My life is not a holiday…..

25 Apr

….the top 5 things that i’m sick of hearing from non expats

Now I’ll be the first to admit it, like a lot of expats I am guilty of not being completely honest with my homeland family and friends. I emphasise the positive. Partly because I don’t want to worry them but partly because they just can’t/won’t understand. I also appreciate why they can’t/won’t understand, I was quite blissfully ignorant before we moved, which in hindsight wasn’t such a bad thing (but thats another story).

I know I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to live my life abroad, but, and here’s the big but, sometimes expat life is shite. There I’ve said it. Expats everywhere and I, both know it’s true.

I hear these questions and comments on a regular basis and everyone of them annoys me to my core, but like a good English girl I inwardly seethe whilst maintaining a perfect smile and remind myself that  living abroad has opened my eyes and my heart to so many wonderful opportunities, and that I have a plentiful supply of gin at home.

‘So you’re fluent now, right?’ I have heard this from about my second week in Germany onwards. First, yes it’s in jest, after a couple of months people started asking it seriously! When I was hitting the books at intensive German classes, digging through grammar every night, had a house covered in post-its and still talking at maybe the same level as a toddler, certain people are extremely lucky that you can’t get punched in the face via Skype.

‘You wouldn’t catch me paying that much for <insert British product not widely available in Germany here>, why don’t you just eat <insert German product here>? Now I’m all for integration, but sometimes you just need a taste of home. Those friends and family who send food parcels to cheer up their expats are beautiful, wonderful people, they are usually people who have lived away from their homelands too, so understand. None of my family have ever lived anywhere other than England, I’ve never received a care package (sob) but they do bring goodies (I send a list) when they visit and I appreciate it greatly.

‘Most of your friends are from English speaking countries, why don’t you just have German friends?’ To feel connected, to have an anchor, to be able to reminisce, to cry with on the day I had to go to 5 different shops to find coriander, my bike got a flat and the post office people were rude to me again. Put simply ‘they understand’ and they are my family here. I don’t think I ever tried to make friends past the age of 11, they just sort of happened, same course at uni, various workplaces or events.

I have to say I have a lot less German friends than non German friends simply because I work from home, I don’t have kids, so I don’t meet that many people and since I have old lady hobbies like singing and sewing, I tend to meet older ladies, who whilst utterly lovely, my relationship with them is always going to be more kaffee und kuchen than ladies wot lunch.

‘I bet you can’t wait to get back to normal life’ This always jars me to hear, just because I live in Germany my life isn’t normal? Well yes, sometimes my husband wears leather trousers and I my dirndl, and I never thought I’d say it but that feels just as normal as a wax jacket and wellie boots. I’m immediately put on the defensive for my new home, be nice people and don’t slam what you don’t understand. Walk a mile in my shoes and all that!

‘You’re off on holiday again? how can you tell since your life is just one long holiday anyway?’ No, it’s not. You know why it’s not? because on my holiday I don’t work, I don’t do housework, I don’t balance a weekly shop on my bike, I don’t have to learn a language just so I can communicate with my butcher. My life is just like yours, only now I seize the day and realise how bloody lucky I am, I hope you do the same soon too (people who ask this question a lot).

I’m not saying that being an expat is better than being a non expat. Or that non expats need to think before they speak to me (but some people should try it sometimes). Understanding expat life is not easy and it still surprises me daily, but I can say with certainty that I feel richer for having lived abroad and I’m grateful for this life, my life, wherever I may live.

Any questions you’re sick of hearing?

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17 Responses to “My life is not a holiday…..”

  1. Rachel April 25, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    “When are you coming home?”. Some people can’t accept that my home IS in Germany (and it has been for the past six years), and maybe I have zero plans to return to the country I was born in…

    I get that many expatriates are in another country for work, and it’s often a short-term thing, but when you’ve been somewhere for six years, you’ve adapted on a huge scale.

    • theerlangenexpat April 25, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      Oh yes, all the time, even three years in I sometimes feel like a stranger when I visit the UK once a year.

  2. bevchen April 25, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I hate it when people assume my life is just one long holiday! No, I work a 40 hour week, shop, do housework, etc. just the same as you! Most of the rest doesn’t apply to me though. My friends all feel sorry for me not having British products availabe so they would never question me spending loads of money to get something. Also, I have a lot more German friends than expat friends.

    • theerlangenexpat April 25, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      You clearly have wonderfully understanding friends, maybe I’ll send this to some of mine and they’ll get the hint 😉

  3. Expat Eye April 25, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    Yep, I’ve heard all of those! And, as I’m Irish, some people ask ‘Are you drunk right now?’ 😉

  4. terrimoore65 May 4, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    Well stated! I need to direct my American friends & family to this post to give them a better insight into my life as an Expat. Even my 17 year old who moved to Germany with my husband and I 8 months ago says that we aren’t living in the real world. Yes, we are living a dream and feel incredibly fortunate to live in Germany but it is NOT one long holiday…

    • The Erlangen Expat May 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      It’s so hard to explain to people who haven’t been through it, makes me ever more grateful for my expat friends!

      • terrimoore65 May 6, 2014 at 4:02 am #

        Too true!

      • Heloise January 3, 2015 at 11:07 am #

        I was looking evyrewhere and this popped up like nothing!

  5. katebroadfield May 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Reblogged this on katebroadfield and commented:
    This really hit home. IT’s remarkable how much life feels like a series of holidays connected by madly integrating myself rebuilding my foundation planning my next steps as life with a partner. Another question I hear a lot is “Are you Canadian?” (my grandfather and several close friends are; I moved from just south of Eastern Canada to the UK. Does that count? One day I actually teased “Yes” because the reaction was a lot more fun than the disgruntled “Oh” when people heard I was American. Yes I’ve heard of Texas and been there, but I’m a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. That’s not much like a Texan anymore than a born Hamprhisre person is like an East Londoner or Souse or Jordy if you see what I mean.

    “‘You’re off on holiday again? how can you tell since your life is just one long holiday anyway?’ No, it’s not. You know why it’s not? because on my holiday I don’t work, I don’t do housework, I don’t balance a weekly shop on my bike, I don’t have to learn a language just so I can communicate with my butcher. My life is just like yours, only now I seize the day and realise how bloody lucky I am, I hope you do the same soon too (people who ask this question a lot).”

    Thanks to the Erlangen Expat for making me feel both at home and settled abroad at the same time! –Kate

    • The Erlangen Expat May 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

      You are very welcome Kate, so good to know that it’s not just me getting these questions over and over again!

  6. Maria April 29, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    As a repat to Germany with an American husband, we used to get this question a lot, ‘When are you going back?’, assuming we just had to have the U.S. as our permanent home. We had moved here from Japan, so sometimes I just said, ‘You mean back to Japan? We don’t know yet.’ There were no further questions.

    Our son goes to university in the U.K. I’ve actually heard, ‘Why the U.K? Aren’t German universities good enough? Tired of explaining our educational background, I have answered ‘yes’ a few times.

    These are just a couple of examples which irk me as a repat.

    • Alie C April 29, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      Oh yes the complicated explanation, the smile and nod comes in so handy at times like that!

  7. janine August 4, 2016 at 9:09 am #

    I’ve just moved to Erlangen and have enjoyed your posts – the language schools and shop ones were very useful. Are you still in Erlangen or ‘expatting’ in another part of the world.
    The thing that gets me is that when you go ‘home’ everyone wants to fill you in on every moment of their lives but have no interest in yours.

    • Alie C August 20, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

      Hey Janine, welcome to Erlangen, have just come back from a week in the homeland and could not be more happy to be back, all the same questions 😖 drove me crazy!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. FAQ | The Erlangen Expat - June 3, 2014

    […] Are you fluent yet? You might just want to read this. […]

  2. Five Things You Shouldn’t Say to Your Expat Friends | Young Germany - April 28, 2015

    […] post was originally published on The Erlangen Expat and was used here with permission of the […]

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