NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches
With 2012 still fresh and new, this month's NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches examines beginnings from the four corners of the globe.
Here at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary, Linda of Adventures in Expat Land (North) explores the moment an expat's new life starts. As for yours truly usually found blogging here at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary (South), I'm dreaming big, and taking an even bigger bite out of 2012. Erica of Expatria, Baby (East) writes of her love beginnings. And Maria of I Was An Expat Wife (West) remembers the first time she felt at home in Singapore.
So, get comfortable, pour yourself a glass, and join us in saluting 2012. Many new and wonderful beginnings to all of you. Here's Linda's post.
After I've read you the list of possible answers, you will select the one that you believe best represents the moment when the average expat truly starts to feel that they are at a new beginning point in their life. You know, that point when you realize that you're Dorothy and you aren't in Kansas anymore.
Pay attention and read carefully because I'm going to give you lots of options. But remember, you can only pick one.
Here we go.
1. You first hear the language of your new country spoken by everyone around you, and realize that you can't understand a single word being said.
2. Your spouse/partner/significant other/Antonio Banderas/Angelina Jolie comes home and says 'Guess what? I've got this fantastic job offer, but it's in (fill in the blank)'.
3. You're hugging family and close friends, trying not to sob as you say your goodbyes.
4. You receive your residency card or visa, as applicable.
5. You can look around at most intersections in a four-block radius and realize that you could find your way home without resorting to a phone call to Antonio (or Angelina) or having to ask someone on the street for directions.
6. Sitting in a welcome session for recent arrivals at your children' new school.
7. You arrive at the airport or border and have to go through customs and immigration, and you realize that this time you're not a visitor.
8. You watch the contents of your home being packed up, loaded onto a container truck and driven away.
9. The first time your child turns and says to you 'I want to go home' and you realize that they are referring to your new country.
10. You are stopped for directions and realize that you understand three out of every five words being said to you and can point, pantomime and summon sufficient words to make yourself understood in response.
11. It's 2:00 am, your normally reliable teenager is well overdue for their curfew and you're not sure who to call.
12. The first time someone greets you with a welcoming voice and warm smile saying 'Hello, I'm so-and-so. You're new, aren't you? Let's grab a coffee and chat. There are some folks I'd like to introduce you to.'
13. You're served a new food or beverage about which you haven't a clue, it looks and/or smells strangely, and you're not entirely sure whether it's edible or even how to eat it.
14. In the taxi, car, van, small truck, bus, rickshaw, carriage, water taxi, sleigh, motorcycle or sea plane delivering you to your new front door.
15. You make your first embarrassingly public cultural faux pas and are concerned that you've sparked an international incident.
16. You arrive in country with high hopes and big dreams but no job or place to live, thinking 'now what??'
17. It's 11:30 pm and your youngest child has a raging fever, you haven't been in country long enough to have arranged for a doctor.
18. You understand your first joke in your new language (and are secretly relieved that you're not the butt of it).
19. You've been revived after fainting upon hearing the words 'Our next assignment is in (fill in the blank)'.
20. You return from vacation or a business trip and realize that this is home.
21. Your household goods shipment finally arrives in your new country.
22. Mr/Ms Right turns out to be Mr/Ms Wrong, leaving you on your own in the country you recently chose to move to together.
23. The first time you are invited into the home of a local resident.
24. You have your first (and hopefully only) encounter with local police.
25. The time difference is such that you can only find a one-hour window in which to call or Skype with friends and family 'back home' (and someone still has to get up early or stay up late to do so).
Okay, you've heard each of the contenders, so go ahead and select your answer. Keep your eyes on your own screen. No peaking at each others' choices.
While you're deciding on which answer to write down, I'll just stand over here and hum the Jeopardy one-minute countdown song.
All right then, let's get straight to the results. Which one will it be? Which of the selections above best typifies the light bulb moment when an expat thinks 'aha, this is the beginning of my new life'?
And the answer is...
Okay, that's not exactly fair. The answer is actually 'all of the above'. Or 'none of the above'. Or 'other'.
There is no such thing as an 'average' expat any more than there is one occurrence that signifies a new beginning to everybody.
Some of us experience one defining moment, others will be reminded repeatedly by a series of events that a new life has begun. Still others will resist acknowledging any 'beginning' in their life change, instead living in a holding pattern and biding time until they can get back 'home'.
The truth is, new beginnings abound in expat life. You just have to be open to seeing them, and seeing them for what they are.
So which selection did you choose? What was your last light bulb moment when you realised this is the beginning of your new life?
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