I (still) worry my life is vastly more boring now that I’m no longer an expat… but maybe returning “home” just takes some acclimatising, just as moving to a “foreign” place did. A lot of people talk about living abroad, but it’s something that people don’t always get around to. Time. Opportunity. Whatever. Or just because it’s hard.
One of the biggest things I learned as an expat was how to be self sufficient. Especially shortly after arriving somewhere. I’d have a bad day, and there was no-one in my timezone that I could really speak to.
Making friends is scary and hard, especially after university. I learned how to put myself out there, follow up, and find people to hang out with. This was so much easier to do when I was single than when I was in a relationship [I really recommend MWF seeks BFF (Amazon) for people who are struggling with this].
Culture shock is totally a thing, Every time it happened when I least expected it, and in a slightly bizarre way. In Ottawa, it was being unable to order pizza. In KW it was being unable to buy breakfast (specifically bagels and cream cheese) within walking distance of my apartment. In Sydney it was not knowing where I could find a drugstore, because (oh the irony) I didn’t know whether I needed a chemist, or a pharmacy, or a drugstore, because I had no idea which just sold beauty products, and which sold actual medications.
Living abroad made me much more relaxed about my environment. You can’t expect everything to be the same, and after living in a few different places it’s glaringly apparent that everything has good and bad, politics, food, lifestyle. I tried to embrace the good, and travel to the things that I really missed. I learned to be more accepting of things as they are. There is no greatest country in the world, but I’d find the things that I loved and were great where I was, and really enjoyed them.
The main thing I learned was to be more OK not knowing what comes next. Stepping into the unknown, expecting it to be hard. I would give myself a time frame after which I could reconsider: a year, two years tops.
Apparently one of the things I did wrong in Sydney was not buying plates. I haven’t got around to buying plates in London, either, but I do have some knives and chopping boards. I guess that is a start.