Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Dark Side of Expat Life?

A couple of days ago in the International Herald Tribune, there was an article titled "The Dark Side of the Expat Life".   I was kind of shocked to read such a headline because in my 15 or 16 years of living outside the US, I have never realized there was a dark side to this life I have chosen.

The article says, "This dislocation — psychic as well as geographic — comes with inevitable lonelinesses, small and large…Expat life has a dark side: getting stuck in limbo, neither here nor there."  One expat from Seoul noted how "they have watched as peers back home married, had children, bought houses, advanced in their careers. Meanwhile, most of us here in Seoul find ourselves living Peter Pan-like existences. I’m entering middle age with nothing tangible to show for it.  Except wonderful, rich memories, sure. But the future looms."

This paints a very dreadful picture of the hardships of those of us who live abroad.  I'll tell you a secret…its no different than living anywhere else.  Yes, there are differences sometimes in culture or language, but in the grand scheme of things it is not always that different.

Maybe it is a matter of the glass being half empty or half full.  My cup runneth over.  If anything, we are incredibly fortunate to live this life.  I feel this way in Dubai and did in Turkey as well.  

Yes, we are further away from family, but you do not totally miss out on everything as the article suggests.  And as for the "watching your friends get married, have children, buy houses, get promotions"… many would do the same back home, and perhaps compare themselves even more.  Why compare?  Everyone's journey is different, no?

For sure if you do not like where you are, then move.  If you choose to stay, then embrace that.  It is well worth it.

I used to wonder what my son would think.  Where would he think he is from.  Will he be scarred for life? Confused? Not feel that he has a home?  That hasn't happened either.  The first time I asked him where he was from, his answer was "Istanbul, Texas".  That is something I never anticipated, but it is the best possible answer for a cross-cultural child that is growing up in neither of his parents' home countries.  

Where is home?  Currently, it is Dubai.  Will that always be the case?  Probably not.  Where would we move next?  Who knows.  

Sometimes uncertainty is okay.  Embrace that and enjoy the ride.  You'll get there eventually.

White Storks migrating across the Dardanelles in Turkey.  They travel from Nothern Europe
as far as South Africa every year.

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