What No One Told You About Being an Expat

Credit : Hannah Toshie
Credit : Hannah Toshie

No one told you about the loneliness. Not the happy, look at the Eiffel Tower loneliness… the sitting on the couch in your tiny studio apartment when you realize you haven’t spoken your native language in days loneliness. The loneliness of realizing that when you speak English, you start mixing all of the languages, and you begin to feel like you do not speak any one of them correctly. The loneliness of wanting to do things you used to do all the time – especially at this time of year. Pumpkin patches and hay rides, pumpkin carving and drinking apple cider. No one told you about how things back home change. How your best friends move on, move houses, break up, hook up… How your sister is no longer 15 but actually now 18 and will be going to the ballots to vote. Another important event in her life you will miss. 

When I mention in light these feelings to friends back home, the reaction is always, “but look at what you are doing and look at where you live“. In truth, sometimes I do feel like I am complaining just to complain. I have found a stable group of friends here who are supportive and caring, and my boyfriend…. Well where do I even begin with him and everything he has done for me? But no matter how much people will tell me these things, they will never truly understand what it is missing your home country. They will never understand the longing to drive a car and race through country roads, the weird craving for American junk food… They will never understand the out of body experiences, living outside of your skin moments.

But I love France. That is true. I love that I speak French now. I love the people that I am meeting and the experiences I am living. Every time I mention to a stranger that I am doing my studies in France, they ask through what program. When they realize I am doing it all on my own and not as an exchange student, people get surprised. You cannot deny the feelings of accomplishment as an expat.

But the reality of missing your country… It will happen. It will hurt, but in the end, it is worth it.

6 thoughts on “What No One Told You About Being an Expat

  1. Living abroad can be tough love sometimes but in the other hand it makes you appreciate even more your home country and all those little things that you used to take for granted. The more you travel, the more you discover about yourself and the others. It is a so enriching experience. Like you said, now you speak French, you are studying in France, making new friends, making a new life, making new habits, eating new foods, discovering new places, having new activities in a country you love… this is so overwhelming! But it is also normal and OK sometimes to feel homesick and to miss your current “past”(even if your family/friends don’t get it, how could they, they don’t know what it is to live overseas, their opinions is not based on experience but more on the idealized idea they have from it). My tip when you have those moments, don’t feel guilty about it but try to do something that you really enjoy and that is part of your new life, make new memories, give yourself funny missions like try to find the French bakery that makes the best “Paris-Brest” cake and make an adventure about it by visiting little streets, parks, monuments on your way. They are so many little things to be happy about, it does not mean you are replacing your home country, it just means you are embracing with passion and enthusiasm this new French experience and making the most of it and the “loneliness” feeling will fade away, as your new life will be filled with all sort of new experiences, I promise 😉

    1. First of all, I would like to apologize for taking a long time to reply to your lovely message and advice. I have been up and down recently. I am happy I crossed this again today because I really needed to hear this out of all days. I do not regret this experience, even though it isn’t the movie like, romantic fairytale people back home believe it is. But it is teaching me so much more than I would be able to back home, not just about the world but about myself as well. In the end, I know what I am doing is right for me and a must. Thank you for your kind words and I hope all is well! Bisous

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