I’ve never done a blog before…hell, I’ve never written anything other than book reports and term papers. I got the idea to write this blog from a friend in Virginia. She’d been toying with the idea of trying to become an expat, and was wondering if it was all…EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Sadly, it’s not…but she had been the third person that I had given insight into the world of living abroad to in the past few months. I’m not claiming to be an expat expert. I’m just here to voice my perspective, and to share my thoughts and experiences.
So here’s a little info about me…I’m a trailing spouse currently living in Brussels, Belgium. I am lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my two girls, and Wyatt (my 8 year old Boxer). I have lived in five states (MI, MO, NC, GA, and VA) and three countries (US, Switzerland, and Belgium) in the past twelve years. I have lived in Europe for two years. That’s a lot of moving…I think I could do it blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back. I think some of my friends and family think that we are in the witness protection program…but we’re not, I swear.
I am used to picking up and relocating to a new place — Moving into a new house, getting lost going to the grocery store, finding a new doctor, hairstylist, dentist, vet, etc., and then start trying to cultivate a new network of people. It’s hard enough to get settled in a new city, and then make new friends and connections when you are in your home country…It’s ten times harder when it’s in a foreign country, and you don’t speak the language!
Settling is tough. It’s mind-blowing. You have so many emotions running through you at once…needless to say, it’s very overwhelming. You will have really high “highs”, and really low “lows”. But, eventually the waves that feel like tsunamis will turn into ripples. I mean it’s not going to happen over night…It’s going to take time, and everyone adapts differently. There are still days when little hiccups feel like tsunamis to me, but you learn to deal with the situations better and better.
Here’s a small example of a settling hurdle…There is nothing like the overwhelming feeling of going to the grocery store for the first time in a foreign country. Nothing looks the same. All of the packaging is different, you can’t read the labels, milk and eggs aren’t refrigerated, and that’s just the beginning. TIP: When looking for specific items…do not go to the section that you would normally go to. For example, when searching for toilet bowl cleaner I normally go to the cleaning supplies section…not at some grocery stores. After 10 minutes of searching, I finally found it next to the toilet paper.
I always find meeting new people a challenge. But, when I worked outside of my kitchen, it was pretty easy to meet new people…I had always been lucky enough to work in environments where there were plenty of young professionals to befriend. It’s not that easy living abroad, or at least it wasn’t for me. Now, I’m joining play groups and trying to be involved in my little girls’ international school (where everyone is an expat). I feel like I am constantly putting myself out there. Talking to people I don’t know…at school, at the gym, at my daughter’s gymnastics class. I feel like a stalker, or at least someone really pushy. I guess I know how it feels to be a guy hitting on a girl now!
I pray I’m not losing your interest already, and I’m also hoping that you’ll come with me on my journey of being an expat. My perspective is going to be realistic, chaotic (due to the kids), funny, and definitely sarcastic. Just like my real life. I’ll share my past experiences, and all the new ones too.