Lots of people have commented how happy and settled I seem in Chile. My Dad asked if the gloss of my expat blog was for real.
Well, yes, Papa, I can assure you, Chile is home sweet home.
At home in life, at home in a country
This got me thinking about feeling settled in life, as well as in a country.
Because these are two very different things aren’t they, Expaters?
Firstly, there’s the relocation bureaucracy to sort. The ‘expatmin’ when we first arrive – requesting IDs, setting up health insurance, bla bla bla.
There’s the getting our lives into some sort of order – hunting down good schools for our kids, taking care of our health, finding a grocery store that stocks proper British Yorkshire Tea and other such essentials.
There’s the feeling of contentment in your personal situation wherever you’re based. Career, love, family, life.
Then there’s the adaptation to the country itself – embracing the new culture, adapting to the climate, learning the lingo. Feeling welcome in your new host country.
Sure, they’re interchangeable to a degree. If you can’t speak the local language then sorting a job is going to be a lot tougher no doubt.
For some places I’ve lived in, I’ve felt very settled in terms of my life, but less at home in the country itself. In Brussels, my life was pretty sweet and I was lucky enough to have a zillion friends from all over the globe, but I didn’t feel a strong connection to the city. Sorry Brussels, I grew out of you. Or you grew tired of me. Either way.
Meanwhile in Syria, I felt a strong connection to the country, however even before the bombs started dropping my personal situation meant I didn’t want to stay forever.
Expat life – a personal perception
It’s also true that our connection to a place shifts in line with our current life circumstances, doesn’t it? I can assure you that central London is a fabulous place for a 20 something singleton, but I’m not so sure I’d have the energy to deal with it as a mum of three.
It’s down to perception too. Meet a few nice friends when you first arrive, find a good place to live and you’re bound to feel more open to the country.
Equally, embrace the sunshine, the exotic cuisine or the laid back lifestyle and you might feel more able to deal with the personal challenges life throws at you.
Or conversely, if your personal life sucks, maybe the country sucks too. Or at least it seems to.
The expat click point
Here in Chile I think I’ve found my balance. Let’s call it the ‘expat click point’. The first few horrible months of our relocation are over. Life is a little less chaotic, for now at least. And while some things will always annoy me, I really appreciate the culture here.
Sure, when I’m in a mood, I still blame petty things on the country. After a particularly rubbish sleep deprived night in Antwerp, I remember shouting ‘I hate this goddamn country!’ when a cafe refused to let me change my kid’s nappy without the correct money. (In Belgium you have to pay to pee).
If anything horrendous were to happen in our lives here in Latin America I’d probably suggest a knee jerk move away to another continent.
But right now, I’m embracing my click point. And I hope you find yours too.