The Unhappy Expat

There’s a blurred line that often separates expats. It’s more complicated than new expat versus old expat. It’s the happy versus the unhappy.

Expats are visitors. Not to be confused with immigrants who have arrived to plant roots, expats arrive with a set contract or visa knowing they will never be offered a chance for permanency. Employed as worker bees, they are there to do a job, maintain the hive. Show us what you’ve got, remind us of why you’re here?

A new expat may display signs of culture shock and confusion, but with fear, there is an element of excitement. You may not like it, but it’s new. You’re learning something and gathering new experiences. Whether it’s the language, a new home or a new office, there’s something different to uncover. Even if it’s ugly or boring, it’s a new ugly, a new boring.

Until it gets old.

If there’s an ounce of doubt tucked away in the back of your mind about staying in your current location, you can be assured the unhappy expat will help you find it.

The unhappy expat wants out. The unhappy expat is done.

It won’t matter that your situation is completely different to theirs, they’ll find a common bond.

“We find we’re just missing out on too much”. You’ll nod. You completely agree. You are missing out on things at home, but you’re still okay with what your gaining from your experience here.

The conversation becomes darker, there are examples, anecdotes and urban myths. By the time you’ve discussed the traffic, money, the scorpion in the laundry basket, the lack of decent chocolate, and the fact that they’ve never had a good haircut, you’re ready to slash your wrists. What am I doing here?

This is when you need to talk to the happy expat.

Within moments of the call the happy expat is arranging to meet at her favourite restaurant. She tells you about her Arabic class and wants to know if you’ve got your tickets to see Spain versus Uruguay this week. She talks of a beach trip, a possible night in the desert and an award winning movie that’s playing in the cultural village. The colour begins to return to your cheeks. You immediately feel stronger, you can do this, this isn’t too bad.

Many expats unavoidably reach the day where the shine eventually dulls. A day when they realize they have slowly moved across the page from happy, to where should we go next.

If you’ve experienced the feeling of one more week being one week too many, you’ll understand the concept of being done, of wanting out. And when you’re a happy onlooker, there’s really only one thing left for you to do. If you love an expat, set them free. Start planning the best farewell party you can. It’s going to hurt, but you both need to be happy.

Ever been ready to move on? Or perhaps you loved a location while others around you have hated it.

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