Friday, September 13, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 5

It's Friday 13th today, so what better way to celebrate this than to publish another "An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly" post wink

If you haven't read these yet, but are interested in reading them... you can click on these links:

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 1 on what it's like living as an expat in SL
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 2 on local attitudes, dual pricing, behaviors
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 3 on police force, corruption and stories
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 4 on garbage collection, waste and recycling

This post looks at what I call "expat fatigue". Every now and again I come down with an illness of sorts called expat fatigue.

It's something I know a lot of expats "come down" with from time-to-time. I've been diagnosing it among my friends and once I've diagnosed them they look at me in shock eek and say:

"OMG! You're dead right. I have that".

The thing is... it's lovely to live and work in another country and be adopted into a different culture and way of life. Those of us who embrace new places, people and cultures usually thrive as an expat. However, we also get a little weary or tired from these things too. Sometimes it's the constant battling through language barriers; putting up with inefficiencies; dealing with a climate your body is not used to; or missing creature comforts (food, scenery, family, friends, culture etc) from home!

“It is a bitter-sweet thing, knowing two cultures. Once you leave your birthplace nothing is ever the same.” ― Sarah Turnbull

It doesn't mean we want to up-sticks and return to our birthplace to live and work. If anything, it means we need a "time out", a refresher, a little trip away to immerse in our own culture, people and places; and then come back rejuvenated.

An expat who doesn't realize they have expat fatigue may end up moving away or moving back to where they came from for the wrong reasons. Yes, sure, there are situations where you're either forced to move away (i.e. because your visa was not renewed etc) or you seriously don't want to live here any longer. Fair enough. But, for those that mistakenly blame their fatigue on something else, well, it's a real shame redface

** Please note, the full blog post has been removed as parts of the blog content will be edited for inclusion in an upcoming publication by the author. More information will be made available on the Adventures in a Tuk-Tuk Blog in due course **


Kip said...

I've spent about 20 years total living in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. I've usually returned to the States every 2-3 years to work for 6-12 months and then hopped on a plane back to South Asia. The obvious reason has been to pump up my bank account. My work in Asia has been volunteer work or at most getting room and board. But fending off expat fatigue is part of it, and also culture shock. The real culture shock is when you return to your own country and are disoriented and don't fit into its consensus reality anymore. I've had friends who went home to earn money after long stays in Asia and couldn't function anymore in a serious job. You can strand yourself in a no man's land where you don't really fit into either culture. Perhaps this is part of the "bitter-sweet" quoted above.

Eva Stone said...

Hi Kip, thanks for making a comment on the blog.
I wrote this post about two and a half years ago and some of it still resonates. But I think I can see where you're coming from about returning to your home country after a long spell away and fending off a different kind of expat fatigue towards the realities back there (that don't quite gel).
Recently I went back and I found it challenging to relate to some of the things I used to be able to relate to. On the work front, I could probably function but I'd probably not want to. It's just a very different pace, culture and lifestyle in a place like Sri Lanka,India or Nepal.
I'm familiar with the 'no-mans land' because I think you become a type of hybrid treading the different cultures. But you have to admit to it, then it makes you a little more honest about your preferences and maybe a lot more open-minded. You can taste the bittersweetness at times when people can't relate to you back home, or you're here and missing something familiar. But what I experience is that it's not bittersweet all the time and life is what you make of it. Truly.
Best wishes

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