Ah the expat life.. Sounds so limiting and annoying for me extravagant to some people. To some people they think that expats are living the dream, making tons of money and having the best time of their life. Well, let me tell you one thing: It’s more than that.

I’ve been living away from home for 3 years and I am still learning and experiencing new things everyday. Living outside of your comfort zone presents many challenges especially if that means moving to a foreign land. I’ve been told before that Indonesia and Philippines are almost similar so I must have adjusted easily. You think? It doesn’t really matter wherever you are. Whether you move to another country in the same continent or to the other side of the world, there will always be similarities BUT the experience will be very very different. Plus not to mention your willingness to accept changes, that would matter a whole lot too.

For my 3 years here, I’m still being asked questions and hearing remarks that I find surprising up to now. I don’t know if others experience this here (I know my group of friends does, because we talk about this from time to time) but here’s what “Expat life” if like for me:

So, how much are you earning?

I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked by this question. This is a question you are not suppose to ask anyone. Foreigner or local, this is a very private one and I don’t understand why people keeps asking this. Sometimes I feel like I’m being interrogated because they can be very persistent. “Do you earn more than 10juta? (10 million)” or “They pay you so much here ya? In dollars? or Rupiah? So lucky!”

First of all, it is understood that when you work abroad then that means your pay will not be at the same rate as locals. We were hired to bring in new skills and knowledge that will contribute to the progress of the company. So, let’s not talk about how much because it will only upset you for sure. Comparing salary is not a good conversation starter.

EXPATS ONLY LIKE POSH PLACES BECAUSE YOU WANT TO FLAUNT YOUR MONEY

When I was new here, most of the friends I made were also not from here. Yeah that sounds so typical foreigner attitude but hey, you need to start somewhere and that’s what I did. Some were new like me and some have lived here for a couple of years or so. We tend to have regular meet up to enjoy some drinks and exchange notes about our experiences here.

Sure some of us lives like a king, spend money like there’s no tomorrow and party in high end clubs. To be honest I don’t really see anything wrong with that. We’re not the only one doing it. Even the locals do that so technically we’re not the only customers here. Let’s just say we want to spend our money where we see it fit because we all have different life style that we want to maintain. That being said, not all expats live like a king here. Some chose to live a simpler life and that’s also perfectly fine.

You can afford everything – don’t tell me that it’s expensive

Okay, this one always make my patience flicker so prepare to read rant – I will try my best to make it sound nice so bear with me.

Even if we are earning a lot (based on your perception) it doesn’t mean we are not allowed to complain about the prices. We also know how to adjust our way of living and we are aware if this is pricey than it should be.

I remember one time I was looking for something and a coworker of mine said I can buy it online and told me the price. Knowing the original price I said that was too expensive. She then replied “You are earning more than me, that is not expensive for you. You have a lot of money!” I felt that needed a decent reply so I did. The thing about living abroad is that you get to pay most of your expenses. Like me for example, I live here on my own. I pay my rent,monthly bills and my own grocery. Technically I have no one to count on when I ran out of money because my family is living in the Philippines. Unlike my dear coworker who still lives with her parents, gets monthly allowance and pays no bills at all. Do you see the difference? Do you see the BIG DIFFERENCE there?! It doesn’t really matter even if we are getting paid more here. We are still allowed to spend our money wisely. It may be contradicting our living like a king life style but like I said we spend our money where we see it fit.

You guys are rude!

This one I agree 100% and I would like to apologize in behalf of my other fellow expats living here. Please know that not all expats are rude. Some just turns crazy and use their “privilege.” I am not defending them but it goes something like this, just to give you an idea: When you are far away from home and you live in a place where no one knows you or people from back home, this is the perfect time for you to be someone else. The anonymity makes you feel good. So sometimes, they tend to abuse it and go overboard. Again, I am very sorry if you meet some assholes around. Not all of us are like that.

Why are you not yet married?!

This. I can’t tell you how annoying this question is for me. Not because I am eager to get married which by the way I am not, I just cannot stress this enough. But the social pressure here sure is very high! From the moment I got here and up to now, when I tell them I am not yet married and I don’t have a boyfriend they assume I am a weird girl – orang aneh. Well maybe I am because I don’t really fit in the cultural norm but trust me, I am perfectly fine.

I get it that this is probably the ideal marrying age for girls here, but that thought hasn’t crossed my mind yet. I remember one taxi driver said “you should get married otherwise you will be wasted.” Wasted? I’ve been contributing a lot and doing productive things at work, so I don’t think I am getting wasted.

I can continue but those are most common “expat life” notion I get here. However our life is not just about money and living the dream. Here’s what you don’t see:

  • We have to adjust and adapt our way of living to fit in our new environment. Not everybody copes well or easily. Some takes time and it’s not a good feeling when you are struggling to adapt.
  • We left everything back home, please help us feel that we are welcome here. Even if you already have an idea or a bad experience with others, not all expats who come here wants to just party and spend money. Some are really nice people.
  • Trying to establish new set of “family” is not easy. Especially with expats. Our life is not meant to stay in one place. Some of us will suddenly decide to leave, either go back home or move to another country or maybe stay here for as long as we can. The circle we built will be left behind and it’s also not a good feeling for us. It will always be a continuous process, people come and people go. So while we are at it, let’s make a lot of good memories!
  • We are not rich! We have millions – because we work here in Indonesia, but hey SO ARE YOU! We all work hard to earn. Now let’s get over the how much are you earning question and just talk about other things.

There are highs and lows when you are an expat. Regardless, it’s still a good experience and it will continue to be good if you want it to be.