“Connecting with other expats isn’t about staying in a bubble and hiding away from the country”
Hi, I’m Nina. I’m originally from the UK, although I wouldn’t call the UK home anymore; home is where my suitcase is. I’ve lived in India, France, Angola, Switzerland, Belgium, Syria and Germany. I’ve moved for my work, for love, and just for an adventure. Right now, I’m in Chile, but soon I’ll be leaving for Ecuador.
When I moved to Chile, I was pregnant with my third child. I was suffering from terrible morning sickness and had to look around apartments, complete school application forms, fill out ridiculously long medical forms, sort clinic payments and research kindergartens. I was burnt out. Yet, the hardest part was the emotional side. The pregnancy hormones were kicking in, my two other children needed a lot of attention and I was trying to be everywhere, for everyone, all at once. I felt completely overwhelmed.
However, I was fortunate enough to be put in touch with a friend of a friend, and she took me under her wing. This friend, Ginette, introduced me to many other wonderful people and organised nights out, coffees and children’s play dates. Ginette was heavily pregnant and even days before labour she was checking in to see if I was OK. Just knowing I had someone whom I could trust, whom I could call in an emergency made me feel so much safer, more grounded and confident.
I truly believe that connecting with other people, both expats and locals, is the only way to succeed in any foreign assignment. Connecting with other expats abroad isn’t about staying in a bubble and hiding away from the country. On the contrary, it’s about building a safe space to explore it together. Here in Santiago, meeting expats has been a great way for me to discover the city.
Expats here in Chile did even more for me, though. In 2018 my child was diagnosed with a serious food allergy and when the country’s stock of EpiPens ran out, it was the expat community that rushed to help.
An American mother offered me her son’s spare EpiPen, an Australian lady brought me in more supplies and a spouse of an American lawyer was there to assist at customs. An American businessman even offered to reroute his flights to stop over and buy the expensive medication I so desperately needed.
My child nearly lost his life and it was a very dark time for me, but knowing that there were people who genuinely cared made a huge difference. I didn’t even know most of these people, but they wanted to help.
I’ve moved abroad ten times now and I’ve often been so stressed about getting everything perfect – finding a job, schools and a home – that I’ve overlooked the best moments. I’ve been so caught up in the day to day, I’ve forgotten to stop and look at the bigger picture. I wish I’d relaxed more and enjoyed the journey.
Moving abroad is an incredible opportunity. Looking back, the most significant parts of my life have been when I’ve been rushing around without the time to notice.
When I move to Ecuador later this year I’m going to try and relax more. I’m going to try to stress less about getting my house looking perfect and instead focus on making friends to invite over. I’m going to worry less. Expat life is a journey and I’m determined to enjoy the ride.
Follow more of Nina’s adventures at theexpater.com.