How you know when you've become an Expat

Updated 2013-08-15 08:30

I didn’t decide to become an expat. It just sort of crept up on me. One minute I was travelling the globe, jumping from country to country without a care in the world, and the next I’m living in Spain, married to a Sevillana with a baby boy on the way.

Only the other day I was wondering how my life had changed so dramatically. I was in a baby shop with my wife, looking around for the perfect cot and baby changer, while two kids were running about making loads of noise. The parents weren't bothered that the boy was stamping his shoes on the wooden floor and his sister was screaming her head off while chasing him. To escape the noise I flashed back to when I was in Cambodia, sitting on the top of a view point looking over Ankor Wat while the sun set; such peace! Then I gazed at my wife looking at a catalogue of blankets for the cot we were about to purchase. How had that happened? I thought. How had I become an expat?

Here are some signs of when you know you have truly become an expat and when you know there's no going back.

Learnt the Lingo

I wouldn't say that I'm fluent Spanish (I blame it on the English teaching), but I'm not far away. When I speak to my wife we communicate in a weird sort of Spanglish way (if you've been to Gibraltar then you know what I mean). We jump from one language to the other without really thinking about it. It's a terrible way to communicate really, and something I'd like to knock on the head when teaching my boy how to speak English, but nevertheless we have both mastered the skill of speaking in two languages. When you've finally cracked the lingo, then you know you've become an expat.

Excitement fades

Arriving in a new country is always exciting. Everything is new: the people, the architecture, the buildings, the food, and the lifestyle. I used to wake up and feel a buzz when I remembered I was living in Spain.

When you're an expat, that stops, well, now and then you get excited about stuff ' like learning a new Spanish word or discovering new tapas, but the rate of excitement drastically reduces when you're an expat. Even looking at the map of Andalucía doesn't get me excited anymore, mainly because I've seen most of it.

On my bus trip back from the airport a couple of weeks ago I listened in on a conversation between two new English teachers hoping to live in Seville for a year. They reminded me of when I first arrived; eager to learn Spanish, excited about travelling around Andalucía, and nervous about getting on with the culture. I do miss those refreshing moments when you are enthusiastic about everything, but being an expat doesn't have the same adrenaline pump as first timers. Listening to those two lads made me feel old, old enough to be an expat.

Stop missing things

When you stop missing things from back home (not people, that never happens), you can be pretty sure that you've made the expat grade. I used to miss English food such as fish and chips, sausage in batter, bangers and mash, and also Chinese food because it's tasteless in Spain, at least in Seville anyway. I also used to miss going out with mates and getting hammered on a Friday and Saturday night, but even that has sort of faded away too (nothing to do with the DELTA I did last year). Now I just take things in my stride and enjoy my time in Seville rather than worrying about missing stuff back home; makes it even more special when I do go back.

Alien at home

When you go back home and realize that you could never settle there again you can be sure you´re an expat. I love England, and now I realize how lucky I was as a lad to have a good education and live in a relatively safe and decent neighbourhood. But I don't think I could ever go back and live there (sorry Mum and Dad). Apart from the fact that my wife would go mad in the British winter, and the fact that her parents would be distraught if their daughter moved away, I can't imagine settling down back home again. I'd miss the weather here, the laidback and healthier lifestyle and also the excitement of being a foreigner, something that disappears as soon as I step foot in England.

Should I stay or should I go

When you stop having that conversation with yourself about whether you've made the right decision to live abroad then you know you're an expat. After seeing the world I had this problem a lot. I spent my first two years here contemplating leaving. It was a constant battle (which my wife won). In honesty, I probably wouldn't be living here if I hadn't met her, but I'm settled now and that war in my mind has stopped (or at least pushed to one side for now).

New Parents

When your in-laws call you their new son then you know you've passed the grade. I generally get on with Spanish people, but working your way into a Spanish family, especially one who are quite protective of their only daughter, had its ups and downs. I made it though, and have been accepted into the family, as my wife has been accepted into mine.

So that's what I think about becoming an expat. What would you say? How do you know when you've become an expat?

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.