Top 5 Expat Joys
Living abroad is the adventure of a lifetime. It enriches our lives and expands our horizons in ways we couldn’t previously have imagined.
Read on for a run-down of our top five joys of being an expat.
1 – Experiencing another culture
We grow up seeing the world through the lens of our country’s culture and media, so stepping outside that into unfamiliar cultural territory can be a real thrill. It can be daunting or even disorientating at first, particularly if you move to a country where you don’t speak the language, and everyone will experience a few ‘fight or flight’ moments, where we experience homesickness, feel overwhelmed, and crave the familiar. We come through these trials though, and emerge a stronger, more confident, broader-minded person for the experience.
2 – Experiencing new foods
Depending where exactly you live abroad, you may encounter a variety of delicious and exotic new foods. Back in the States, in major cities at least, you can certainly get international food, but in many countries it’s different when you’re actually there. Furthermore, arguably every country’s best food is found in people’s homes rather than in restaurants. So if ever a friendly local invites you to tag along at a family get-together or for a holiday or celebration, don’t think twice before accepting.
3 – Meeting new people
Inevitably we meet new people as expats, and seeing the world through the eyes of people who have grown up with different influences and values is one of the true benefits and joys of living abroad. At first we may find them a little alien, but as time goes by we come to understand better why they are as they are, and, most importantly, that the differences are superficial. We also meet other expats, and have the experience of being outsiders in common straight away. True friendships will spring from both groups.
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float; to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote; to travel is to live.”
– Hans Christian Andersen
4 – Mastering another language
While many Americans expats live in Canada, the UK and Australia where the language is (more or less!) the same, most other countries will require us to develop at least a basic working knowledge of the local lingo. Some people find it easy to pick up another language, others find it torturous, but whether we are fluent in six months or just about getting by after several years, we develop another skill that gives us both a practical tool for life, and an heightened sense of self.
It also opens a lot of doors to new experiences in our country of residence. As the eighth century French king Charlemagne said, “to have another language is to possess a second soul”.
5 – Tax filing relief
America is the only developed nation that taxes based on citizenship rather than residence, so US tax payers still have to file an annual return and declare their worldwide income no matter where they live or where their income is generated. They may also have to pay US taxes, depending on their particular circumstances. Furthermore, there are extra filing requirements for many Americans living abroad, relating to FATCA and FBAR. As such, the relief of getting US filing done and dusted each year should certainly be among the joys that US expats around the world share in common.