My name’s Nina and I’m a serial expat. I was born in the UK and have spent most of my time living abroad. Angola, Syria, Belgium, Switzerland and Chile are just some of the countries I’ve called home.
I started this blog to stay in touch with my loved ones, to reconnect with long lost friends and to log my journey with new expat buddies. This blog is also a space for me to air the challenges, surprises and fun stuff that I’ve come across while living overseas.
But let me start from the top…
How it all started
My first experience of Expater life was a summer in Bordeaux as a French exchange student. I was the only kid in the class who decided to give a go, and despite my initial nerves I was soon basking in new, exciting experiences. I scoffed oysters, kayaked in a bikini and a debated poetry with sun kissed students.
From here my confidence took a turn upwards. I realised that as long as I took precautions and had enough money in the bank for the ride home, a life abroad was rather appealing.
I spent the third year of my BA degree programme in Paris and Munich. House hunting, hustling on the side for pocket money and solo travel felt scary at first, but empowering in the end.
From here, I’d caught the Expater bug. My first job took me to the European Parliament Brussels, Belgium, where I discovered I liked travel more than politicians. Feeling that there had to be more in life, I quit my job to volunteer in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon.
After this I hitched a ride to Damascus. This was a pre civil war era Syria, where the biggest danger would be overpaying for a falafel. With the wind in my hair, and the dust of the souk between my toes I felt there was little I couldn’t achieve on my own.
One afternoon I wandered into a beauty parlour, and a casual conversation with a beautician ended up in a rental agreement. This beautician turned out to be one of the wisest, kindest souls I have ever met and I was fortunate enough to stay on for many months in her home.
I hadn’t given up Belgium completely, however. The love of my life was still there, and we hatched a plan to move to Angola together.
Angola was by far my most challenging experience abroad. It wasn’t the electricity cuts, or even the crime situation, but my struggle to lead a purposeful existence.
The country was packed with interesting people from all walks of life – diamond traders, arms dealers, aid workers, journalists… discussions by the beachside could get very heated. It was something else…
Searching for something more
I found it hard to get a job that I loved, I found it hard to build a purposeful life and I wasn’t convinced I was giving enough back to the country, or myself. I began volunteering in a charity as a communications consultant, but I felt I wasn’t doing enough.
Fast forward a couple of years of visa struggles, and I moved back to the UK, where I cemented my career in communications. I married my soul mate and we embarked on a life abroad, journeying to Switzerland, Belgium and Chile.
After the birth of my second child, the nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing enough with my life came back. I realised that a traditional 9-5 office job wasn’t for me and I began to search for another way to find self purpose.
The Expater community
Women living abroad are not just expats, but diverse, curious and brave.
My blog started out as a way to vent my frustrations and share the pleasures of life abroad. Now, seeing that other women are facing the exact same issues, it has morphed into something much bigger. I want to show that women living abroad are not just expats, but diverse, curious, smart and brave.
I’m also Head of Communications for a new, free mobile app for expats, ExpatBuddy.
Oh, and to anyone what an ‘Expater’ actually is….
Definition ‘Expater’ noun [ɛksˈpatə]
‘A fun loving individual who lives outside their native country, moving from hotel to temporary apartment in search of cultural adventure and self purpose. Also loves Mojito’.