The beginning

Expat – what’s that?

What were we thinking?!  Our daughter was only 2 years old – surely the grandparents would never forgive us. Our friends would never understand it. We were only students, and students don’t become expats – do they? With no international experience, how could we just leave out network behind?

That first move abroad. Overseas. View of TenerifeThe Big Jump into the unknown, to another country, another culture. New beginnings, new job, new friends, new network, new everything! And learning a new word: Expat. We had made a deal, Nana and I: One semester away for my studies, one semester for hers. She’d take care of Julie while I studied, and vice versa. And so it was. Our first expat experience was taking shape.

Tenerife – Spain

My supervisor and host in Tenerife helped us find an apartment, and with his and his friends’ help we settled in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We’ll write about the peculiarities of being expat in Spain in a future post. Here I just want to highlight what is perhaps the most important factor for expat success: People. Network. Friends.

We had “prepared”, of course, but it’s impossible to prepare fully for moving abroad. “Knowing” from having read about something is entirely different from knowing from actual experience. The new friends we made were critical to our success. They made us feel welcome. They made it possible for us to relax and enjoy the experience, which turned out to be a good one. Our first expat experience was a success – we even had the grandparents visit us!

Hirakata – Japan

Second semester and the second part of our first expat agreement. Again, new friends helped us settle in and made us feel welcome. In Japan, a gaijin (foreigner) like me, with absolutely no knowledge of the language, is lost without a network. They helped us in every way, from lending us an electric heater to assisting us in buying a rice cooker. I spent my days taking Julie to the playground at the local shinto temple and doing the grocery shopping. Again, helpful people all around, and of course they were all a little curious to see this foreign man touring the playgrounds with a little girl. Strange people these expats…

Experiences for life

We remember these first expat experiences because they’re some of the strongest and most positive we’ve had together. We settled into our new environments with help from our new friends and our networks. We learned that people are basically good, and most often both locals and experienced expats like to help newcomers. So don’t be shy: Ask for help. Most people are happy to give!

With this blog, The Expat Earth, we’re giving back. If you’re a new expat – whether single or married, with a family or not – we’re here to help you. If you have suggestions for expat topics we should cover, just leave a comment below!

— Nana & Thomas

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13 Responses to The beginning

  1. The Romos says:

    Aloha Amigos Expats!…great beginning for a blog…. you will be missed (again) this coming Xmas…

    Cheers to all…

  2. Kirsten says:

    Well done, Nana and Thomas!
    I just wanted to comment on the „”most important factor for expat success: People. Network. Friends”. If you think: “ Expat life is ok, but what about the sad side affect of saying “good bye” to all of those nice people you meet and you probably will never see again?”: Well, it doesn’t have to be like this… I was lucky to meet my friend Nana while I was living as an expat in South America. She was helping me lots during the first year in this new environment and I really enjoyed her company. And guess what: When I was moving back to my home town after five years living as an expat, there she was again- living in the same city. But now she started giving me tips about my OWN town – and life in general! – Thanks Nana!

    • Nana says:

      Thanks to you as well, Kirsten, for helping others on your own part! And others helped me before I could help anyone myself. Which is the beautiful thing about the whole expat experience: you become each other’s family network. You encounter wonderful people you’d never have met or else. Friends (like you and others) is the element that has kept me going through all these years abroad!
      Nana

  3. Tina Sorensen says:

    Hi Guys,

    Liking this.
    Thought I would write my wee story since I have known Thomas for many years. (He and my brother were childhood pals) and its funny to think that we both started out from the same little place in Denmark and where life has taken us up till now.
    It’s for most always a great experience moving or travelling to another country. I moved to Scotland from Denmark 12 years ago. It has been a great learning curve, sometime somewhat too steep for my liking, but never the less enjoyed the ride.
    My son, Callum is now 13 years old and has live his whole life here. Him and I have lived on our own for the 7 years and I think that has been the time where I have really learned. Me coming from the “safety” of Denmark to being left to you own devises, sort of speak, when the sh*te hits the fan was like a slap in the face. No support from the officials unless you are “in the know” as to how the big machine works. I guess it would have been easier if I had my family around me, but they were still there, just supporting from afar.
    I say this and make it sound like i hate it here, but that could not be further from the truth.
    I have meet some amazing people over the years and this is where the whole thing comes together. Anything is doable with friends.
    Hope you are all doing great.

    Tina

    • Thomas says:

      Hi Tina! Thanks for sharing your experience! Every expat nightmare: to be left alone. Obviously you managed and re-created your network – “Anything is doable with friends” you say; so true! Thanks again.

    • Nana says:

      Hi Tina, you certainly have a story to tell! Just curious: what made you stay?
      Thanks, Nana

      • Tina Sorensen says:

        Hi Nana

        Well a lot can happen in 12 years, right :-)
        The main reason for staying put was Callum. So much had changed around us and I wanted to save him from more upheaval, by keeping him at the same school with his friends.
        It took more then that but every little helps.
        I hope you all have a brilliant christmas and new year.
        Glaedelig Jul og Godt Nytaar :-)
        Tina x

        • Nana says:

          Thanks for coming back, Tina, and well done! Glædelig Jul to you as well! Nana

        • Marion says:

          Hi, what a great website.

          Just reading what Tina wrote. I’m an Australian living in Scotland and have also had my ups and downs. I moved here to be with my Scottish partner, whom I’m no longer with. Is that why you moved to Scotland Tina? I take it you and your partner and no longer together. It’s tough when a child is involved – I have two children – their Dad now lives in Spain and my family wonder why I don’t move back to OZ – but it’s the same reason, friends keep me here as I’ve made my life here now. Scotland is a great place to live, great people.

          Marion :-)

  4. Hi Nana and Thomas,

    look forward to posts on your new blog, and even though I’m pretty sure that you have a huge mind-map of potential post topics, I’ll add a few anyway that I’ll find interesting:

    * What’s an expat…(yes, I’ve found out, but it might help other ignorant non-english readers from the dark ages!)
    * The pro’s and con’s of having visits from home
    * How to keep up relations with those important to you
    * How to integrate best in your new community/country/city
    * How does being away from ‘home’ change your opinion of your home country

    Have fun
    Christian

    • Thomas says:

      Thanks for the suggestions Christian. Yes, we have a lot of topic ideas already, but you can never get too many! One that we’ll bump up in priority is to explain what “expat” means :-) The pros and cons of visits… new network vs maintaining the old network. Good points to raise there.

    • Thomas says:

      Just to update you: We’ve included the dictionary definitions of “expat” and “expatriate” on the About page: http://www.expatearth.com/about/

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