Incorrect assumptions of an expat lifestyle

8

As followers of my site will know, I run regular stories by expats in my Expats Sharing Experiences section.  I like to reach out and encourage others to share their stories of expat life, so I was chuffed when international money transfer company HiFX asked me to contribute my own tip to their expat page.

The problem is, I know the dictionary definition of an expat:

“To withdraw oneself from residence in one’s native country.”  OK, so far so good.  I had withdrawn myself from my native country of the UK and was temporarily settled in Greece.  But the term ‘expat’ conjured up all sorts of other images for me: being invited to Ambassadors’ balls with Ferrero Roche served on gold platters, groups of expats all gathered together, making snide remarks about ‘the locals.’

No Ferrero Roche Ambassador balls for me as an expat
No Ferrero Roche Ambassador balls for me as an expat

Was this really me?

I was dreading the cliché, and yet I’d made the choice to go abroad and work—would this be something I’d have to endure…the downside of trading in my 9-5 lifestyle in the UK?

And yet as people’s stories on my site have shown, being an expat doesn’t have to be like my presumptions.

Living in Athens has exposed me to a whole host of nationalities: Greeks, English and Americans.  Shock, horror, I am now becoming a part of the expat scene!  Yet these British and Americans also had a Greek link: husband, family—so I don’t feel as if I’m totally immersed into the ‘gin and tonic’ crowd.  And even though I live in the capital city, still no Ferrero Roche balls.

Back to the tips:

I would encourage utilisation of Facebook and other social media.  Used properly, it’s a great tool for meeting other people in a foreign city; especially if you’re married with children.  Example: where I live—Athens—there are pages for people arranging events, selling furniture (particularly useful when you’re moving into an unfurnished home) and Foreign Mother’s groups.

If you’re looking for accommodation, don’t rely on the expat pages, or Agents specialising in housing foreigners, prices are expensive. Word of mouth and the local press is much better…and take a Greek colleague or newly made friend with you to negotiate.

I’m lucky;

it’s taken me a while but I have a great mix of expat and Greek friends, the Greek friends met and developed through work. I’ve lived here for five years now and yes, whilst my official label is an ‘expat,’ I would prefer to call myself an ‘honorary Greek.’

For more tips, go to HiFX’s tips page.

Header picture courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_gown

8 COMMENTS

    • Thanks Kate. It’s nice to get other tips on how to make friends when in a strange city for a long period of time.

    • Thanks so much Susan. I’m glad you’ve discovered it and love it :0) I like to open the world up to others through writing.
      Great to have also met you – let’s continue to spread happiness ;0)

  1. Great blog Bex! Having left my native UK long ago and lived in Greece for more years than in the UK, I can honestly say that I’m also well and truly an honorary Greek. I’ve done it all – from full Greek immersion to the British expat scene – from rembetiko in Greek villages to cocktails at the Ambassador’s residence (sadly no Ferrero Rocher but gallons of G & T!) and I’ve loved every minute of it. Currently I’ve settled into the place I feel most comfortable – a sort of combination of both but leaning towards expat living – meeting people from all over the world through the various social clubs and organisations geared towards foreigners living here as well as Greeks with foreign links. I’m amazed and delighted at the many people I’ve met and wonderful friends I’ve made from all corners of the world – something I wouldn’t have experienced if I’d have stayed or returned to the UK.

    • Great to hear your experiences of expat life in this lovely country Halina.
      Thanks for sharing – and may you continue to love your life here.

  2. Hi Rebecca…. Really enjoying your website.. Its really well designed and love the articles which are an interesting take on usual travel tales/observations. It was a pleasure to meet you the other day and look forward to reading more of your adventures on your site.

    • So glad my site can reach out to people! Thanks, Sally. I am glad you gained something from it and I certainly hope it further inspires you to go and travel – experience this world!

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