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Returning home after living abroad: expat lessons


This is one of those blog posts that just came to me, randomly, as I was making myself a morning cuppa. I was thinking about how different it has been returning home after living abroad and how much I miss aspects of expat life.

The blues just suddenly hit me recently like a ton of bricks. I'm talking holiday blues-type feelings but much stronger. You may remember I wrote this post about reverse culture shock 6 months ago when I was still in the honeymoon period of returning home, but things have settled down quite a bit now and everything feels more normal again.

I forced myself to sit down this morning and really think about why I missed living abroad so much, as there are so many things I don't miss about Singapore... the lack of a breeze, being miles away from family, the fact you need to re-mortgage to be able to afford a pint of milk, I could go on...

Read my previous post: the real truth about being an expat in Singapore and you'll get an idea of what it's like.

I then got to thinking (because I've got a whole new 'positive mental attitude' thing going on, look at me!) why can't I try and incorporate some of the things I loved about living abroad into my day-to-day life back home? This was the light bulb moment which got me running straight to my laptop to write this post! Here are all the expat and travelling lessons which I fully intend to bring back into my life now I have returned home from living abroad. Read on and find out how you can bring some of that expat magic in your day-to-day life at home...


Returning home after life abroad: expat lessons to live by

Expats are always out exploring their local area

It's amazing when I look back at my Instagram from our time in Singapore. Nearly every day I was out seeing something new, and our weekends were either jam-packed with sightseeing and soaking up the local culture or travelling to a new country. We rarely had any time inside, which was helped by the fine weather of course, but I think my mindset was just more tuned in to being a tourist and appreciating my surroundings.

If you are unable to go travelling as much as you'd like, a way of bringing that expat magic to your city is to try and be a tourist in your own area sometimes. There is so much to love about Newcastle where I live, and I am going to make the effort to plan something new in to do every week to fall back in love with my home city!

I am also guilty of spending many evenings just settling on the sofa with tea and Netflix, when there is so much I could be doing or seeing. I am going to try and commit to doing one new thing on a weeknight each week, or I may look into joining a new evening class. Feel free to slide into my DM's on Instagram if you're local to me and have any suggestions!


Expats are constantly making new friends

This is one of my favourite things about expat life. One of my most popular posts is what I learnt about expat friendship and recently I've realised that one of the main aspects of life abroad that I miss is all the new friends I met. Why does that have to be anything to do with living abroad? You are never too old to make new friends, and being in your home city should not stop you.

I am about to start a new job which should help, but I am determined to try and make some new friends this year whether that is through blogging or starting another activity.

If you feel like you're stagnating at home and need some more excitement, then starting a new hobby or reaching out to new people who seem like your kinda guys or gals is a good way to enrich your life and find like-minded people. 

Don't get me wrong, I love all my friends who I have known for years but it's always nice making new connections as well, especially fellow travel lovers who I could line up a few trips with!

Expats and travellers live with minimal possessions

This is something which I am sure was a big factor in the happy times I had living abroad. We were forced to reduce our possessions down to a couple of suitcases each and I genuinely hardly missed having 'stuff' as an expat! 

I have already started selling things on eBay and I think I will continue to do this as minimal living is definitely a lesson I learnt as an expat which I need to bring back into my life in the UK.

I am trying my hardest to avoid 'fast fashion' these days, and have re-kindled my love of charity shop browsing. If you read my most-read post, how I save money for travel, you'll know that this is one of the ways I love to save every penny for new experiences rather than things!

Since returning home after living abroad I have definitely slightly slipped back into the habit of browsing high street shops, this is something I will definitely cut down on and try and keep everything to a minimum so I am not surrounded by clutter.


Expats are used to spending time out alone

I sometimes do my own thing but nowhere near enough. One major lesson I learnt from my time as an expat was how important it is to be comfortable with your own company. I do think this gets easier with age as your confidence tends to increase somewhat.

Whilst I was away I thought nothing of going out for lunch on my own and actually really enjoyed it. I think this is something people are frightened of doing when in their home city, but actually it is really liberating to go somewhere YOU want to, without any distractions or having to please any other soul but yourself. We all deserve some me-time, and I am going to follow my own advice more! Even if it is working on my blog from a coffee shop on a Saturday, I am going to try and get out of the house alone at least once a week.

Expats are quite happy to say no

Before I moved away I was a terrible people-pleaser, and would sometimes find myself doing things that I didn't really want to, but someone else thought I should do. It was different when I lived abroad. I didn't have loads of friends and I hadn't known them for long, so I could pick and choose what I did and not feel that pressure. I'm sure that 99% of those reading can relate to this! 

Whilst I will always aim to be a good friend / family member etc., I am determined to get a little of that care-free expat attitude back into my life and only commit to the things I really want to do.

I've started reading a book called Brave New Girl which I am loving so far. It is all about having the confidence to say no more and go after what you really want in life. I will be sharing my thoughts on Instagram soon once I have finished it so look out for that.


Returning home after living abroad: main takeaways

When I read back and reflect on all of these points,  what they really have in common is freedom. I didn't over-think or plan this post, the words just came spilling out and it's interesting how they all seem to have that same theme.

Living abroad was the most freeing part of my life and I think it is that aspect that really hits you when you come home and have more commitments and priorities. I do think that doing all of these things will really help to replicate that wonderful free feeling I had as an expat... hopefully in 6 months time when I re-visit the topic of 'repat life' I'll only have wonderful things to say.

I hope you enjoyed this honest post about returning home after living abroad and it encourages you to bring a little bit more freedom in your life as well. Thanks for reading!

8 comments

  1. This is so so true! It's so hard to take care of yourself and live a carefree fulfilled life when you have the every day of work, family life and bad weather! But there are definitely so many things we could all be doing to make things a little better - I try very hard to live like a tourist at weekends but I could definitely benefit from saying no more and living with less clutter!

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    1. You definitely do really well at this, your attitude and zest for life is so inspiring! I often live through you on weekends watching your insta stories :)

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  2. Love this and I love being a tourist in my own home, it always cheers me up and helps me to feel grateful x

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    1. Thanks Sam, I always love following your adventures as you definitely do so much exploring and make the most of everything!

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  3. Great post, Melis. I've actually already mentioned it to a few friends of mine, which is something I rarely do. Some really good points I hadn't thought much about before. Like minimal possessions, saying no, and how it's up to you to retain many of the good things of expat life even when at home. When I saw the headline I was expecting some moaning about how hard it is to come back after expat life and I was more than eager to leave a comment saying yes.. so hard haha..

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    1. Thanks Stefan, glad you enjoyed it. I am trying to keep referring back to it if I ever get 'moany' and forget how lucky I am, haha! We could definitely all do with bringing a bit of the expat life into our lives at home I reckon. Melis

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  4. As someone who has lived abroad on and off for 3 and a half years, I totally understand this. Everything reminds me of Greece and at the moment I'm trying to shut it away but maybe I need to be including the good stuff in my life.
    I think my personality has changed since living and working out there anyway. I'm less selfish for a start! It's hard breaking up with a country but I think it's great to let principles live on!

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    1. Hi Jess, I'm glad you resonated with this. It takes real guts to make a change and I promise it will get easier! I get you so much about being less selfish, I am much more grateful for the little things as well. Melis x

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