Sometimes it feels like there is a never ending amount of forms to be filled in, papers to be shuffled, ticking away on keyboards, substantiating evidence, stamping stamps, waiting around for appointments to become available, answers to be given, and sign off to be granted for us to stay and work in a foreign country. And those are sometimes not even the most challenging parts of being an expat. The hurdles and admin can seem endless, but at times, the people can seem cold and unsympathetic. You can sometimes be left feeling incredibly alone and isolated and so very far away from home, somewhere where nothing is familiar and that can be the most unsettling feeling.
*Related Post: Read the things no one talks about when you move to a new country*
It can be an incredibly humbling experience when you realise that you are not as interesting and as unique as you thought you were. You are just foreign. The benefit to being an expat is that this experience opens your eyes up to this fact. The fact is that people might speak the same language in other countries, but different countries still have different cultures. It is sometimes very hard to know without fully immersing yourself in a new culture, and asking questions and learning and being respectful that your way might not be the way that others are used to.
The simple fact is that as an expat, sometimes you are the only one aware of all these differences, and furthermore, sometimes you as the foreigner, are the only one willing to compromise and learn from the experience. For the most part you are surrounded by people that feel safe, that are home, and that aren’t different – and it can be hard for those people to even become self aware that perhaps the foreign person feels isolated and alone.
I sometimes can be in crowded room, filled with laughter, and all the craic in the world – and yet feel so homesick, and alone. I often have internal dialogues with myself, where I relate to what is happening around me, to how it would be different in South Africa. I have these thoughts internally, because in some instances, not everyone wants to have a ‘lesson’ in South Africanism, and what its like back in my country. It might sound like people are insensitive to my feelings, but I think it is sometimes just ignorance of the vast differences between our cultures. And really why should they learn about South Africa – they didn’t choose to move away from home.
Being an expat, I have learnt patience, patience in waiting for processes to be followed and forms to be submitted, and all the bureaucracy that comes with living in a foreign country. But I have also learnt to be patient with people, patiently waiting for the right time to speak out, and share my stories of home and what it feels like to be so far away from home.
It is difficult to put into words how I am feeling, but this week has been a hard week for me emotionally. I can’t seem to put my finger on what is exactly bothering me, but then I realised what it was. I miss being home, I miss being normal, I miss blending into being part of the crowd, I miss being part of the majority. I miss being among people who might not care about you personally, but where you still feel you fit in and you don’t have to explain why so many things are different here to what they are like back home. The most upsetting part of this week is that I am not sure this feeling will ever fully go away. Because at the heart of the matter, no matter how long I stay away, I don’t want to lose my South Africanism, I don’t want to blend in. I want to be me, the person who I have always been – and so this feeling of being an outsider might never go away. And while I have learnt so much, and I am continually learning about who I am, and how big the world really is – perhaps there is a way for me to rub off some of me here? It is just another part of the process of being an expat I am yet to work out how to solve.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN AN OUTSIDER IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY – HOW DID YOU EASE THE FEELING?
Live Simply & Travel Slow,
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