FMs4Ms

A life of an Expat: Identity

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An Expat, definition is living in another country where you did not grow up.  Why did I change the definition some, from say Wikipedia?  Because they use the term from where you have citizenship.  An example in disagreement with that definition is; say you were born in one country, but never knew it because you moved at the age of 1 year and never really grew up living enough of your life to feel a sense of home.   That is why I use where you grew up.  The place where you spent most of your life feeling at home before you moved to another country to reside is how I will define expat in my posts.

 

Identity:

Being an expat gives many different stresses such as living with a different culture, different language, finding jobs and so much more.  One big stress comes from finding an identity.  The one you had starts to become lost.  Especially if you have lived in the new country for many years.  You start to lose sight as to the person you were and now are.   You search for that balance in identity to continue this new changed life in the new country.

Part of this identity loss comes at not knowing where you are from.  You get this question a lot when out socializing. The author of Writer In Florence states this really well in her article Where are you from?    My favorite quote from this post is:

I don’t know where I’m from. Places have lost meaning somehow and people replaced the meaning of the place. I should probably say I am from my home country, but all my ties have been cut, leaving only a trail of humans whom I care for dearly behind. Or maybe I should say I am from the country where my daughter was born, but again my love for this country, this city, has changed throughout time and again replaced by the humans who are enriching my life. Funny thing is those humans aren’t from here either. So where are we all from? Do we have a country, a city, a street, anything?

Finding your identity is hard and even frustrating, especially when it comes to those horrible things called taxes.  Each country tries to stipulate what each citizen is even if you are living in another country and paying taxes.  If you are a US citizen, you are always a citizen even if living outside and in another country.  You are a citizen even if you were born to an US citizen and never even stepped foot in the US.  Therefore, you are required to pay taxes even if you are paying taxes in the country you are residing.  However, does that make you really an American even if you have citizenship? You have not lived there for 15 years and have adapted a new way of living that is far from what you were used to living in the US.  Visiting a month or so every year, to your country of birth or where you grew up; does not look the same or feel the same as when you spent those years.

You start to look at where you reside as your home.  This is where your friends are that you socialize with, where you feel most comfortable to call your home.  Nevertheless, you will celebrate holidays not recognized by the residing country.  You do this because you believe deeply in those holidays, yet those holidays are confusing to your friends and even some family members.  You try to find that balance of culture you loved from home and incorporating it into your life in the new country.  Leaving you with a mixed culture and a feeling that you do not really belong to one or the other place. This is just one of the many problems expats have trying to keep themselves from one country while residing in another.

So have you found your identity?  Do you know how to answer that question of where are you from?  Better yet, the question of where do you feel is your home?

 

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