Destinations Magazine

The Two-Faced Expat

By Jugglingtam

A friend recently posted this article on Facebook, much to my interest and the unconscious interest of 75% of my friendship group (former or current expats). A good read in many regards, in that I agree that I have often missed out on my former U.S. life and that sucks. I have missed best friends’ weddings, births, and even deaths, all because of my choice to follow my career, my passion for travel, and my lust for life. I also agree that starting anew in a place where everybody, indeed, doesn’t know your name is an alluring notion that I have taken up on more than one occasion. Tam’s billboard for life: “Really screw up your life? Relocate!”

However, I felt a little disappointed in the writer for portraying our lives in such a sad, lonely, and utterly lost kind of light. Even the first line, “A very dependable feature of people who live abroad is finding them huddled together in bars and restaurants, talking not just about their homelands, but about the experience of leaving”… immediately strikes me as a pathetic stereotype. Sure, I spent a significant amount of my initial expat months bitching and complaining to whomever would listen. Mostly because Japan severely pissed me off as a naive 22 year-old. And of course this continues on occasion, as it would anywhere in the world… the age-old Pennsylvania complaint: ”Why can’t New Jersey drivers learn how to drive??!!” But there is no fear in this anger, as the article professes.

It goes on about expats bisecting into two distinct people, of which I also whole-heartily disagree with. When I go home to Pennsylvania, I am welcomed back with open arms. We laugh at the old times, we share new

The Two-Faced Expat
memories, and relish in the present with wine, video games, family dinners, and trips to the shore. Of course, nothing is perfect. I have changed and so have they, not because of the distance but because of time. We are different because age does that. Then again, I am not so different at the core. Though I live 500,000 miles or so away from my friends and family, being an expat hasn’t taken away the former Tam. I have always been this way. I have always been seeking something, someplace, someone to fulfill my version of calm and contentment. And so is everyone else. Whether I search for it within the domestic reaches of PA or by jetting from country to country, it doesn’t make me unique.

Of course, that being said, this is the life choice I have made and I am much happier living this choice than the one I had 10 years ago. I am not fearful, not regretful, not resentful, not anxious, thank you very much … but rather an outsider in all facets of life. Thus the journey, the search, and the dance


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