“Who wants to go to China and work there?” my boss asked. My hand shot up. I didn’t hesitate at all. I am an avid traveler, and to immerse myself into the culture of my ancestors was a dream come true. Besides a massive boost to my career, I would get the chance to be independent for the first time. I was 32 years old and still living with my parents — a highly encouraging social norm in Singapore. And so began my journey to expat life.
My Journey to Expat Life: The Biggest Challenge – Homesickness
My biggest challenge ahead was overcoming homesickness. How could I start my journey to expat life if I was that afraid already?
It would just overwhelm me to the point of getting ill – that much I knew. I also had the irrational fear that my family and friends would move on with their lives, that they would forget me, and that I would one day return only to find out I was no longer relevant in their lives.
What an unbearable thought!
So, I countered my fear with action by pro-actively staying up-to-date with life back home.
I am using FaceTime to check in with my loved ones at home regularly. I also learned to cook, watch streamed TV programs and purchase products from my home country.
These things helped tremendously to ease my fears about being away from family.
I struggled with making friends abroad, mainly because I believed friendships could not last if you didn’t meet up often, or at least be in the same country.
To me, it was like: “what’s the point of making friends when you know, as an expat, you, or your newfound friends, may eventually move on?” But I was wrong.
Many of my Chinese friends stayed in touch after I moved from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur six years ago.
My Journey to Expat Life: A New Country, A New City
Now, living in yet another country, I have expat and local friends here, too. They all opened up with friendships, creating opportunities for invaluable relationships I have learned to accept with gratitude and love.
I have finally learned that if a friendship is meant to be, it will last forever, even if we don’t meet again in this lifetime.
My Journey to Expat Life: Would I Do It Again?
Despite all I had been through, I moved again — defying my fear, uncertainty, and doubt. I left behind what I had built in Shanghai: my career, beloved friends, a comfortable routine, and I embarked on yet a new journey that brought me to Malaysia. I believe these moves help me grow tremendously.
Different countries bring cultural experiences that lead to epic adventures.
I learned so much about myself and overcame obstacles and challenges that I could never have experienced and mastered had I not packed my bags and said goodbye to my comfort zone in my safe country.
To anyone who is thinking about relocating to another country, I say: approach your journey to expat life with an open mind and a humble heart. Immerse yourself in the native culture. Don’t be afraid to explore the unknown, and don’t just stick within your expat circle. Embrace that there will be unexpected changes in your life that will lead to you questioning your values and morals. Remember, we are strangers, peering into a looking glass, until we decide to step in and get deeply involved in the local community.
How about you? Where will you land?
by: Kally Tay