expat, living abroad

Life abroad: perception VS. reality

Recently I have started to share the voices of expat partners around the world with you on my social media. One quote that has come to my attention a couple of times has been this one:

expat, life abroad, quote, expat partner, expat spouse

The clash between reality and the curated instagram reality

The perception of our lives abroad often differs tremendously from reality. While life abroad definitely brings along a lot of joy, happiness, opportunities and exciting experiences, it also comes with a price tag. Like everything in life, there are two sides to a coin.
The idea of us sitting along the pool sipping a margarita might feel far away for you. For your friends and family back home, this might be the picture that they have in their heads. This clash of reality vs. Instagram reality can lead to many misunderstandings and the lack of support you might need so desperately when facing a new challenge.

It’s easier to judge something by its packaging than taking a closer, more critical look. As an experienced globe trotter, it needs some effort to go back in time thinking about how our perception of an international lifestyle was like before we went abroad. We need lots of patience and understanding when explaining our life abroad but the truth is that it can get tiring. Especially when we visit home we need to explain ourselves again and again and this repetition might lead to some frustration and misinformation. When we cut a story short it is not surprising that people don’t see the full picture.

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How should we tell our story?

So what can we do? How can we close the gap between reality and perception?

So here is my 2 cents of advice:

1. Define whether this is important to you

Reflect on how you feel about this topic. Does it feel important to you? Is this something that consumes you? If so, you need to invest time and energy. If not, let it go 🙂

2. What's the story you want to tell?

So what do you want to share about your life abroad? What would be a balanced reflection? What’s the good AND the bad? Think about what you need to hear from someone else to form a valid opinion. Are you overstressing the negative? Are you sugarcoating the challenges? The more balanced we learn to tell our story, the easier it is to gain the understanding we are looking for from the people we care about.

3. Are you sure about yourself?

The opinion of others weighs heavily on us when we are not content with our life decisions. Are you feeling that you are in the driver seat of your life? Do you feel carried along? Are you happy with your life abroad? Often we tend to tell our strong wrong when we are not so sure whether this is actually the life we want. If you are struggling with this think about what you can do to change this. I shared a couple of coaching techniques here on the blog (link) and in my workbooks for expat partners (link below).

What's your story?

What fellow expat partners shared on instagram

When I shared the quote on Instagram you responded with your own experiences with this issue. Let me share some of them with you: 

„Yes definitely and I am so tired of explaining that a let them believe what they want 😊

„A few people know of the challenges. Most don’t. I also don’t share as much anymore. Or rather, I only share with a select few.“

„I think most of our family and friends thought we were off drinking pina coladas for the last 12 years. They don’t see the challenges and if we mention any frustrations, you often get the „well, you chose to go“ response. I mention some of this here mothercitytime.com/travel-42/“

„The latest comment I got when a new member of my quoir asked me about my job and my former expatlife: „ My husband also had an offer to work abroad. But to spend the whole day shopping and at the pool is not my thing…!“
This inspired me to a lecture „Expat-woman chances and challenges“. Expat-Life has it‘s spoilt side but also it‘s many many obstacles. I wanted at least the group of HR-members I was talking to to see that!!“

See more comments under the quote picture on instagram.com/sharethelove.blog

So what is your advice when dealing with this issue? Do you feel misunderstood from time to time? What do you do to change this? Let us know in the comments below or send me a direct message.

Also if you want to share about your life abroad let me know! I am planning to continue sharing your quotes!

Thanks for sharing the love and stopping by

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

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