torstai 9. helmikuuta 2017

About Expat Confidence & Identity

I know this post will seem maybe whiny and dark, but I know there are many expats out there who are having similar feelings and it may help to find out that you are not the only one struggling. It is very important to keep it real.

When you decide to give up your life in your homeland, it is the start of a whole new journey that is not always easy. Many of us are surprised by just how much emotions the whole process rises in us and how it affects the ability to function "normally". We want to be brave and dynamic, but we might find ourselves suddenly feeling everything but that. In the beginning there is the positivity and the enthusiasm to do things, but we soon discover that in order to thrive like everybody else around us, there are so overwhelmingly many things to be mastered. The language (to get a job you basically need to be FLUENT), the manners, the humor, finding your people and getting the general logic of how things are handled around here. Those who haven't traveled don't always understand the general feeling of being retarded you experience when changing the country. Nothing seems to go right and you are like ten times more clumsy than normally. Even using the toilet can be a hassle (why is there no top rim? No toilet paper again? How do I flush this shit?) . You just feel out of tune and this feeling can last a surprisingly long time. Some things become easy fairly fast, but there is just always something. Expats get accustomed to awkward situations very fast already in the beginning of their journey.

By becoming an expat, you give up a lot of things that give you confidence and enforce the identity: your job, friends, family, hobbies, expressing yourself in your mother tongue etc. In the beginning I felt strong enough to meet new people and talk about myself, because I still had a strong sense of who I was. As the months passed, I noticed that I hadn't established any new friendships and my confidence started to shake. Every time I met a  new person and had a good talk, but nothing solid ever came out of it, I became more pessimistic. I felt that nobody wanted to take the time to integrate someone new into their life. Ugh, she's a foreigner and all. She speaks French so slowly and I ain't got the energy. They would use me to practice their English or just enjoy a one night of good time (sounds like dating, huh?). Now that one year has passed and I can even speak French I find myself still more fragile than ever. I am afraid to go out there and get my hopes high just to get them crushed. And in social meetings people ask you about your current projects and you just are there not knowing where to begin explaining your situation. Should I be honest or just pretend I got my shit together?  Sometimes they just ask straight if I am happy with my life in France. They already see that I am lost as fuck so pointing out the obvious isn't going to make things better. I need someone to call a friend, I need a job, I need to feel like I am a real person.  I am a woman who wants to accomplish and has had her own identity before. I want to talk about my ideas, which I know I have, but don't get the chance to say out loud in fast paced conversations. You just sit there, trying to follow the changing topics and feeling more invisible by every passing minute. You know that in your native language (or even in English) you would be actively sharing your thoughts and having a good time. 

The never ending battle with the French bureaucracy has been also eating a lot of my energy and good spirit. I just now received a call from the unemployment office that they will not pay me for my receptionist course, because I have abandoned it without completing the program. I just can't anymore, seriously. I have been to every single lesson, I was never absent, I did my internship and I have filled and sent all the papers needed. Dealing with the French state workers is like trying to stay calm against a person who fucks up everything due to major incompetence and stupidity, but who you need to do the job in order to get something so essential. AND you can't complain anywhere or punch anybody or make threats or yell your lungs out. You need to accept all the false accusations and mind fucks and curve balls and just wait patiently (even if you are in serious financial agony because of them). It eats your moral to try so hard to get there, speak the language and work for your new country, but they just make it so damn hard.

All that being said, I still know that there is no other way, but to keep on trying and fighting. I will not keep on rolling in my anxiety, but it feels good to write it down. 

The photos of my wedding day are a great reminder of what this is all about. I am here to live with the man I love. The most important thing is that I have been lucky enough to have found my true soulmate and I get to live my life with him by my side. It's more than most people can ever achieve.

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