friendly the destination is.

Article translated from 5 idées reçues sur l'expatriation