What no-one tells you about being an expat

Working in a foreign country is a great way to experience another culture, save money and, perhaps, develop a year-round tan. But the glamour can fade when your air conditioning unit stops working in the middle of summer and your apartment turns into a sauna. What are the things no one tells you about working abroad? It can be lonely Social media can give a misleading impression of expat life by making it seem an endless carousel of exotic foods, beautiful beaches and fun with new people. In reality, living in another country can be isolating.

For me, moving abroad was the first time since university that I faced the pressure to make new friends. The experience was oddly like dating. “I’ve met this guy twice now and we get along. I want to ask for his number, but what if he says no?” The law can be cruel Expats must adjust to a legal system that is different to their own and which can seem unforgiving. I know of one expat in the UAE who failed a breathalyser test and spent a week in prison, sharing a cell with a religious fanatic who had apparently murdered his family. Laws regarding drugs or extra-marital affairs can be much stricter than back home. In Singapore, visitors are greeted with the words “death for drug traffickers” on their landing cards. LGBT people and victims of sexual assault are at a particular disadvantage in certain countries. Being an expat sometimes means being discreet and taking a lot of precautions.

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