The expat’s dilemma

Reposted from Oct 2019.

About a month and a half ago, I moved to London, UK for a new job opportunity. It’s been a crazy ride so far and I still find myself struggling to answer – genuinely answer – the question: How is life in London so far?

It’s hard not to like London. It’s a world class city with a tremendous amount to offer – across food, sightseeing, history, fashion, architecture – you name it. Of course, living in a city as magnificent and historical as London is going to be a rewarding experience.

Yet on some levels, life in London seems to be ordinarily the same as my old life in Toronto. At the end of the day, I still do a lot of the same things here, that I did in Toronto. I still work, cook, do laundry and do yoga. Those things haven’t really changed.

I see this as a huge juxtaposition. Each day, my mind fluctuates between feeling in awe of this city and the very fact that I am living in London – to the opposite end where I realize my mundane daily life has somehow managed to creep its way up again.

It’s the difference between leading your life as a local and realizing you are no longer a tourist. That’s because living here as an expat is a world apart from living here as a tourist. You take your time on the weekends. Little challenges get to you more than if you were just here on vacation. There is a sense of practicality and permanence that inevitably seeps into all of your plans.

What I’ve attempted to describe is what I’d like to call the expat’s dilemma: the feeling of being in awe of the opportunities available to you while simultaneously recognizing that, at its core, your life hasn’t really fundamentally changed. The latter seems fundamentally in contradiction with the former.

This dilemma presents some sort of irony or humour to the whole situation – the fact that you can move countries, and yet still feel like somehow your life hasn’t changed. Perhaps it’s merely a side effect of the transition, or just a testament to how quickly humans adapt to new surroundings that become familiar once again. Only time will tell.

Food for thought: does moving countries mean your life is going to change, anyway?

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