Apart from the typical reasons like travelling, learning a language, and better weather, I want to delve deeper into the reasons to live abroad and why people become ‘life expats.’ I’ve lived away from England since 2003 and in Seville for almost seven years. When I first got here I didn’t like the place, I still dislike a few things, but in general I’m happy being an expat. Here are a few reasons why.
|Triana Bridge in Seville|
A healthier lifestyle
In most countries I’ve lived in I’ve felt healthier, possibly because of the change from my unhealthy lifestyle in England. I worked longer hours and had less time for the gym, ate huge mounds of food for dinner, and binged drank at the weekends. As soon as I went travelling I began to feel healthier.
My lifestyle in Spain is healthy too. At first I couldn’t get used to eating late at night in Spain, I didn’t like going to bed with food in my stomach, but now I’ve realized that it’s more about quantity not time. When I first got here I was in ‘England mode’ and I’d crack open a beer at 5pm on a Friday. By the time we went out, at about 10 or 11pm, I was plastered. I still have a few drinks at the weekend, but it’s normally over dinner and the pace is much slower. There is no mad rush for last orders. Saying that, my wife’s family thinks I’m odd when they are out having a coffee and I order a beer. (Photo by afloresm)
Thanks to my working schedule I have time to go to the gym three times a week in the mornings. It’s so much better than dragging myself there after a stressful long day in the office. I guess it depends on your lifestyle, when I go back to England for the summer I tend to keep the same sort of routine (although binge drinking does crop up now and then). I just think living abroad has opened my eyes a bit.
|Skyline in Segovia, not been there, yet!|
Feel more alive
The adventure of an expat is continuous. Even after almost nine years living away I get a buzz about living abroad. I’m still learning loads about Spain, not just the language but the culture, mentality, and way of life. Last year planning a wedding was a stressful period, but learning about the Spanish rituals and catholic religion was an eye opener. (Photo by Alaskan Dude)
While I was travelling the world every destination was a surprise and the buzz of seeing so many countries was great. That buzz occurs less now as I’m in Seville, but there are still a lot of places in Spain that I haven’t seen. It’s just a question of getting out and about an exploring. I know that if I went back to England I’d get bored quickly. I’d be back in the country where I grew up and be itching to get away.
I’m closer to my family
In Ecuador, Brazil, Thailand, and Spain one thing I’ve noticed is how important family is to my students. Family has always been a big part of my life, but when you’re away you appreciate what you have more. It might sound funny, but since living away from my folks and family I feel closer.
I’ve always got on well with my family and we’ve had great times. Now with emails, skype, and facebook we’re in contact more. To think I travelled the world for two years and could only speak to them on the phone is madness. Skype is a great way to catch up with people back home, it’s not the same as being face to face, but it’s something. You can always have an online beer too.
The influence of my Spanish family has shown me to be more affectionate to my family back home. Spanish are more touchy feely and men kiss each other on the cheeks. At first it was strange for me to kiss my wife’s dad and brothers on the cheek every time I saw them, but now I’m comfortable with a bit of stubble rubbing. I think my mates thought it was funny that I was going round kissing all the Spanish men at my wedding, but by the end of the night they were all joining in too (on the cheeks remember).
|In my England shirt at Camp Nou, but England weren’t playing|
Realize who you really are
When outside your country you realize who you really are and where you come from. I’ve tried to fit in and mingle with the locals in every country I’ve been in, but language barriers and humor always send me back with my own kind. I get on with Spanish people, my young students are fun (most of the time), and my adult ones are a good laugh, but I’ll always be English.
I used to get offended when my students said that all British people are closed and serious, especially when they hadn’t visited the UK. Now I just laugh it off, of course there are some serious and more closed Brits than in Spain, but there plenty of examples of the reverse case.
It’s a great experience seeing different lifestyles, trying various foods, and discovering strange opinions about people. That’s why living abroad is so much fun. If I hadn’t lived abroad then I wouldn’t have realized how British I am. I don’t like to generalize but we are different from other nations. We can be more serious and closed at times, but we’re also more optimistic, ambitious, and have a unique sense of humor.
Your home country gets better
At least for the short period you are there. I normally go back home because of a wedding, birthday, or some sort of fun occasion, but when I go back I appreciate the good things about England.
Apart from the people and humor I like that fact we have so many different types of restaurants, the atmosphere and banter surrounding the football is much better, the weather in the summer is bearable compared to Seville, the advertisements are funnier, the book shops bigger, the television is better, and you can’t beat the prawn and mayonnaise sandwiches from boots. I do love my country, but after a while I am ready to come back to my life here.
So those are my reasons to live abroad as an expat. Which ones do you agree or disagree with? Leave a comment and let me know.