Being an expat has come with a few challenges, I have spoken at length on this blog about how hard it has been for us to move over to Ireland and how it has taken us a while to finally feel settled here. Being an expat is not without its sacrifices, and when we first moved over I wrote a post about the things no one tells you about when you move to a foreign country, but since we have been here for nearly 3 years I feel like a follow up to that post is – the annoying things people say to expats. Trust me, I am well aware that most people don’t mean it the way I take it, and I suppose most just aren’t aware how hard moving countries really is. Also, perhaps some of these statements are a little out of context – but if you want to understand what it must feel like to be an expat, here is a list of things not to say to someone who has moved to a new and foreign country:
- You are so lucky – you look like you are always on holiday
Yes, Rob and I make an effort to take weekends away and go on new adventures to explore the country we live in. We did the same back in SA too, perhaps maybe not so frequently (and it was before Insta-stories were a thing, so not as well documented!) but I think living in a new country does pique your interest and love of travel has always been something we have both enjoyed. The fact is, we still both work full time, we have bills to pay just like everyone else – it might look like we are having a great time, but social media shows snippets of our life, and what we choose to share – we don’t always share the loads of washing we do, the monday-friday commute to work, the regular mandane admin we have to do – just like everyone back home has to do.
- Things just work better in Ireland, don’t they?
Ah, ever heard of the saying the grass is not always greener on the other side? Ireland might be the Emerald Isle but it certainly is not perfect. Living here has come with its own set of challenges – work permits, immigration appointments, differences in cultures, different ways of doing things, heck even differences in saying things – those are all expat related issues but then there are things like medical care, cost of living, bank services, finding a place to rent that you can actually afford – honestly there are loads of things I think South Africa does better than Ireland. No where in the world is perfect, I wish people would stop comparing.
- I need to get out of SA too
If I hear this, I stop listening to anything else afterwards, sorry not sorry. We never left South Africa because we hated living there, or because we felt unsafe, or because we thought ‘SA has gone to shit’, and now the more recent comments have been ‘SA is no place to raise a child’ – genuinely I do not believe any of these statements and it breaks my heart that people feel this way. I fully realise that people have had different experiences to me, but I just won’t tolerate hate and blatant racism – honestly, if you feel that way about the place, then leave – but don’t talk to me about it.
- When are you coming back home?
We never left with any solid plans for how long we would go for, or when we would come back. I realise people are being polite and asking if we are happy in Ireland, but it makes me feel like we should have more concrete plans for our life – but nothing in life is certain – who honestly knows where they will be in a years time or ten years time? I miss home a lot, and I guess I feel guilty that I don’t actually know when or if we will ever move back. As much as I don’t want people to assume we left for greener pastures, I don’t want people to assume we will never come back. I just don’t want people to assume stuff about me, when I haven’t fully decided what the heck I am doing with my own life.
- You are always going on holiday everywhere else, why don’t you come back and holiday in SA?
Again social media is a fickle thing, you see there is a long back story as to why we have not been able to get back to SA since we moved over. It started with the fact that I was without a job for a while, then Rob lost his job, then we had other commitments to see family who were not in South Africa, then the admin of living in a foreign country caught up to us when we tried to renew Rob’s passport (which is currently taking over 8 months to renew an SA passport through the SA embassy here in Ireland). So ya, it looks like we don’t care to come back, but the fact is, we just can’t right now – side note we got Rob’s passport back in time for me to not be able to fly (#pregoproblems), and now that baby has arrived, well now its a waiting for the kiddo’s passport. But I digress, expat paper work admin is not the only thing holding us back from visiting home… since when do expats have to use their holiday leave to go back home? The one buzzkill of being an expat is that we are always left spending our leave, our money and our time planning to see family – if we lived in SA we probably wouldn’t spend half as much time seeing family as we have since we moved so far away! Sometimes we just want to explore a new place, or go on holiday on our own as a family.
- I wish we could afford to live overseas too, must be nice
Living in Ireland is the not the same as being on holiday in Ireland and truthfully cost of living in Ireland is high (rent is ridiculous!) – we sold up everything we owned, came over with not a lot and basically started from scratch. Plenty of people come over with more savings, a whole heap of people move over with less – its not whether you can afford to move overseas, it is whether you can make it work that you can afford to LIVE overseas. It requires getting jobs, and making sacrifices on where you live and what you spend your money on, like most people we live on a budget.
- Why haven’t you made more friends yet?
Making friends as adults in a foreign country has been really hard – its a slow process and friendships don’t grow overnight… I don’t think I have ever asked someone back home ‘why they don’t have more friends’ – the fact is, no one really counts how many friends they have, do they?? So why should it ever be a question for an expat?
- Yea, we don’t plan to travel to Ireland, it’s not on our list.
I get that for some people, Ireland is not their dream holiday destination. Perhaps you had no interest in coming over before, but if we are good friends (or even family) then maybe you would want to visit and see us? It can’t always be one sided with you expecting us to come back and visit you. Also, I am well aware that for some people, they may not be able to afford to visit us here in Ireland but then I think there are better ways of saying you won’t be coming over to Ireland, rather don’t promise anything, and skip the part where you say ‘it’s just not your vibe’.
- You guys must be making so much in euros, right?
I hate to break it to you, but I am also paying loads of bills in euros to live here too! Cost of living and cost of salaries, it’s all relative – no matter where you live.
- So that’s you guys, you are settled and staying in Ireland forever?
I fully realise we are incredibly privileged that we were able to make moving to Ireland work for us, but I don’t know if this is permanent or not – and would prefer people refrained from assuming that I have my life perfectly figured out that I know that this is it. I don’t know where I will be in the future, I hate to think we will still be living away from home – so I find the assumption that we are settled in Ireland means we will never live in SA again – it hurts too much to think this way.
- Well you chose to be an expat, if things get hard, you chose this life.
While I fully accept that we did decide to move overseas, and become expats – I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss my feelings about being an expat as something that I chose to do. In the same way that I don’t think it’s fair that someone would say something similar to someone who chose to be a parent, or chose to stay where they are… People are quick to judge and dismiss feelings – but the reality is, no one else has lived in your shoes and whilst I might share a lot here and on social media – I don’t share everything so assuming that I am in need of some tough love, when what I really need is someone to just sit with me and hear my feelings. Everyone has a bad day, everyone feels sad or misses home/someone. Homesickness is not a crime that should be disregarded simply because I choose to be in another country, it does not mean that I cannot miss home every now and then.
So there you go, these are some of the things I don’t think you need to say to an expat – in fact, maybe not say to anyone… less judgement and stop with the assumptions that we know better than how people say they are actually feeling. Disclaimer: If you have said one of the above comments to me, please don’t take it personally. Try read it objectively, and hold space for my feelings. I fully realise it might not have meant to offend, or may have been taken out of context. I just don’t think people realise how words can cut deep, or rub you up in the wrong way – perhaps with this post, it will make you more aware to make less judgments and assumptions about someone else’s life… nowhere and no one is perfect, and no one ever has it all figured out all the time. Even though I may not live in my home country, I miss home. I am still a person, I still have feelings and I am always just trying to figure life out as I go.
FELLOW EXPATS, WHAT IS ONE THING THAT YOU HAVE BEEN ASKED/ TOLD THAT ANNOYED YOU?
Unlock the simple life,
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