tiistai 21. helmikuuta 2017

5 Things To Expect As An Expat

A lot of expat stories start with falling in love. I have always been one not to hesitate making sacrifices in order to make things work out. In a lot of ways I didn't know what I got myself into when I decided to start a new life from a scratch abroad. Here's my top five of the things I got a slap straight in the face from!

1. You will make a lot of papers. A lot. And then some more.

I had heard rumors that France is the promised land of bureaucracy, but how bad can it really be? Right? I'm glad I had no idea of the battles we were yet to face, when I first started this journey. The process goes somewhat like this: search what papers are needed, obtain all documents, get the documents officially translated into French, pay 50 euros (at least) for the translations, send the documents, they get lost on the way or at arrival so you'll just repeat all the previous steps. When the file finally reaches its destination, prepare to hear that you will actually have to obtain about 20 documents more. If your choice of host country is France, make sure you have a local to help you with all the legal hassles. Even with a French by your side, the process to have everything legally in order takes an average of two years. 

2. The culture shock is no joke

I told myself that, come on, I'm moving 'just' to France. It's in Europe! How different can it be? I was so wrong. Culture shock touches every single person. No matter the destination or where you come from. Try to prepare yourself mentally for what's to come. This way you'll not be like me, who realizes in the middle of the crisis stage that turning your life upside down might actually have some mental consequences. There's not much you can do to avoid experiencing the symptoms of a culture shock to some degree, but you can be warned by educating yourself on its effects beforehand. Read other people's experiences of living in your future host country. Start studying the language as soon as you can (if you don't master it already). 

3. People don't understand your struggle

This goes for people back at home as well as for those who you meet in your new country. You are making a lot of efforts to build your life: learn the language, get a job and build social connections. You think you deserve some compassion and people surely want to hear about your struggles. The reality is that many will think that you do not have the right to 'complain' for the choice you have made. People who have never done something as difficult as trying to start over in another country (many cannot even move away from their home town), can't sympathize with what you are going through. They say things that are shockingly unthoughtful. I will never forget how one person told me two weeks into my first visit in France: "You know, you will never learn French if you don't speak it." At the time I hardly knew any French and I was just working hard to learn it. You can't just simply speak a language if you have no idea how to put a sentence together. This is just one example of people not having any idea of what it is to be in your shoes. If I told this person the same about my native language or English, the answer would be that I am being completely ridiculous.

4. The world is no longer the same

When I lived in Finland I used to think very differently about a looot of things. I used to think we have this and this thing going so great...and now I might think the complete opposite. Travelling broadens the mind, but becoming an expat can turn the world upside down for you. In Finland I was never particularly into politics, but now if you asked me, I would say that if you don't care of politics you must be quite a fool. France has enforced my belief in fighting for your rights even if the odds are not in your favor. Even though I have absorbed a lot of french believes and characteristics, I'm still all the time pointing out things that "would never happen in Finland." At least nothing seems to be black and white anymore.

5. Your relationships will change

The truth is that expat life shows you which of your relationships are worth keeping and which were rotten from the beginning. The tricky part is that your experiences will surely change you in one way or another and in the other hand, life keeps on moving forward back at home also. Other ties will be enforced, others broken and some will just feel no longer the same. But it is all okay. Everything happens for a reason and you will find the people that will belong in your life.

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