Is this the most important thing to remember about expat life?

Last week I wrote about a survey of the best and worst countries to live in, as voted by Internations’ members. The comments I received were overwhelming. Some were shocked, others unsurprised, many were very, very angry. The most insightful feedback for me was about making your expat lifestyle work for you as an individual.

As Rene, a Canadian in Greece puts it, ‘A person has to be creative and think outside the box, but if you are resourceful, it can be very rewarding’. Jane advises, ‘Be creative and you can live in paradise’. Christine continues, ‘You just have to cut your coat according to your cloth’.

Of course, if your expat package is not so generous and if you don’t come pre-wired with a positive attitude, then making the best out of life is easier said than done. Expat life can be tough; it can be lonely, tiring and tedious.

With the right frame of mind, however any situation can work, at least in terms of the life lessons it affords. I personally found life in Angola very tough at times and I’m not embarrassed to say I shed many tears during the years I spent there, but it was by far the most rewarding experience in my life and I owe the country a lot in terms of who I am today.

Sometimes it really is as simple as looking on the bright side of life: sunny skies, friendly neighbours, a decent job. More importantly, it’s about choosing the lifestyle which works for you. As someone on a forum bluntly put it, ‘if you don’t like it, you can go home‘. I’d choose less harsh language, but in essence, I think he’s right.

If the lifestyle’s not working for you, you do have a choice. You can go home, if that works better for you personally. I don’t mean to downplay the horror of ‘choosing’ between a decent pay package and a happy, healthy family, however.

Nevertheless, it’s essential that we stop and evaluate what is truly important to us as individuals.

For me, it’s my kids, and so with that comes my priority for good health care, education and safety. Social life and culture is also high on the list; I know I’d prefer to be in a city.

If I really think about it, what will make me and my family happier? Is it a fabulous pay package or sunny skies and an energising lifestyle? For our next move, I’ll be thinking the comments over very carefully. As Rae says, ‘Determine what is truly important to YOU’. Better start planning…



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