The Excitement of Being an Expat

What makes expat life so addictive is that every boring or mundane activity you experience at home is, when you move to a foreign country, suddenly transformed into an exciting adventure. When abroad, boredom, routine and ‘normal’ cease to exist. And all that’s left is the thrill and challenge of uncertainty.” – Reannon Muth

Today I came across this quote by Reannon Muth and I must say that it really spoke to me. Although it sounds counterintutive – how can you be addicted to being an expatriate? – I can totally understand what she is talking about. I must confess that yes, I am addicted to the expat life. I am always striving to go to more exciting places, and to learn about new and different cultures. As she says, routines become something exciting. Just going from home to work causes you to see many different things, which may be completely new to you. How come they drive like this? Why in the world are they playing card games sitting on the ground? Oh my god, how can he be working on a building this high without any safety measures? In a new country, everything that happens can potentially be something exciting to observe, and thus provides an opportunity for learning.

But there is a dilemma here as well. As much as routine abroad isn’t really routine, routine is still something very important. Especially when you live abroad. With all the excitement that living outside your own country brings to you, you also need at least a certain level of stability in your life. Finding a partner, for instance, can bring this stability, or joining your local sports club. There needs to be something which you do on a regular basis, something which provides you with that stability you need. And if it is something as thrilling as skydiving, then so be it! There must be people out there who jump out of a plane at least once a week.

But why am I saying this? Why is a certain level of stability important , too? Well, the answer to that is quite simple. Our brain can only handle so much information and uncertainty. Stereotypes, for example, exist because our brain needs to identify patterns in order to predict behaviour. Thousands of years ago, predictability meant survival. New things meant a potential threat. And our brain craves for exactly that predictability. That doesn’t meant that I am suggesting to you should always keep your routine. Not at all. If you do the same stuff everyday, then how are you supposed to learn? What I do say, however, is that even if you are an expatriate, and even if you do crave the excitement of uncertainty all the time, there also has to be a level of stability and predictability in your life. Where you get this from is totally up to you.

Tim

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