Sarah Emery Singapore Expatriate
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55 Things That Happen When Becoming an Expat

A plethora of bizarro scenarios occur in expat life, that will have you questioning, “am I the only one having to deal with this?” While it might seem to be an, ‘is it me?’ moment. Life is restored when you cross notes with other expats and suddenly you realize… has nothing to do with you personally. But rather, it has everything to do with living the expat lifestyle.

While incidents can be country specific. Here are 55 scenarios that happen to expats.

You know you’re an expat when ……

1) Updating your visa status occurs more frequently than updating your drivers license.

2) The majority of your Facebook Groups are expat groups.

3) You have an accordion file for all your different cash currencies.

4) Your career path is no longer linear. It’s more spiral.

5) Your local greeting cards selection has a, “I’ll miss you, sorry you’re leaving” section.

6) Flights under ten hours are short, and you catch yourself doing a mega eye roll when others complain about flights that are 6 hours and less.

7) Hometown friends and family keep asking, “When are you coming home?” As they don’t accept that where you live is your home.

8) Your social calendar is equally filled with farewell parties, as it is welcome meetups.

9) Depending what country you are in, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents Day are celebrated in different months.

10) You know what it feels like to be a trailing spouse. See #52.

11) Getting in a car on the correct side, demands more brain power than usual.

12) If telephone number country codes were a category on Jeopardy. You’d totally dominate.

13) You have a storage unit in a different country, and you’ve completely forgotten what’s in it (and the storage number and where you put the key for the lock is).

14) You can say, Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas and I Miss You, in at least four different languages.

15) Your friends are scattered all around the world.

16) A host gift is always food from a different country.

17) You are completely aware the English language is not the same everywhere. Yes sometimes means no.

18) You return from your home country and the majority of your luggage is packed with food and toiletries.

19) You’ve collected kitchen & bathroom appliances with different plugs and voltages. And some are duplicates.

20) You fill up your passport with stamps and visas before it expires.

21) You have to closely examine coins you’re about to use, to make sure you are using the correct currency.

22) You have a special holder for multiple sim cards.

23) You’re constantly doing conversions. Metrics, military time, weather temperatures, currency rates.

24) Phone calls start with, “What time is it where you are?”

25) Your pantry is filled with food labels in different languages.

26) The question, “where are you from?” is confusing. Hmmm … do you mean which country I was born in, the country that I grew up in, or the country I was previously living in?

27) Similarly, the question, “what’s your home country?” isn’t a straightforward answer either. The answers come with explanations.

28) Decisions about citizenships, becoming a permanent resident or what type of long term visa you will be holding, can change yearly.

29) You know what a third culture kid is. You have a third culture kid(s). You are that kid.

30) Seeing appliances with a foreign language written on them isn’t intimidating anymore. It’s when there aren’t any pictures on them, that when the true panic starts to settle in.

31) Your expat friends are your insider travel hero’s (guides) when it comes to the unwritten rules in multiple different countries. It’s the insider tips that many travel sites wish they knew.

32) You’re pretty good with identifying accents, but more so – the ability to pin down the exact region of the country.

33) You mix up greetings. Is it a kiss on the cheek, and if so, just one or both sides? Is it a hug, a handshake, or standing at a respectable distance and head nodding with a smile and a wave hello?

34) Majority of your friends are expats.

35) You have collected a full box of adapters, power strips and converters. Which is basically an expat starter kit.

36) Driving on the correct side of the road doesn’t come as naturally as it once did. And when no one else is driving on the road for you to reference, you constantly ask yourself, “Am I on the correct side?”

37) You can easily adjust yourself regionally to polite behaviors, social gestures and cues.

38) You can proudly say greetings and salutations in multiple languages, but you say them in the wrong countries.

39) You use flights to catch up on movies.

40) WhatsApp is your default texting app.

41) You have a token local in your crew.

42) When seeing the month and date written numerically, you have to take a second to think if the date is written first or is it the month.

43) You go into ultra hoarder mode, when you’re in a country where you can get certain items (food, toiletries, clothing brands, etc) that you can’t get in your current country.

44) After each guest who comes to stay. You think you’ve given the best tours. Until the next one arrives.

45) What’s cheap, affordable, and expensive is all relative.

46) You know the true difference between local and international schools beyond who can get in (and or allowed in) and the cost.

47) You have lived in a hotel for more than a month, more than once.

48) Introductions are names and countries. “This is Abigail from Ireland.

49) If relocation packages are not part of a job benefit, you’re not interested.

50) Sharing moving stories, usually start and end with shipping containers experiences.

51) You meet people who aren’t from the States, yet know more about American politics and government than actual Americans.

52) When Covid started, people were complaining about not seeing their friends, and family, and felt isolated. That’s when trailing spouses around the world started to feel seen.

53) Asking for advice on-line from complete strangers on expat groups and forums , is completely normal. And it’s usually the simple life questions, like – besides the post office where else can I buy stamps?

54) Meeting up with complete strangers from expat groups and forums is completely normal.

55) When you think of how you would build your Utopia. You start to pull from multiple countries. E.g. the safety and cleanliness of Singapore, the friendliness in America, the economy in the Netherlands, the healthcare in Canada, the natural landscapes in Switzerland.

Outdoor enthusiast thriving in the expatriate traveling lifestyle. Looking to connect with your sense of adventure.

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