EXPATRIATES: LOSE OUR BEARINGS


Source: Les Echos

Expatriation makes dream a lot of people, it’s often seen as leaving for really long holidays. But what first seems like holidays quickly transform into a common daily routine but without bearings. Everything is different, the culture, the language, the way of thinking of working. We don’t realize how much our own country have a strong identity until we live elsewhere. The six expatriates I met, did not know what it was to be French until they move to another country.

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Decide to leave our birthplace it’s scary but sometimes it also necessary. Naïma Hannaoui explained “I have Morrocan origins and I am Muslim. I did not feel at my place in France, in my own community. For them, as a single woman, you should not be an expatriate and I wanted to change this bad tradition.“ At the opposite, Estelle Bramli who lived 8 months in Los Angeles just said: “I wanted to know if the grass was greener elsewhere.“

The first days in a new country are often a chock, a cultural shock and all our doubts often came back. Patricia Le Baudrier-Cox arrived in the UK 10 years ago to follow her future husband remember this: “ The cultural choc was huge, I was really Latin, in the way I was expressing my feelings. Even with my husband we often do not understand each other reactions. I sometimes felt that people did not like me because of that. At this moment, I did not understand it was only cultural and not about myself.“ The idea of the expatriation and the reality are often quite different. The new culture is everywhere, and also in work. Naïma Hannaoui came in London as an au pair and did not live well this experience. Indeed, she explained that the vision of education is so different between France and the UK that it created a lot of conflicts. Moreover, au pair persons are often overused, as Johanna Squiban explained “I worked much more than I should in the contract and I was not paid well. So after 5 months, I wait for the mother and I said: “I leave“. It was 11 pm, I took my suitcase and I slept at Paddington Station.“

The psychologist Magdalena Zilveti Chaland in her book Réussir sa vie d’expat’: S’épanouir à l’étranger wrote “(…) Moving in a foreign country is not only a geographical move, it’s mostly questioning ourselves. It’s discovering a new way of living that creates doubts, fears and require a large capacity of adaptation.“

“You miss one person, and the world seems unpopulated“ - Lamartine

When you leave your country you are not only leaving a culture you also often leave people. It’s often a hard choice

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