Life is just full of opportunities. The opportunity to see the world, meet new people and explore other cultures. The opportunity to grow and develop in your career and take on new responsibilities. And, of course, the opportunity to start a family of your own. To grow and nurture a tiny new life and sculpt that life into a person who represents the best of you and the best of your co-parent. Yet, while many of us find ourselves encountering all three of these uniquely wonderful opportunities in our lives… What happens when we receive all three at the same time? Could they be mutually exclusive? Conventional wisdom would have us believe so. However, let’s not forget the immortal saying, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.
Of course, taking your children abroad for long periods of time represents its own challenges. Children tend to crave structure and stability and may resent being taken away from a familiar locale and friends. But, just like eating their veggies and doing their homework, just because they’re initially resistant to it does not mean that it’s not good for them.
For those brave few who take the plunge and relocate to a new country to pursue their dream job or an unmissable career opportunity, the life of an expat parent may be occasionally challenging… but it brings its own set of completely unique benefits.
Life in a foreign country can really benefit your children
You may not relish the thought of taking your kids to a faraway nation. In fact, even the notion of taking them on a long haul flight may be enough to give you a twinge of anxiety. Nonetheless, travel and exposure to other natures and cultures is extremely important for developing young minds.
Exposure to other seas gives kids a broader cultural palette. Even kids who are accustomed to a multicultural democracy like the UK may still only really experience other cultures at arm’s length. Travelling and living overseas may be a daunting experience but it’s a much more immersive way for them to engage with different cultures and interact with their art, their language, their food and all that makes that culture unique.
One of the many great things about travel for young people and adults is that it makes our minds much more receptive to the world around us, while familiarity can lead us to coast through life if we’re not careful. When young minds are in unfamiliar territory they are much more engaged with the world around them and less likely to retreat into a mobile device.
With this in mind, there’s evidence to suggest that life as an expat can actually help your child’s cognitive performance in school. Overseas travel helps kids not just in the classroom but in the playground. It can imbue them with greater confidence, social skills, empathy and sensitivity.
Connecting with family and friends back home is easier than ever
When faced with the prospect of spending months or even years away from your home country, your mind will inevitably turn to all the people you leave behind. The prospect of leaving your best friends, brothers, sisters and parents behind may be daunting, but the wonders of digital technology can go a long way toward mitigating that.
There was a time when family and friends living in different countries could only keep in touch by way of the pen and paper, or exorbitantly expensive phone calls. In the digital age, however, we have access to more ways than ever to stay in touch with those we love for free. Applications like Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts (to name but a few) allow us to chat face to face with the ones we love every day if we want to.
You, your partner and your children get to make wonderful new friends
While it’s easy to be preoccupied by the friends that we “lose” when we move overseas, let’s not forget that pursuing new opportunities gives you the chance to make lots of wonderful new friends. Expatriate communities, no matter where you end up, are easy to find (thanks again, internet) and tend to be tightly knit. Thus, you can get easy access to friendly, welcoming people who speak your language and can help you with all the little nuances of settling into your new home. And let’s not forget the friends to be made outside the expatriate community. The locals will also be friendly and approachable and give you an even greater insider’s understanding of the country you’ll be calling home for the foreseeable future.
You may find that your accommodation overseas is way nicer than what you’d find at home
Living in the UK is an increasingly costly proposition, especially for those who live in the capital or the southeast. In fact, the average cost of renting a 3 bedroom family home in London has risen to a jaw-dropping average of £5,187 a month. Compare that to the kinds of properties you can expect to find in Asia on JB Property and there’s simply no comparison. You may well find that you and your family can enjoy more spacious and luxurious accommodation for a fraction of what you would expect to pay for a similar property back in Blighty.
Homesickness may not feel great, but even that can have its advantages
Okay, so let’s talk about homesickness. It would be misleading and irresponsible to say that you won’t get homesick. It would be unfair to try and dismiss it or play it down. But when you look at it from a certain perspective, homesickness can actually have its advantages. No, really! Homesickness has a way of casting a rosy pall on our memories of home. It can make all the things that used to annoy us about life in the UK seem trivial, almost endearing. And it can make us appreciate the things we love (a “proper” cup of tea, baked beans etc.) about home all the more when we come back.
Life as an expat may bring its own set of challenges, but that doesn’t mean that you should overlook the potential benefits for you and your family.
* Collaborative Post