I asked myself the other day, what different kinds of Expats are there? I just came across a Dutch family at a food market and it was obvious to one and all that they were new to France. They seemed so excited to be here, they went from counter to counter trying things and even danced.. yes danced ... in front of a Carribean stand that was selling acras. Their enthusiasm about all the products and their excitement to try everything was quite contagious and even the locals were smiling and trying to communicate the merits of choosing one Brie over another in their broken English. I’m sure some of you are thinking how long will the Dutch Family’s happy bubble last? Will it take just one rendez-vous at the prefecture for it to burst? I hope not!
It reminded me that I was an enthusiastic Expat when I arrived here all those 23 years ago and I’m happy to say that I am still learning things about this wonderful country and I still get thrilled when I drive through France and see the names of villages and towns that I recognize through the food & drink that I buy at my local supermarket… Sancerre, Roquefort, Rocamador, St Emilion, Chablis, Epoisse, Pont L’Evéque, Brie, Dijon to name a minute few. Not to mention the ‘I can’t believe I live here’ every time I pass the Eiffel Tower. However, through our concierge services business, we have learnt that there really is different kind of expats, and each with their own strengths and vulnerabilities that help them through their journey. So which of the below relates most to you?
The Happy Excited Expat
You have made a list of all the things you want to do and are bouncing with excitement about trying everything French! You face experiences , positive or negative, with a sense of adventure and
you embrace your new life headlong.
The Nervous Scared Expat
You may master a few words of French but you still do not want to be heard speaking it out loud. Your nervous Bon…Bonjour gives you away as soon as you step into a shop and you wish the floor would swallow you up if the lady at the Boulangerie asks you a question on how well you want your baguette cooked. You go through serious moments of anxiety when your kind neighbour invites you to an apéritif as you do not wish to make any cultural faux pas and you have no idea what to bring or how you will talk to their family and friends.
Are you someone who’s constantly questioning everything? How am I going to Shop? How am I going to drive on the right? How do I dress? What if no one understands me? Will I find Marmite?
The Blasé one.
Been there, done that and now I’m doing it once more. Where’s my suitcase? Taxi!!
The comfort seeker
You’re at your most comfortable surrounded by your own hometown comforts. The first thing you look for is for a store or restaurant from your native land so you can make your self feel at home in a foreign land.
You learn everything about your adopted country and do not see yourself as a foreigner. You have learnt all the customs and mimic them perfectly.
The ‘Almost’ Local
You have gone from being an Expat to an Immigrant and have started setting your roots down in your adopted country. You do not feel you’re a local but are comfortable with everything around you.
Whatever kind of Expatriate you are, make the most of your time in your adopted land. As Christopher McCandless says, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”