British Expat Overseas: Living and Working Abroad
Are you an expat? If so, where do you live?
Why are you an expat and how did you do it?
Nearly four years ago to the day I lost my backpacking virginity and set sail to live and work abroad. A most overwhelming and surreal, yet fulfilling lifestyle as a British expat has been discovered in the midst of a global recession that still lingers in the West today.
From partying in Vegas on 4th of July to hunting fruit bats with Aboriginals. From driving across the Australian outback to teaching English to classes of fifty in rural Thailand. Living and working abroad has afforded me a wealth of experiences that many might only dream of. Something strange occurred during these times and now I only feel at home when I'm not at home.
Written from the perspective of a juvenile backpacker turned expat and influenced by many temporary jobs, thousands of miles travelled in between and an equal amount of stories to tell the grandchildren. All the while being inspired by career teaching English.
Outlined here are some travel babblings and stories highlighting what you might expect and need in your armoury to live and work abroad, or, become an overseas expat.
Expat on tour!
So, what is an expat?
Expat is short for expatriate which is apparently not the same as an immigrant. An expat is someone who has a certain professional skill set and may have been temporarily relocated as a work commitment.
An immigrant on the other hand is someone who lives permanently in another country that may have taken a job which requires no specific skills, or a manual labour job. The terms are blurred when referring to expats/immigrants from varying countries and may depend on socio-demographic factors, prejudices and preference.
Whether I can class myself a fully-fledged British expat, I'm not so sure? Or even an immigrant for that matter. Maybe nomad, wanderer or migrant may be more suitable at this stage? Anyway, from my collective experiences working and living overseas I've decided to share a few things you may come to expect from living such a lifestyle.
Pictures from living abroad.
When living and working abroad be prepared...
- to make friends for life, then lose them in a blink of an eye! This sounds horrible because it is! From my collective experiences I have met so many like-minded, adventure seeking traveller types. After living, working and socialising with these people on a daily basis in foreign lands, it’s fair to say you become friends for life. As is the nature of the travel beast, travellers do and will travel. Friendships are not lost or forgotten, but the last year you have spent with those amazing people is history. This is a particularly heart breaking element of working/living abroad and being an expat.
- for many highs and lows. When things are good, they’re really good. Amazing people, cultural diversity, new food and constantly changing environments…WOW. On the other hand, when things aren’t going to plan, feelings can intensify greatly. Especially when you are on the other side of the world, travelling alone and with a tribe in a Southeast Asian rainforest! I’m sure everyone has their moments whilst on the road. My advice is; stay strong and suck it up, you are only ever a plane ticket away from home!
- to get home sick. As an expat it can be a lonely place living and working abroad sometimes. When I do stumble across someone’s travel blog or website, then look out of the window and see palm trees and tropical rainforest, I tend to quickly wipe away the tears of homesickness! I forget about missing my nans cooked dinners and my mum reading me bedtime stories, then a warm sense of ‘YES’ comes over me, “I am doing the right thing.”
- travel on your own. Initially a scary prospect, but you’ll discover more about yourself then you ever imagined. Plus, unless you are a loner, you’ll have to meet people. Cue random, unforgettable experiences! Maybe befriend a local, end up in a bar being the only foreigner around. Celebrity status awaits you!
- to meet two types of traveller. The like-minded, awesome travel junkie and occasionally, the very strange shifty one that you’re not quite sure of. Just be aware, and vigilant. Not all people travelling for the same reasons. One fine example is highlighted by my maiden backpacking experience. Alone in a hostel, (San Diego, CA) I came across a guy shooting up drugs in the same 4 bed dorm as me. Cue him rolling around the floor for hours on end profusely sweating. This same guy, who introduced himself to me in the dorm an hour previously, proceeded to introduce himself again 5 minutes later in reception! Needless to say I didn’t sleep well that night for fear of a crazed junkie robbing me!
- for cultural differences. I can speak from a perspective living and working in Australia, the U.S.A. and Thailand. As an expat it's a good idea to do as the locals do, learn their ways and talk their talk. This will help you to seamlessly blend into society and make friends quickly along the way.
Things you might need to become an expat, no wait, an immigrant...
- A degree or equivalent for VISAs and work permits,
- A map,
- A job offer and/or professional work experience,
- A lust for adventure and open mind,
- Bags of confidence and friendly personality,
- Adaptability, a positive attitude and cultural sensitivity,
- No ties at home. Wife, kids, house, debt – sort it out before you leave!,
- A desire and ability to (maybe) learn a new language,
- Insurance (good insurance),
- Medical check,
- Clean criminal record (depending on the country).
If you need any advice, please feel free to ask. Failing that get in touch with the professionals - your local Embassy.
An expat forever?
Now it may sound as if I’m just avoiding the inevitable - a career, a mortgage, a car and a family. But can I ask, who designed these rules? I'm certainly not a traditionalist. I’ll be honest, at first I was trying to prolong my student lifestyle and follow my irresponsible dreams. However, since then I have found a job I love that allows me to live a travelling lifestyle. Luckily, I may have just discovered my perfect existence.
Sure the little devil on my left shoulder has encouraged me to blow a lot of money globetrotting. I probably should have been building my career and saving for the expected mortgage and future wife of mine?! On the opposite shoulder the little angel constantly reminds me of this. It's a constant battle of weighing up pros and cons. But isn't that just life anyway? What if I can make it living and working abroad? Only good things have come from it so far, so why stop now…?
Are you and expat living and working abroad? Where are you, what's your life like and what do you see as the pros and cons of such a lifestyle? It would be great too hear from people in similar positions and also people who want start a new life abroad.
Thanks for dropping by. You may enjoy these hubs if your interested in travel and especially S.E. Asia.
If you are interested in learning Thai, you my find this three part series of use.