August 14, 2012

Expats + other musings and links

Look around and tell me how many people you know are from another part of the world.  You are probably one of them.  For many, the call to roam extends beyond just a holiday – it’s about creating a new work-life balance, and finding fulfillment in a different country.  More than half of all my childhood friends, and relatives are living abroad, scattered around the globe.  They have left behind family and a way of life that they thought would be with them until the end of their days.  Whether this [population] mobility is driven by social, economic, or personal reasons, it's happening everywhere, and our generation is living proof. 

When I was younger, the mere talk of living abroad was sure to bring oohs and aahhs  around the room.  We heard stories of blissful snowy days, and huge super malls, long spreads of beautiful parks, flower markets and street cars, where theaters played back to back movie premieres and even the water tasted differently. Almost everyone had a family friend, a close relative or a neighbor living abroad whose return visit was always filled with anticipation. 

Most of us have adapted (assimilated) so well to living abroad, we can't fathom returning to our place of origin.  We even consider the legal adoption of our host country. We like it where we are, and are proud of what we have accomplished.  We participate fully in our communities abroad and have made life commitments in this new place we call home.  Anthropologists call this "acculturation." Nevertheless, some of us still see our families and friends back home, and even look forward to visiting our beloved land as periodically as we can.  Often, in situations where assimilation is inevitable or just the next reasonable course of action, we end up as chameleons, rather than as proper  expats.

But what happens when you find yourself experiencing a growing sensation of identity confusion?   Most of our lives we have been taught that identity is nontransferable, spawning from our mother land, our family rituals and our unique ethnicity. How do you fuse this acculturation into your identity?  Some of us think about these issues at some point in our abroad lives.  By having children, and raising that generation, we unwillingly step further away from our parent's generation.  At some point, you start thinking about family plots, wills, and what the future would look like without the place you come from as the point of reference.  That's a question in mind lately. Suddenly, putting down roots seems intensely nerve wracking. 

Anyway, did you know that the UK, and not the US, has the greatest number of expats around the world -about 3 million.  The Expat Dilemma is one we have all faced at one point in our lives. And sometimes, the expats are our parents.  Speaking of expats, have you seen this witty movie about young expats living in Barcelona? And this book comes highly recommended if you want to cure the tingling sensation of eternal wanderlust.  But if you prefer crime thrillers, then this expat book is for you.

Image 1: Pinterest (source:  www.
Image 2: Photo of Lost Girl Lindsey Tramuta, Photo by Elena Rossini
Image 3:  The Talented Mr. Ripley, 1999 (Paramount Pictures & Miramax Films via Word & Film)


  1. That is a very interesting subject and one that I can totally relate to. Well, my mom is British, my dad is Polish and I lived most of my life in the US. Also, my husband - Balazs is Hungarian. So between the two of us, we have tons of different nationalities. To be honest I like our set up and I never felt like I had an identity confusion. All our traditions and languages somehow blended in and we all created our own little "world" that works for us:) Such a brilliant subject, Patricia. Have a great day. xoxo

  2. It sounds like every other family nowadays! The world is indeed "shrinking", no?