Expat issues - The possibility of re-invention

2009 was a hideous year to be in the UK. I am sure the same could be said for many others. The recession was in full flow, every headline was doom and gloom and the axe was starting to fall on the careers of friends and associates.

Working in the advertising industry, it was not uncommon to call a contact to discover they had been "let go," or whatever the euphemism du jour was.

Yet, like a green shoot fighting its way through a tarmac drive, words of optimism sprung from the misery. I heard, on more than one occasion, those who had been fired say it was the "best thing that had ever happened to them." 

Why on Earth would they say this?

The truth was, for some people, they had been languishing in jobs they did not particularly want to be in. Redundancy gave them the proverbial kick up the backside they needed to start pursuing their actual dreams.

Just like being an expat

This situation can be extremely analogous with the experience of being an expat. There will be myriad reasons why someone becomes an expat, but an overwhelmingly common reason is a move for love.

This means you are likely to be completely uprooting the life you once had - career, home, family, friends, social activities - and planting yourself somewhere new.

In fact, whatever the circumstances of your expatriation - whether you are following a job, following a lover, or just following your feet - you will be making changes.

And a change is as good as a start!

Re-evaluation & Re-invention

Articles on dealing with redundancy would highlight the opportunities for change and personal growth presented by the situation. I think its true to say we are often all so busy "doing" that we do not stop to breath and consider why we are doing and what we want.

The change of circumstances that comes from being an expat allows you to re-evaluate yourself and opens doors to the possibility of re-invention.

As the trailing "expat spouse" (albeit that Charlie is not actually Dutch and we are not actually married), I was the one who left my job behind with the move. I was fortunate enough to be very happy in my job. I would have happily continued on the same path here.

Forced to re-evaluate

Due to circumstances, however (a topic for another article - but be aware of the importance of knowing the native language) it has not exactly worked out that way. This means that I have been forced to re-evaluate.

Charlie likes to, shotgun fashion, fire the million dollar questions at me:
 "What do you value in life?"
 "What are you good at?"
 "What job would you most like to be doing?"

These are such fundamentally important questions that everyone should ask themselves and they may not be easy to answer. They require some meaningful soul searching. I sometimes berate him for trying to make me put together a 10-step plan when I would rather have a hug, but I begrudgingly admit he has a point.

Notes & Steps

Making notes of where you would like your life to go and how you can make steps to get it there is a positive process.

For example:
 I really miss my family and friends. I will be sure to keep in contact with them by phone / Skype, encourage visitors, but also set out to meet new friends as my social group is really valuable to me.

 I love singing (enter as applicable) but stopped doing it when I was younger / left my old club behind. I am going to find a local club and join. And I am not going to quit after only going once.

 I really enjoyed the job I had already, however, I wish I had more of an opportunity to do x, y, z. These are the courses that will allow me to do this. This is the voluntary work that will give me experience of this. These are the employers where I have the opportunity to do this. This is how I could setup my own business to make this happen.

And once this is done, do not forget the importance of getting that hug. Change needs support.

Being an expat is an opportunity

So, here is to being an expat. It is a golden opportunity. Some people need to wait for redundancy (or a mid life crisis) for this; we have the chance to do it now.

Milly Newman


Milly Newman

Ex Londoner, Ex media person, Expat

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