Saturday, 29 July 2017

The long-term expat

We travelled within Ireland for the first time in 10 years!

How many years after a move abroad can you consider yourself a  long-term expat? Two, five, ten years? There is probably no right answer, but one thing for sure, we all have a few things in common. So let's see if you recognise yourself in the list below...

You've become a pro at booking flights

You know the best time to book tickets, the best airline and the one to avoid at all costs, the connections available to go home and the time of the year they operate. You could almost book a flight eyes closed (because you probably know your passport number by heart anyway). And I bet you're always the one who helps other family members find a good deal to book their flight to come and see you. You might also be the one who guides them through the online check-in...

You have a favourite airport

Well, it's no surprise that Dublin is my favourite. I've always found staff friendly and helpful, which makes a trip a lot easier, especially when you have kids. On the contrary, my least favourite airport is Nantes. I had problems almost every time, from security who took my Breton cake away, to check-in staff who told me they were wouldn't be anyone to help me go down a flight of stairs with my child, hand luggage and buggy (while I was pregnant), because they were not there "for that".

There are more passports than people in your house

There are 8 passports for the four of us, and technically, we could have 2 more (but we never asked for Mauritian passports for the kids, because there's no point really). Before flying out, the same question always pops up: "What passport are you taking this time?"

You always take time difference into consideration when calling someone

Mauritius is 3 hours ahead in summer, 4 hours in winter. France is always one hour ahead. My brother in law is in Australia, which is 7 hours ahead, our friend in Morocco is on the same time zone etc etc. When I arrange a call with my mum or sister I always have to add "French time" to the time they want to call: "Call me at 8pm, French time, OK?". And it's always French time because I am more used to the time difference than they are...

You have a holiday budget

There is always this expectation from family and friends that you are coming home every year. "When are you coming back?", "Why are you only staying one week?", "Why do you come only once a year"?... We do try to go home every year, even if it's just for a week. I want to see my parents as they're not getting any younger, and see friends that cannot come over to Ireland. We also go to Mauritius every 2 or 3 years, and we want to visit other places as well, so our holiday budget is pretty big! Having said that, it is our choice. When other people enjoy going out to fancy restaurants, concerts or buying twenty pair of shoes, we just enjoy going away. So we make it work, it's a question of priorities.

Your friends are also long-term expats or locals

Most of our foreign friends have lived in Ireland as long as we have, sometimes longer. And our local friends, well, they're not moving anytime soon either! When you know you're going to stay in a country for a long time, you  stop making friends with people you know won't stay, or at least you make a "lighter" commitment to "new" people.  For me, it's a way to protect myself. I've always taken friendships very seriously and I need time to get to know someone. I don't always want to invest my time and energy with someone who will only be there for a few months, so I now have a tendency to detach myself from the relationship. I am friendly and always will be, but I don't expect anything on the long-term. Having said that, there are always exceptions, but trust me they are rare.

You haven't travelled in your host country for way too long

The first 4 years I was in Ireland I travelled all around the country. I visited major Irish landmarks and sites, and my little Ford Fiesta brought me everywhere. And then routine took over, my husband was working at the week-end and we just couldn't find the time to travel anymore. At the same time, living and working in Ireland meant I didn't want to also spend my holidays there. It's not a foreign country anymore and if I'm off work, I want to go somewhere else. Until the last bank holiday week-end when we had a great time in West Cork (but knackered after a 6 hours drive!).

You mix languages when you speak

I speak Frenglish most of the time, which is fine with my husband or friends, but when I go to France it gets a bit difficult. At the beginning, some people thought I was doing it on purpose, but now they just laugh at me when I can't find a word! On a separate note, when I was in France last week, someone told me she was surprised I didn't have a foreign accent when I spoke French... That's weird, right? I don't think I can ever lose my French accent in my native language, it's hard enough losing it in English!

You don't bring presents back home anymore

The first couple of years, every pre-trip organisation included a day in Dublin to buy presents for my parents, brother and sister, aunts and uncles, nephews etc. I would always end up in Carroll's and break the bank to buy t-shirts, Guinness chocolates, shamrock pencils and the likes...Now I go home empty handed. I think my parents have a fair share of Irish memorabilia in the house. The only thing I do if I have time, is to go to Penney's for my sister. I know I'm not helping her addiction, but a little scarf or a top always makes her happy.

What do you think of this list, did you recognize a bit of yourself in it? Anything you want to add?