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Why Being an Expat Means Always Having to Say Goodbye

Living abroad is, for the most part, a fantastic experience, you get to meet so many interesting people, explore new destinations, and experience new cultures. But it's not always blue skies and smooth sailing — expat life has its downsides. Goodbyes are, for example, a constant companion for all expats out there. From the first parting to the string of international friends that come and go as often as flights from London to New York, it’s not easy getting used so many ‘’so longs’’ and ‘’farewells”.

The Initial Farewell

From the very beginning of expat life, you are confronted with the challenge of saying arrivederci to your friends and family, and to a culture and country that is your home, as well as your identity. Whether you are moving to a neighboring country or cross an ocean, the moment you turn to leave your old life behind is certainly a challenging moment.

Not only do you have to deal with saying goodbye to the people you love and care about, you are also nervous about what the future holds. A few weeks before you leave for your expat journey the idea of moving abroad seems so exciting, a real adventure, but the closer and closer that day comes to taking the leap, the more worried you become. To make matters worse, the realization that you have to say goodbye to your nearest and dearest and accept that Skype calls will be your main form of communication until the next time you see them can be hard to come to terms with.

Bon Voyage on Repeat

One of the best parts of being an expat is mixing with many different people from all over the world. However, mixing with an international crowd also means getting used to people moving away. Whether they end up moving back home, or on to their next adventure, as an expat you will learn to perfect the goodbye.

Over time you might think that saying au revivor to fellow expats will get easier, but in most cases, it gets harder, especially when you find yourself getting close to someone. On the one hand, it’s great to know that you will have friends all over the world, who you can visit (you’ll never stay at a hotel again), but it also makes it hard to really find a connection with people before they leave, and you have to start all over again.

In some ways, learning to say goodbye to your international friends, really helps you to become independent and teaches you how to make friends easily. If four-year-old you could see you now, they would have no fears about the challenges of making friends. Seeing your expat friends come and go also makes it clear just how important it is to step outside the expat bubble and make local friends, a support network you should grow and nurture.

The Final Adieu

When and if the time comes for you to say goodbye to your host country, you might be surprised to find that this is actually the hardest of all the farewells. You have spent the past few months, or even years, living in this foreign culture, only to realize that it is now no longer foreign to you, but a home. No sooner do you find yourself settled do you have to contemplate the prospect of moving again.

The thought of saying goodbye to this chapter of your life is certainly challenging, if you have been living in a country for years, it can feel like you are leaving behind a piece of your identity, and if you have just stayed for a few months, you feel like you are saying goodbye before you have had a chance to explore everything. It’s important to remain positive in these moments and remind yourself that you should be grateful for your experience abroad and the memories that come with it. Yes, take some time to mourn this part of your life, but be ready to take the next step, whatever this may be, and look forward to it. 

Well Hello There

“If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” – Paulo Coehlo

Living abroad is a bitter sweet experience, and it’s important to remember that while goodbyes may seem constant, you also have the opportunity to meet so many interesting people and get to know a whole new culture. Exploring the world and learning about different places, having a wide web of friends from across the globe, surely makes up for the many somber moments of goodbye.

Saying goodbye is never easy but the prospect of future adventures is hopefully enough for you to overcome any fears. Life abroad is, in many ways, what you make of it. So even when the seemingly endless farewells are getting you down just try to stay positive and look forward to what lies ahead.

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