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What does it mean to be an expat?

What does it mean to be an expat?

by Candy Emerson

What does it mean to be an ex-pat? To ex-communicate yourself from your own country or take the challenge of living abroad? It sounds rather negative at first but after much research on the internet there is quite a community to help those who take the challenge.

I suppose now I can officially call myself an expat. Three weeks ago, I moved to Ecuador to start a new life with my fiancé. It was a whirlwind romance from the start but as you get older and experience more opportunities in life I’ve come to the conclusion that you know when you know. We officially met last July, reconnected in November, and six months later (May) I moved abroad to start a new life with him. Crazy, right?!

Leading up to my move was rather stressful…selling a home, moving my sister, rearranging my life, and organizing the financial and emotional stability of my widowed mother. On top of that, I’m training for an Ironman triathlon which takes time and constant dedication. The good thing about my training is that it’s the only thing that is keeping me sane and focused away from my emotional distress that pops its nasty head from time to time.

I consider myself an emotionally strong individual. I’ve been through divorce, unemployment and unfortunately death in my family but nothing seems to compare to the uncertainty of what the future holds at this point. I know how to navigate and network in my home town/country, but living abroad is a completely different story. Especially with a language barrier, you can easily feel isolated, lost, depressed, and very insecure. All that seemed familiar is now confusing, irritating, and unreliable.

Where did my natural instincts for survival go? Why do I feel so insecure? And how can I get back on track to find a sense of peace and wholeness? The best place to start in understanding a new culture is to learn the language. I’ve enrolled in a Spanish tutorial class for the next month which I’m hoping will just start my process to feel more comfortable with my new life. So many times now I’ve realized how we take for granted the things we are so used to. Like ordering a cup of coffee can be an ordeal if you don’t have the basic skill set. Of course moving to a third world country where 80% of the population does not read or write let alone speak outside their native tongue is quite an obstacle. At least in Europe there is a higher level of education that you can rely on for more bilingual individuals. Thank goodness my fiancé and his family are educated and do speak English. The downside is that I’m relying on that too much that I’m not learning the language as efficiently as I would like. Where do I find the balance??

Perhaps identifying what I am feeling is important to my recovery and evolution. What are some common stresses that I’m feeling since I first moved abroad?

1) The loss of the ability to communicate
2) The loss of mastery
3) The loss of social support network
4) The stress of being misperceived

I hope to find answers to all my expat questions - the quest is just beginning.

Expat Health Insurance Partners


Our award-winning expatriate business provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. In addition, we have helped develop world-class health systems for governments, corporations and providers around the world. We want to be the global leader in delivering world-class health solutions, making quality health care more accessible and empowering people to live healthier lives.

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.