By Terrance Hansson
Often overlooked by Cuenca expats, the majority of whom are retired, is the fact that most of the world’s expats are young people of working age, many of them teachers on annual contracts.
Despite the difference in circumstances, both retired and working expats face the similar challenges. These include adjustment to new cultures and languages, and making friends with both other expats and locals.
Expat blogger Jerry Elmore, who teaches in China, discusses the annual phenomenon of expats who must decide if they will leave their positions for another one or sign a new contract and stay. At the same time, there are in-coming expats who are taking new positions and joining the expat community. Emore calls them “stayers,” “goers,” and “newbies.”
The relationships between the three groups can be problematic. Expats often form strong friendships with newcomers only see them end when those expats decide to leave, Elmore says. Many of the expat “stayers” tend to protect themselves emotionally by only associating with other “stayers.” At the same time, the “newbies” are excited to be in town and are eager to form relationships with the “stayers,” many of them needing help in learning the ropes in their new home.
In the meantime, the “goers” often feel guilty for leaving their friends behind, according to Elmore. Some of them, particularly those who decide to return to their home countries, feel a sense of failure or even shame for not being about to “make it” in the new country.
“Being an expat is not easy for anyone,” says Elmore. “It requires a toughness and mindset that accepts difficult challenges and can handle a high level frustration. If someone cannot break the habit of constantly comparing things to their home country they will probably never be content living overseas.”
He adds: “Expat social media is well-represented by complainers who seem to hate their adopted home. Their problem can be about the food, the transportation system, local customs, the politics — it really doesn’t matter. They always claim their objections are based on practical and objective grounds but most of them are simply unhappy people who will be miserable wherever they are.”