Do you live in a country, not of your own? What brought you there and how have you become accustomed to your new locale?
Over the last couple of weeks, several small events have taken place which has caused me to think about our ability to live as expats and the ways in which we do it. I’ve read a very lengthy post on Facebook about the privilege of being able to live abroad and a perception that there is some naivete about being able to do so; and if not naivete, a wealthy privilege. I’ve also attended a refugee meeting where locals met with current refugees in order to help them acclimate to their new surroundings while dealing with some rather tragic consequences which required them to flee in the first place. For myself, I am traveling currently (yes, I get to leave Peru on occasion) and taking stock of how I desire to blend into my surroundings. So, it’s got me thinking, what are the different Expat Styles?
The Visitor: These are the people who have only decided to spend a part of the year in another country, the same way snowbirds make their way to Florida in the wintertime. They will usually remain in the company of other expats and enjoy their new surroundings while not necessarily having to learn a new language. In the case of Lima, it means not having to deal with the panza de burro (literally donkey’s belly, but meaning eternally gray) winter. I can appreciate that, I get pretty tired of such little sunshine, too.
The Worker: Some came by choice, most have it chosen for them. Whether they are in diplomatic service, perhaps teaching in an international school or have been transferred for a job, the move was likely accepted and not selected. While work will have them mingling with locals as well as other expats, socially, they may still prefer to seek out their own for some cultural comfort. Having to live here longer, they will venture a bit further out, maybe travel around a bit and shop in more local establishments vs. sticking to the big chains and familiarity.
The Adventurer, Type One: Often they were traveling through South America, were taken by surprise by the beauty of Peru and quite likely a Peruvian. They hadn’t planned on staying, but they did. They may struggle a bit with the language at first but are open to learning all that they can to make the new relationship and the new love of this exotic country feel like home. They may not venture out easily on their own and need a little bit of guidance in navigating all the new customs and red tape, but they welcome each piece with an open mind and a willingness to belong.
The Adventurer, Type Two: Love isn’t what brought them here, it was the adventure that did. They are usually well traveled and immerse themselves wherever they go. They seek out the local spots and hidden gems in order to really know a place. And then they discover Peru. The wanderlust is still there, but now there is so much to discover in this one enchanting country, that they stay on as long as they can, perhaps even going so far as to become a citizen. They will learn the language, shop at the markets, dine in huariques. They are comfortable in newness and difference and relish the challenge.
I’m guessing we’re all a possible combination of the four – or maybe you have a category I missed, it’s quite likely and I’d love to hear about your experience. For myself, I was here once in 1995 and over the years I couldn’t shake how being here made me feel. I came back on a one-way ticket and took my chances. Six years later, I’m going to be seeking my citizenship before the end of 2017. Peru has become home.