Describe your experience as an expatriate.
Philip Wright: I had a different experience as an expat; instead of living in one location for a period of time, I commuted for three years from London to Luxembourg. Many people would say it’s the most challenging type of expat life – having to divide your time between two different places. I was on my own during the week while my family was back home.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as an expat and how did you overcome it?
PW: I’m a reasonably sociable person, but I found it difficult to create relationships with people outside of work. I would travel back home to see my wife and family on the weekends, but, as we all know, the weekends are when you get to know more people and socialize. I missed many opportunities to connect with colleagues and establish meaningful relationships with others in the area.
Another challenge I faced was running out of clothes! This isn’t usually top of mind for expats, but it is a real obstacle, especially if you are commuting between two locations.
How did expat life impact your personal life?
PW: It made me sad to miss the spontaneous social activities with my family. I would miss out on small events (not major ones), but it’s those moments that are sometimes the glue that bonds families and friends.
When I would visit my wife on the weekends, it was challenging to catch up in such a short period of time. We were living separate lives, so when our paths crossed, it was difficult at times. Our communication had to be strong and honest. Apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facetime and Instagram made communicating so much easier. I couldn’t imagine being an expat before the Internet.
Do you use the skills you acquired as an expat in your current position?
PW: The company I worked for employed over 100 staff, who spoke several languages. Although English was our business language, it was fascinating to learn how certain words or phrases are used in other languages. For example, the words “should” and “shall” have different meanings across languages. In English, “Shall we go for a drink?” or “Should we go for a drink?” implies a suggestion, but in German, it implies a definitive and clear command.
What advice would you give to others considering becoming an expatriate?
PW: It’s important to be aware of hidden expenses! You should find out what is included in your offer. For example, the company may be paying for your apartment, but what about transportation to and from work? Or international medical insurance? There might be expenses that aren’t covered.
Want to learn more about becoming an expat or browse expatriate insurance options? Visit our Expat Health Insurance Plans page.