Expat Story: Lessons from a Nomadic Childhood
At Expat Nest, we love to read (and share!) honest firsthand accounts of the expat experience. I believe this story will resonate with all internationals and I hope it touches your heart, as it did mine! Being born into a family of diplomats has both its pros and its cons, says expat Diana Predosanu. On the one hand is a great adventure, even a life of privilege. On the other hand, many families lack the support they need for the ongoing changes of this nomadic lifestyle. Here are some of the lessons Diana learned as a child ‘growing up between worlds’…
Lesson #1. As a child, leaving friends behind was hard, but making new friends was relatively ‘easy’
Leaving friends in my ‘home’ country to accompany my parents on their mission was never easy, but the excitement of taking a flight and moving to a new country usually outshone any doubts or fears.
I was nine years old when we moved to Brazil. I have memories of learning Portuguese at home and slowly becoming integrated at school. Unlike other diplomats’ children, I never joined the international schools, so every move, every country, came with the challenge of learning the local language and making friends with locals. Often, the only ‘different’ child in school was me. But I found the other children were open and friendly and, as I was quite resilient, I made friends easily in Brazil (and later in Colombia).
My basic approach was: learn the language, go to school, make new friends and keep in touch with friends back ‘home’ via letters.
Later I did my university studies in Australia. In this environment – where everyone is ‘new’ and part of a multicultural society – I found my place and was able to enjoy the melting pot of Sydney.
Lesson #2. Going back ‘home’ was more challenging than I ever imagined it would be
Going ‘home’ was hard, arguably harder than arriving in a new place. Leaving everything that had been built in those years and going back to a place that had changed, as a person who had changed too, was never easy. I was expected to belong, but I didn’t… not really, not anymore. The experiences abroad had filled my soul with other smells, colours, tastes. I rekindled childhood friendships, but found it hard, as a teenager, to make new friends at ‘home’.
Lesson #3. A heart in search of a home and yet ‘itchy feet’…
Growing up constantly moving from one country to another made me think that I would like to settle somewhere and build a home. But my reality has turned out to be so different! I continued to study abroad and I accepted jobs in different countries. I realise I feel the need to keep moving, to keep trying new destinations. Every place I go to, I feel that something is missing. My first reaction is to pack my bags and head somewhere else. I keep trying to find that one place that will feel like my home, a mix of the various experiences I’ve had. Time is passing and I am still looking…
Lesson #4. It’s never the same when you visit any of your adopted countries
In my experience, no matter how well we keep in touch with a place, or with people, things change. In 2012, I went back to Australia, hoping to ‘get back’ my life there and with it my friendships and habits. This turned out to be impossible. Although my friends welcomed me back, so much had changed. My friends were now adults, employed, married, with commitments… we were no longer students. I, on the other hand, was employed part-time and no longer had both my friends and my family in one place. Things had evolved and I couldn’t go back to how they had once been.
Lesson #5. Home is everywhere you’ve lived, and nowhere
(See Lesson #3!) I have called every country I have lived in ‘home’. I am proud to have adapted each time, as a chameleon blends in with its environment. But nowhere have I really belonged. In my ‘home’ country, I don’t feel quite at home – after all, I have lived abroad for more than half my life. I don’t speak the same as my local peers and I think differently to young people my age. In my adopted countries, I may have adapted, but I wasn’t born there, so I am not quite one of them either. Home really is everywhere and nowhere.
What would you add to the list? Which of these lessons resonate with your experience as an expat or global nomad? Join the conversation below!
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