Hello everyone, I’m a serial expat.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve moved house, but I reckon it’s nearly forty. Over the last five years I’ve moved ten times, so once every six months.
My five year old has lived in seven different homes, four different countries and has grown up with four different languages… so far.
My expat story
I wasn’t always like this. Sure, I travelled as a kid, but we never moved country.
But as the travel bug took hold I worked, volunteered and studied my way around the globe: Germany, France, Belgium, then India, Lebanon and Syria.
Sometimes it’s been a planned move, sometimes not. A chance encounter with a beautician in Damascus led me to spending five months in her home.
Returning to Europe felt like a step back and I was addicted to the thrill of a different culture, a new language and meeting people from all walks of life.
In Angola my friendship circle included an arms trader, a diamond expert, an emergency aid worker and a Miss Angola finalist. Living abroad is rather cool. In the UK I was ‘Nina, you know, the one living in Angola’ and then after leaving Angola, ‘just Nina’.
After falling foul of a visa regulation and the threats that came with it, I jumped ship back to the UK. We’ve since moved to Switzerland, back to Belgium, my husband has moved to Nigeria and now we’re in Chile.
People often ask us why we keep moving so much. We move as our life evolves. As our children grow, we’re constantly evaluating if they’re getting the right education, healthcare and a good quality of life.
No place like home
I love Chile, but sometimes a rather conservative, isolated take on life disturbs me. I’ve overheard homosexuality referred to as ‘dirty’, ‘kind of like pedophilia’ and ‘fine as long as they do it away from me’, for example. OK, of course not all Chileans are homophobes, but still it’s not like living in London.
But then London is not perfect either. Am I being too fussy? Will I ever find my forever home? The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, there’s just a different type of garden.
A selfish way of life?
No doubt many see us as selfish for moving our children around so often, but most encourage our travels, especially if we’re off to a holiday worthy destination.
I believe our children benefit immensely. Travel broadens the mind to new cultures, languages and friendship groups.
Our kids are only 0, 2 and 5 years old. I’m very aware that as they grow and become more rooted to their friendships, then our options will be more limited, however.
Would you move abroad?
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re living abroad or are considering a move.
More and more of my friends and family are leaving their birth countries in an increasingly globalised world. Moving abroad offers a new adventure, new opportunities, new perspectives.
I now have family in Russia, Brazil, USA, Norway, Spain, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. My mother in law once joked that we should move to Antarctica as it was the only continent where she didn’t have a child (admittedly she has ten children).
Perhaps our children will follow in our itchy feet footsteps too. When I told my son we were off on holiday he looked excited, ‘to a new home Mummy?’