I've been asked to write a post about being an ex-pat, but where to begin is the dilemma because there are so many areas to talk about, but for this post I will do a broad brush, but would be more than happy to cover other areas in the future - if you'll have me back!
We have lived abroad for a number of years now, spending several years in Holland in the beautiful city of Leiden. The Dutch are wonderful people who make you feel at home even if you can't speak their language as they all speak perfect English.
Though we did work hard at trying to speak Dutch with evening classes and practicing when out and about, but I confess I am not a natural when it comes to languages. Though it is fun trying!
Where we lived in Leiden we were always known as the English couple, it was always spoken as a term of endearment, yet it reminded me we were not 'at home!'
As an ex-pat we have learnt different customs and not just the ones that are celebrations on special days of the year - most of these are different to the UK's 'Bank Holidays - but life styles on a daily basis. One important thing you quickly learn and that outside the UK you drive on the left. The first few months of driving in Holland I had a very sore left hand as I constantly brought my hand up to change gear only to bang it against the door as the gear stick was on the right!
Outside of your own country, one of the most important documents is your passport
This is needed for most things when identification is required. During the years we have been abroad we have had to renew our passports twice. Both occasions were painless, but you are without a passport for the time it takes to have a new one delivered. The last time it was three weeks!
What did we miss initially?
In the earlier years the lack of many of the home groceries we were familiar with, T-bags, bacon, sausages, mince pies at Christmas, hot-cross buns at Easter (these we still cannot buy) but these days most items are available even if the choice is restricted and of course we are more than happy with what is available locally and I make most things myself.
A question we are asked regularly is do we love being ex-pats? On balance yes! Of course there are areas that are frustrating, difficult and test your patience to breaking point, but wherever you live there are going to be situations that challenge you.
Would we swop the years of living abroad?
No, it is an ongoing experience, learning new ways, meeting people who have a life style and expectations that are different to the ones now in the UK. We are great believers in that we would rather regret not doing something than regret doing it.
Thank you so much Janice for inviting me to your wonderful web site, it's been a delight being here.