Three Years Abroad: The Pros of Living the Expat Lifestyle

Three years ago, I set off on a six month stint around Europe after graduating from university. I ran into visa issues along the way and made a side trip to see Mo in Western Australia. I visited, I liked it, and at the end of the year, I moved over to Western Australia as an expat. Time has gone by so quickly, but just remembering how heavy my bags were before moving makes my arms shake.

My first day in Australia. I packed all this in one check in bag and one surfboard bag.

My first day in Australia. I packed all this in one check in bag and one surfboard bag.

Moving to Australia from Southern California isn’t exactly the biggest cultural change, though I do laugh when Americans ask me if I’ve picked up speaking Australian yet — and they are genuinely impressed when I admit that I have! Perth and San Diego share similar weather, lifestyle, and language so to be honest there weren’t as many barriers moving here as if I’d moved to the middle of Cambodia. (Also, being white means that I likely experience less xenophobia than many POC foreigners.)

Nonetheless, being an expat still has its pros and cons. If you’re thinking of moving overseas for whatever reason, here is a thought to consider and a few of the reasons why I love living abroad.

Are you thinking of moving abroad? Why are you moving?

The first thing you should think about packing everything up and leaving everything behind is why? Why are you leaving your home life? Only you can decide if it’s the right decision for you, but it’s worth point out that travel or moving away won’t solve all problems — especially if they are internal. Still, I find it’s more common to run into the belief that going abroad is more serious than it is — especially if you are moving to be with a partner or moving without a job lined up.

This tends to be an overreaction. If you move abroad and hate it, you can likely go back home and return to your old life to some extent. If my relationship failed, or I hated life in Western Australia, I’d simply go back to California (or elsewhere) knowing that I at least tried an alternative lifestyle. In my situation, the risk was low because I’m able to return to a support network. Mo is also an expat, so I always someone around who understands what I’m feeling. Your situation might be different.

Just a few months after moving to Australia. Where are our wrinkles?!

Just a few months after moving to Australia… Before the hole in the ozone layer burned wrinkles into our skin.

You need to think about the following things:

  • Why do you want to move abroad?
  • How much time will you give yourself to adjust? (The first six months as an expat can be rough.)
  • Do you have financial savings to support you while you get settled?
  • What will you do if it doesn’t work out?

As long as you prepare to fund your first few months while you look for a job, give yourself a fair chance to adjust to being friendless and without your family, and have a backup plan for if it all turns down under, then I say go for it.

I won’t lie. My whirlwind plan to move overseas was met with a lot of understandable criticism and skepticism from friends and family with good intentions.

I’m glad I ignored them and went anyways.

Why I love being an expat

Confidence that you can thrive anywhere

Travel in general gives you the knowledge and confidence that you can make friends, navigate, and survive in versatile situations — but living in a new environment forces you to do this all day, every day, with no safeguard of a plane ticket home to fall back on.

The first six months of living overseas was really rough for me because it was a time mixed with the excitement of being somewhere new combined with the downsides of everyday reality. I worked as a waitress for a restaurant owned by a prick who loved to “cull the slow girls,” had no stable network, and missed home. As time went on, I started attending meet-up groups with people who shared my hobbies, texted people to hang out, and discovered my favorite hang out spots in Perth. Now, I love living in my neighborhood, have a strong group of friends, and know that if/when we move elsewhere, I’ll be fine.

New cultures and landscapes

Living abroad means you’ll see new natural features, animals, and cultural quirks that don’t exist at home. I’ve seen kangaroos, migrating humpback whales, and am now quite acquainted with Bogan culture. Being an expat changes you in ways that just being a tourist couldn’t, especially as you pick up slang and mannerisms that fit your new community. If you’re a traveler, this will also put you in a new region of the world – likely one that wasn’t accessible before. The rest of Australia and Southeast Asia is just a quick and cheap flight from Perth, versus the long, $800+ ticket it’d be from California.

Though there’s nothing wrong with staying where you grew up, you’ll only experience life through a single lens.

Red Bluff, Western Australia.

Red Bluff, Western Australia.

A second place to call home for the rest of your life

Once you’ve established roots in a new land, that foundation will be there for you for the rest of your life. When I’m in Perth, “going home” is California. When I’m in California, “going home” is in Perth. You’ll make new friends, memories, and attachments that will welcome you back should you ever decide to leave.

A new start

In a new country, you can’t rely on your socioeconomic status, gossip, family, or reputation to bind you to other people’s perceptions. Abroad, your identity is tied more to your actions, your words, and your personality than to anything else. Though who I was in the US is the same person I am now, I’ve outgrown my hometown and I like making new friends and pursuing a career based off of my current interests and beliefs.

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Past life: I prepared to enter law school and did not have a strong pull to live outside of the US.

A better view of your home country

From birth, most Americans are taught to believe that America is the Best! Fight for what you believe in (wait, but only if it fits the status quo… let’s not make any radical progression, mmkay?)! The US Does No Wrong! Often, criticism of anything towards the US is seen as being unpatriotic and can be met with hostility. Three years abroad has taught me that unfortunately, the US is not the perfect dreamland I once thought it was as a child. Our crime rate, standard of living, education, healthcare system, and racial issues fall well behind many other countries — an opinion I’d never form by only being surrounded by Americans. Because freedom, amirite?

However, California in particular, rocks at many things that Australia is lagging behind on like renewable energies, freedom of the press, support for start-up businesses, and boasts a more diverse (and therefore tolerant) population than Western Australia.

Living abroad has shown me in a unique way that while I’m proud to be from California, the US itself is not a land of lollipops and rainbows — and it doesn’t make me unpatriotic to think so. In fact, being critical of your homeland is one of the most patriotic things you can do. How else will it improve? Studying political science gave me an inkling of how the US government works. Moving abroad gave me an inkling of how the U.S. in the the scope of the great big world works.

Will I be an expat forever?

Like I said in my mini freakout post, at the end of the year, there’s an equal parts chance of staying put, going home to the U.S., or moving elsewhere. Living as an expat so far has been an experience I’ve mostly loved, and would be willing to repeat again somewhere new. But whether this will be the case forever? I have no clue.

We see you driving in your car... yet, we don't give a S$%& we're gonna bounce in front of it anyway!

Don’t let this post fool you, I haven’t loved all aspects of the expat life! A list of what I hate about living overseas is coming soon. 

The Pros of moving overseas.

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48 Responses

  1. Katie says:

    Love this short and sweet reflection — a beautiful post, as always! My time back home is winding down quickly, and reading this just affirmed the excitement I’ve been feeling to resume my expat status in Chile soon. I especially took note of what you wrote about how seeing the US from an outside perspective — for all of its good and bad — doesn’t make you unpatriotic. I’ll be watching the election results this year during an overnight layover in Lima, and it’s given me a lot of cause to reflect on exactly the same thing!
    Katie recently posted…The Backpacker’s Guide to Australia’s Gibb River RoadMy Profile

    • Chantae says:

      Thanks Katie 🙂 Ahh, I’m so excited for you to go to Chile!!! I have always wanted to visit and now can live vicariously through you — you need to find all the street art and go snowboarding! And oh wow, that’s a crazy place to keep tabs on the election results :O Are you heading off on your own?

  2. Life as an expat must be filled with excitement and adventure. Settling down in a new land, finding a new comfort zone, and moving on…you’ve done it many times by now. Do you ever feel the need to have roots too?

  3. John Rodgers says:

    We have been out of the U.S. for most of the 17 years we have been married and I could not imagine going back home. Something I will have to face eventually since we are now in our 60s. I would love to visit AU and have been all around it. Fact we just went through Mongolia with 3 AU girls and one is studying medicine in Broome. Love the post and the pictures.

    • Chantae says:

      Oh fascinating – can’t wait to hear about your Mongolian experience. I think retiring abroad would be a cool thing to do too — interesting that you now can’t imagine going back!

  4. Cavaforlunch says:

    Being an expat is rather amazing, if you ask me! I used to live in Italy, but last year I moved to Scotland and I’m absolutely loving it! I think the only negative thing is the fact that I miss my family… But wonderful post! xx

  5. I love this! I lived in Japan for 2 years, and so many of these applied to my time there. Although I am back home in the UK now, I plan on moving to South Korea in a year or so. Th ex-pat life is definitely for me!

  6. I completely agree with you when you say that living in another country for a while changes completely the idea you have of your own country. I’ve never spent more than two months in a row living in a foreign country, but that was enough for me to understand things about my country that I couldn’t see when I was back home. I felt as if I had become more attached to my country and I missed aspects of it that I had never even considered as important before, but at the same time I started to see what was not working and, especially, WHY.
    Thank you for this beautifully written article, I’m now looking forward to reading about what you don’t like of the expat life, it’s always really interesting to get first hand experience stories about something I would like to embark on as well!

    • Chantae says:

      Yes, I think travel in general can show you so much about home — you don’t have to live somewhere to get the benefits of being abroad for sure 🙂 Thanks for the insight and I totally know how you feel!

  7. Gabi says:

    I’m on the process of moving abroad for the second time, it’ stressing, but so rewarding, your first picture is more or less the same chaos we are going through at home right now… it gives me courage to see we are not alone 😉

  8. Carmy says:

    You are WAY braver than I. I’m definitely missing that confident bullet point of getting a new start. How was the paper work while moving?
    Carmy recently posted…Quick and Easy Smoothies with Vega and SilkMy Profile

    • Chantae says:

      Haha, no not brave 😉 Paperwork was alright actually because I entered Australia on a working holiday visa – moving over to the de facto partner visa was a little harder, but still not that bad 🙂

  9. The expat lifestyle is addictive! We never dreamed we would be expats forever, but once you start it gets easier each time

  10. Ami says:

    I have been one for sometime and I agree with you on when you say that you not just learn about new cultures but learn to appreciate yours better too. I had this new found respect for my country after staying abroad and I still continue to feel good about it.
    Ami recently posted…Jaswant Thada – The Taj Mahal of Marwar in JodhpurMy Profile

  11. Jenn says:

    I have been an expat for three years already and yes, there are some things that require of an adjustement time, but they are necessary. I actually moved for work reasons and by the end of next year I will have to move again. I have come to the conclusion that I will never find a place as warm, openminded and welcoming than Barcelona, but sometimes life forces you to take a different path of the one you had planned… it can be tough, but it’s ok…!

    • Chantae says:

      Oh, hopefully your new place is just as welcoming as Barcelona — I can imagine it’s super hard to leave somewhere you love so much. Fingers crossed for you 😀

  12. Thuymi says:

    It has been 3 years also for me that I am living the Expat lifestyle. New cultures and landscapes is definitely one things that will keep me being an expat all around the world. I don’t plan to go back anytime soon to Canada!

  13. For us living abroad would be an opportunity to learn new cultures and exploring the land and its beauty and that is what we did when we got a chance to stay in Switzerland for work purpose. In more than a year of the stay we have learnt quite a bit of Swiss lifestyle and admired and respected it. But for sure will never be able to cut off our roots.

    • Chantae says:

      Ah, very cool. Switzerland is such a great place to be because of the blending of languages and cultures. How fun 🙂 Glad to hear you’re acclimating well!

  14. Joanna says:

    I have been an expat for the past 3 years myself and I don’t plan on going back home. My home is now in England and I love it, I am starting to grow roots here and make it my second (which became my first) home. It take a lot of courage to move to a new country and there have been (and still are) a lot of challenges, but the most important thing is to feel happy and know that you’ve made the right choice for a better life.
    Joanna recently posted…Wine tasting at Chiltern Valley WineryMy Profile

  15. You remind me of my own decision to move from India to the United Kingdom a year ago . But I moved out purely for higher studies and travelling around the place. Since then apart from studies I have explored the UK quite a lot. Unfortunately, due to visa issues I cannot explore Europe. And as all good things end, my stint in the Uk would be ending next month.
    Subhadrika Sen recently posted…Exploring CardiffMy Profile

  16. verushka says:

    Living abroad changes you and the way you see life. After living abroad I returned home to find things very different over time I have adjusted.
    verushka recently posted…The President Hotel in Cape Town ReviewMy Profile

  17. Blair Villanueva says:

    I also have many expat friends and they all tell the same. Living an expat life, makes them learn a lot, especially the local culture and new ways in order to survive. They all living here in Manila, some are in Cebu and each time I will ask them, when they will go back home – they just wink and says “we are home”

  18. Congratulations on making it three years abroad: it sounds like you’ve made a really nice life for yourself in Australia, When you say ” When I’m in Perth, “going home” is California. When I’m in California, “going home” is in Perth. ” I totally get this! When you’ve lived in multiple places, it can sometimes be difficult to work out ‘where’ exactly home is.. 🙂
    sophie nadeau recently posted…{NEW VIDEO} SUNRISE EIFFEL TOWER HYPERLAPSE & MAKING THE MOST OF GREY SKIESMy Profile

  19. Shane says:

    Wow I could relate all too well to this! I moved to Sydney for my first job after graduation. I only lasted 2 years there but had the time of my life as an expat. Moving to a place with such similar culture could be frustrating at times getting used to the smaller differences. So worth the amazing experience abroad!

  20. Tamshuk says:

    Beautiful and heartfelt post this one.
    I have been an expat when I lived in Singapore for six years and hence I can totally relate to everything you have mentioned here about moving to another country. The fact that the new country becomes and ultimately feels like your home, is the most significant thing I had felt during those years.
    Tamshuk recently posted…Inspiring Travel Bloggers: Shayan and Kanika – Dose of LifeMy Profile

  21. Ana says:

    I’ve been an expat for quite a few years and just loving it! It not only expand your horizon but starts changing your perspective towards the world!

  22. Bella WW says:

    I’ve been an expat for only 10 months and it completely changed the way I see the world so I can definitely relate to your story. I couldn’t agree more with the fact that this kind of experience gives you a better view of your home country.
    Bella WW recently posted…10 Things you must see & do in Chicago, IllinoisMy Profile

  23. Sumti says:

    Informative post !! I have never been expat but can feel the pros of the same with your post

  24. Omg, 🙂 Three Years Abroad, Honestly these Three Years in Abroad would become most important & unforgettable years in the life. Amazing post that you shared Chantae.

    Keep share this types of awesome post.

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