Ask any expat how long they intend on staying and chances are they’ll reply three years. Just enough time to settle in before they get itchy feet.
Three years is the perfect equation. Or to put it another way:
Getting to know the city + making friends + painfully bureaucratic admin – starting to feeling a little bored – a burning desire for adventure = 3 years.
Three is my lucky number. And yet I’ve never been lucky enough to stay three years in any location.
In fact when I’ve yearned to stay I’ve been pushed on, when I’ve been itching to move I’ve been held back.
Photo by SuperSamPhotography
I’m not alone. Expater friends in Belgium have a name for it – the ‘Brussels trap’. The expat who comes for three years and stays for thirty.
Every season sees the arrival of a Eurostar load of fresh faced interns who after months on the European Commission party gravy train decide that their job is too cushy to swap for a hyperactive and hyper expensive London / New York / Paris lifestyle and instead end up settling down with Pierre / Pablo / Paddy in a quiet Brussels neighbourhood, enjoying a steady income from a stable job. One minute they’re fiercely debating migration, the refugee crisis and open borders over drinks receptions (the booze is free), the next they’re debating (just as fiercely) wall colours for their new terraced pad.
Not that I’m pouring scorn on this lifestyle. I love Brussels and many of my fondest and most fun Expater buddies reside in the Belgian capital. Yes the Brussels Trap catches innocent party loving adventurers unawares, but it also saves them from a life of financial ruin and commuter hell that they’d no doubt experience back home.
Photo by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³
I’ve become trapped in another way. I intended to move to a very, very rural part of the UK for just six months. One year and four months later and I’m still planning my next move. I came with one small suitcase of clothes and I now have two wardrobes full (if you discount the two others currently en route from Nigeria).
Photo by CJS*64
In Lausanne and Antwerp on the other hand, two cities which I adore, my visits were cut short against my will. One minute I was hiking in the Alps, the next I was ‘welcoming’ removal guys to my apartment. One minute I was trying on dresses in Antwerp’s fashion district, the next I was frantically decluttering my wardrobe for a move.
Perhaps I’ve never really grown up because I still think in university study terms. I plan to move in a semester (three months), and stay for a degree term (three years).
Expat life is like making porridge. You think it’s going to take ages then all of sudden it’s time to dish up (or it turns lumpy and you have to start all over again). Who knows when our next portion will come along. Here’s hoping it’ll be enough for three years. Bon appétit Expaters!
Enjoy your expat lifestyle while you can. Photo by Internet Archive Book Images