Friday, August 8, 2014

Becoming an expat - what to expect.

There has been a lot of talk about expatriating (a misused term since the majority don't give up their citizenship) lately, both here in Ecuador as well as in the US.

Just as in the US and other countries, some folks like what they find, some don't. Expatriating  isn't for everyone. Paradise may or may not be around the corner. I know folks who sold everything, packed up and moved to a foreign country - sight unseen. More than half are still in their new homelands but more than a few have either moved on to another country or back to their original homeland. Others made multiple exploratory trips but still weren't happy once actually living in their new country.

A good friend of mine recently posted a rant about transitioning to life in Ecuador and I thought it was worth sharing, with her permission.

I occasionally run into people who say, "I've had it, Ecuador just isn't right for me". They proceed to glumly gather up all the remnants of their dreams and pack them into their uber-sized wheeled luggage, to return home. Of course, some of the reasons people return are ones that would lead many of us to turn tail......a sick family member, a 'can't refuse' job offer, or longings to be closer to grandchildren that are so much stronger than they had anticipated. 
O.k., I get it. But then there are some that leave me gap mouthed at the lack of sticktoitness. Let's just start by saying that the move to Ecuador is not just a relocation of your 'stuff'. It is a huge commitment. You are leaving your homeland. You will end up disposing, donating, selling, or packing everything that you once thought was SO important that you traded 50 hours a week to capture these cherished prizes, (for those of you counting, that's equivalent to 104 days of continuous non-stop work every year, IF you have 2 weeks of vacation and only IF during those 2 weeks of vacation does not entail calling back to the office 4 times a day, and checking emails even more frequently, but then, I digress). 
What about the social costs? The eye rolling and rumors of your impending early-onset dementia? Giving up your favorite watering hole, your Wednesday night dart team, or playing 18 on Sunday? Yikes, then there is the he glaring gap on your resume, and the associated discounting that would come with the explanation that you spent some time exploring the world (muy forboden) . Oh, and also don't underestimate the convenience of speaking the native tongue, that's a biggie. 
If you don't believe me, come to my small fishing village in need of a Phillip's head screwdriver and a stainless steel French coffee press, and let the fun begin. And then there is the paperwork, the notaries, the trips to the vet, the plane tickets, the chore of finding living arrangements, and yes, the money. Don't let anyone tell you its a cheap to get from Point A to Point B. In any case, there are many points in time for you to chicken out and so I would encourage you to do so, sooner rather than later, if you are so inclined. 
Before you embark on your journey, be sure that you are not just starry eyed by the pictures of the churches, the sandy beaches, or the majestic Andes mountains. This is not a first date, it is a long term commitment, and if you can't deal with the morning breath, you might be best to tip toe out now.
In no particular order of ridiculousness and levels of ethnocentricity, these are the reasons I have heard for fleeing Ecuador:
1. The nuns sing every morning, and I like to sleep in. Well, yes, I did move right next to the church, but there "MUST be some sort of noise ordinance!".
2. I cannot find a certified dishwasher repair man whose work won't void my warranty from the manufacturer.
3. I saw a man urinating on the side of the road.
4. "These people" don't keep their dogs on leashes.
5. I left my IPad unattended on the bus, and now I can't find it.
6. Where is the work ethic? I am so frustrated by the way 'they' take mid-day breaks (commonly referred to as lunch breaks, remember those?). Why is the work day only from 9-5, how will they ever compete in the world market?
7. I just can't live without American food.
So, if any of these sentiments ring true to you and cause you alarm, or even mild heart palpitations, I would say slow down..........slow way down. Take time to research, to visit, to immerse yourself in what could be your new life. In your excitement to relinquish your old life and all the burdens that go with it, don't forget that every exchange requires give and take.
Move here because it IS different. Move here if you can celebrate change and a new culture, even if it isn't as posh or familiar. Move here if you can see the beauty in diversity and be consistently cognizant of all the wonderful gifts this land has afforded us And maybe most importantly, move here because there are nuns that sing joyously in the morning, because the people are always at the ready to help you fix anything, and because in this land, people still realize that work will never, ever, be as important as friends, family and happiness.

Kimberley James, Ecuador or Bust Facebook Group Admin

Here are some interesting articles on the same topic.
Being an expat isn't for everyone, it takes adaptability and a willingness to accept things as they are in your new world. Keep working on what is important in life - LIVING IT!
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