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18 August 2011

The life of an expatriate

The life of an expatriate is often misunderstood and is much maligned.  People who have not experienced living in a culture and country different from their own and speaking a language which is not their mother tongue tend to have a skewed impression.  It is not all parties and fun.  Far from it, the life of an expatriate is very challenging but rewarding.   

 Being an expatriate differs from being a tourist as unlike a tourist you have chosen to be in a foreign country to study, to live and work and you are not merely there on holiday.  Living in a state of self-imposed exile is educational in the sense that the person has the best of both worlds and yet is able to retain the sharp, objective eye of an outsider.  It gives one a sense of perspective, it broadens one's horizons and outlook on life.  It makes one more understanding and tolerant of other nationalities, cultures and religions.  It makes one embrace and appreciate diversity and realise that whilst a homogeneous society where most people share the same values, culture, language, ethnicity and religion is well and good, one cannot have a parochial outlook on life if one is to live as an expatriate. 

Then, there comes the fulfillment of being an expatriate, the knowledge that initial barriers of learning another language, understanding and accepting another culture and religion have been overcome and that you have made it, have pulled through, have survived.  Being a long-term expatriate is definitely character building. 

("Bronte" has so far lived in four countries as an expatriate for a total of twenty-eight years and counting). 
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