Slow Living As An Expat

I know that title seems an obvious statement to some people who have preconceived ideas about the relaxed ‘G&T on a veranda’ lifestyle of expats. But as most of us know, it’s not exactly like that.

For me, the expat life is a bit more frantic than it might have been at home. I have lived overseas for over half my life now and I have worked hard to create a bubble of security in the absence of my family and familiar culture. I have created my own family, I have created a home, I have worked and settled in nicely and embraced my host culture as my own. But I still always feel like I need to work a bit harder to maintain control over this tiny corner of the world, just to be a bit more secure.
I’ve been away recently, body boarding and cliff walking in Croyde, Devon. And thinking.I’ve decided I live life too frantically. I try to fit too much in, I try to get one more thing done on the To Do list and I try to catch up with one more email and everything overflows into the next until I stay up too late and get up too early and end up feeling like I never do anything well enough.

My priorities suffer because I spend too much time on the things that make me stressed because either a) I hope that by spending time on them I can control them (and thus, my reaction to them) better, or b) if I can just get them sorted then they will be out of the way for me to spend time on my priorities (like husband and kids). But I don’t have any time left for my priorities because I am so anxious about getting everything else sorted.

My priorities include the beautiful family I’ve created in the UK, and also my family back home. I rarely seem to have time to call home and I know how crazy that sounds. I am close to my family in the States and yet I get anxious if I think I might be on the phone to them for too long because I have so much to do.

That’s not right, it’s completely back to front.

So. I’ve decided to Go Slow. Everything I do I am trying to do at half speed. If that means I don’t get caught up on a job when someone wants me to, then I will just have to hope they’re patient enough to wait for me. If it means I don’t immediately sort all the stressy things in my life, then I guess that means I’ll just have to ‘acknowledge and move on’. If it means I don’t get as much done during a week, then I’ll have to accept that. BUT, I suspect I will get more done, or at the very least, I’ll do a better job on what I do make time for. And I will have more time for my husband and my kids and my family overseas and me. And I know will feel less anxious all the time.

It might be that I can do that more easily now that I’ve been in the UK for so long and I feel more secure, but I suspect I could have Lived Slowly all along and still been okay.

Do you live slowly enough for your priorities?

Michelle Garrett is an American expat making a life in Britain for over 20 years. Yes, she's still homesick for the States and yes, she'd be homesick for Britain if she moved back there!

Michelle is a freelance writer and blogs at The American Resident.