Friday, July 9, 2010

The Expat Life

Fifteen months and counting—that’s how long I’ve been living in Bermuda. Fifteen months of curious exploration (Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve, anyone?), memorable firsts (chatting with Wyclef Jean before last year’s Music Festival) and lessons learned (never leave home without bungee cords and duct tape). Short trips abroad definitely have their benefits—after all, it’s called vacation for a reason—but living outside one’s home country sure has its perks. Expat life stokes reinvention, adventure and the willingness to try new things. With it comes unforced cultural exchange and the opportunity to learn at every corner. Here in Bermuda I quickly learned to say “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good evening,” before starting any conversation—although having lived in the über-polite U.S. Virgin Islands in years past, that custom had long been engrained into my consciousness. Fifteen months in I’ve also learned to cross at the crosswalks, to honk my horn when I see friends and to dress smart casually, constantly. I’ve also learned that seemingly simple things, like obtaining one’s driver’s license, is a long and difficult process pitted with potholes, but alas, I won’t open that can of worms again.

Point is, being an expat is a good thing as Istanbul transplant Meg Nestorov recently discovered. I first met Meg through Twitter where she and I casually connected about planning for her big move abroad. I’m not exactly sure why, but all expats, no matter what their nationality or where they live, really like to help other expats or expats-to-be. Call it some kind of secret expat code. So when Meg had questions about moving to Turkey I was more than happy to help. Like me, she posts funny quips about life abroad on her blog, The Notorious M.E.G., and has since parlayed her time in Istanbul into a part-time blogging gig on Gadling. As her first post about expat life attests, living abroad is sometimes a challenge, but no doubt an interesting, weird and incredibly fulfilling challenge.

Writes Meg: “No matter how well-traveled you are, moving to a foreign country and living as an expat is a whole new ballgame. Your priorities and standards change, and hours that you may have spent as a traveler in a museum or wandering a beach are now spent as an expat in search of an alarm clock or trying to distinguish between eight types of yogurt. You become like a child again: Unable to speak in complete sentences, easily confused and lost, and constantly asking questions.” Her post goes on to suggest ways to ease the transition, namely by calling upon expat bloggers and asking for advice. As you’ll see, Bermuda Shorts is in esteemed company, suggested as a resource alongside Miss Expatria (a witty American woman in Rome), Fly Brother (a humorous African-American man in Brazil) and Carpetblogger (a sarcastic chic in Istanbul).

It's all good advice, as anyone who's ever lived outside their home country knows. No doubt, it's definitely a challenge living abroad—do I miss my family and eating hotdogs at Mets games? Absolutely—but it's one that without question opens doors and expands minds. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be here in Bermuda, but with fifteen blissful months behind me and 90-minute flights “home” I may be staring at the turquoise ocean for the foreseeable future.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up David.

    It's fun to read all of the expat blogs and live through other people experiences. It's a type of voyeurism I suppose.

    They also give us expats in training a lot of good tips about life "outside the lines".