While living overseas for most of my adult life, I have met many expats from around the world. Even if our experiences abroad were unique, many of the factors that motivated us to become expats were similar. Each one of us was motivated to live abroad for a variety of reasons, like furthering our studies, taking advantage of a job opportunity, accompanying or following a loved one, embarking on an adventure, or just escaping our current lives. For over 20 years, I have lived in three different countries and became an expat multiple times, thus experiencing first-hand each of these reasons we decide to become expats.
Probably one of the most common ways that we become an expat is for work. We either search an opportunity somewhere else or we allow a job to lead the way. We can sometimes define how long we stay; however, other times we are sent for a specific amount of time.
At the beginning of your expat experience, work can be a great distraction while you adjust to life in this new place. Work gives structure to your days and offers you a unique opportunity to discover more about the culture, adapt to the daily life in the country, and better understand the locals.
After I graduated from university, I immediately searched for a job in France. After studying abroad, I couldn’t wait to return to France and become an expat. I was fortunate enough to have been offered a job in Paris at a French software company. Three months later, I moved into my first studio apartment near my office in Paris.
Work filled my days, but left my evenings empty. I kept myself busy after work, but didn’t go out much during the week. On weekends, I ventured out to discover Paris on my own. I thought that I would be able to make friends quickly since I already spoke French, but it took longer than I expected. Over time, I gradually filled in my life with friends, activities, and new interests.
During this expat experience, work was definitely a benefit. Not only did it allow me to stay legally in France, but it was the one stable thing in my life while I adapted to life abroad. At any rate, my job also allowed me to enhance my knowledge of French, learn more about the French culture, make more friends, and deepen my connection to France.
Read more of Melinda’s story, Reasons We Become Expats, in her developing series on the Italy blog with the first section of the post appearing in our next summer e-magazine and the next post, “Adventure”.
Melinda Gallo is a blogger, writer, and runner, living in Florence, Italy and Paris, France. She is currently working on a book for expats. Watch for her posts on http://blog.melindagallo.com .