28 January 2013

21st Century Expat

What is life like as an Expat in the 21st Century?  I have been thinking about this a lot recently because I grew up as an expat.  I settled in the UK for college and career but when the opportunity came to travel again our family decided to leap at it and move to Astana, Kazakhstan.

When we told people we were moving out here we got a mixed reaction.  Some people did not know where the country was.  Those who did made jokes about the cold, others could think only of gulags and rockets, still more thought we would be living in yurts and riding camels.  The fact is that Astana is a thriving modern metropolis, yes it gets cold (down to the -40's at some points) but is is also lovely and warm in the summer and we have all the conveniences of modern life.  That said life here has its complexities as well.  We have had to learn a new language and a new alphabet, how to cope with an 80 degree temperature range and how to persuade the dog to go for a walk when it is very very cold.

It is all very different to the expat life I had as a child.  All of our postings were great fun and each of them enriched my life to a very great extent but it was not always easy though.  Communication is probably the thing that has changed the most.  When I was 11 my parents and sister went to live in the Nigerian bush - I stayed at school in the UK and spent holidays at home.  Our post took 3 months and it could take 6 hours to place a telephone call so the first time I flew out (on my own) to Lagos I had not heard anything from my parents at all and was not 100% sure they would be there to meet me. Today my children call their school friends and their grandparents on Skype whenever they want, email and the internet has made the world a very small place.

That is not to say that living here has proved plain sailing.  Finding out how to live in a foreign country is always a challenge, getting schools, getting a car and making friends are all harder with the language barrier but it has been fun and we have managed to keep a sense of humour.  

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