There are many types of expats and rather than generalise I'll just tell you about the ones I have met, both in real life and on the internet. You may recognise yourself in parts of this post but the only negative comments I have are about people I either no longer see or have removed from my twitter, facebook or I've deleted my membership with forums.
So without further ado, now that I've made my excuses/apologies at the beginning I can now write freely about the expats.
The seasoned expats
We've been doing this for 30 years, 17th move, 15th different country, kids in UK boarding schools, take up golf, bridge and drink gin, you'll be fine.
These expats live in a fantasy world, often young and newly married, maybe a small child prior to becoming an expat, their identity was changing when they were young, either fresh out of Uni or in the early stages of a career, they would've given up work when the children came along and life would be full of changes.
The company expats
These are the ones that had everything done for them on arrival, car, cell pone and SIM card, house rented and furnished, no utility bills to pay, schools found, HR spending time with them to introduce them to others and locals and to ensure a few invites and plenty of things to occupy you until you get your bearings.
These expats tend to be employed on a two year contract and live within an expat community. They disappear as quickly as they come and aren't really that bothered about making friends.
The know it all expats
These are the ones who can do anything and everything, or so they say. They tell you if you're pulled over whilst driving to just offer a bribe. They tell you to pay someone to stand in a queue on your behalf, they say driving at night is perfectly safe as long as you just put your foot down at the robots.
They tell you they mastered all the local arts (Braii's) and the local (global) beer is crap.
These expats are full of shit, they know nothing and n one, they have all the talk, but if you ask them to help you with something they mutter and you soon discover they are either seasoned or company expats or even worse......
The expert expat
You know the ones that post online with 'advice of being an expat' or the ones that produce the 'how to guides?'
Have you ever read one properly? Have you ever found one to be actually useful? I have and I haven't. If I've had a relationship with the person online and we've chatted about it, then yes I've found it useful,especially the personal stuff about feeling depressed, losing your identity, the importance of talking to your partner, how it's difficult for family and friends back 'home' to understand what you're going through and how you can expect to feel lonely and it can take up to a year to make friends.
But the 'advice' on 'how to....... find a school/job/removal firm etc is a waste of time...they just 'advise' on how important it is to do your research/get several quotes/learn the language just don't help at all, because your 'home' country/language is different from theirs, their culture and understanding of the world is different from yours.
The trueful expat
Well that's me. My kids were already in private schools prior to moving abroad, I can drink Gin till the cows come home. I'll blog about how fab it is, the opportunitites, the lifestyle andboast about the weather and the pool, but I'll also tell you how it is. The depression I suffer from, that creeps up on me without warning. The days when I cry for no apparent reason, the times I feel worthless.
I'll also tell you how to actually pay your water bill, how to transfer a contract,documents you need to register with FICA so you can purchase a SIM card, how to get a provisional driving licence for your 17yo son and I'll lso tell you about the safari's, the volunteering and the over whelming emotion of visiting a township.
But in summary, the biggest problem is...you're not British moving to South Africa, your company has experience of doing this before, maybe your children are still little and not teenagers so mixing and meeting people is easier, maybe you're moving to a country where you are allowed to work or have a bank account in your own name or you're living on the opposite side of the country where safety and security is very different and also a 3 hour flight away.
So, what type of expat are you?