Resuming the expat lifestyle: should I stay or should I go?
April 28, 2012 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I've recently returned to my home country after 12 years overseas. Just as I'm slowly starting to feel settled again after 6 months at home, an unexpected and very attractive job opportunity offers to take me abroad again. Should I resume the expat lifestyle? Of course it's not that simple...

A little background: After 12 years overseas (my whole working life) in two different countries, I was suffering a bit from expat fatigue. No regrets at all about my travels, but after a certain number of years away, the uncertainty of not knowing where you are going to be next year makes it hard to plan and make a lot of life decisions.

We moved around a lot in my childhood too, the result being that I don't feel particularly grounded in any one place, and I have very few friendships that stretch back a long way. I decided it was time to move home at least for a few years to set up a "base" -- somewhere where, even if I was to take off again, I would ultimately want to return to. The transition hasn't been easy, but I am finally starting to feel like this may really be home, and to appreciate how important it is being close to family.

And out of nowhere comes a very attractive job offer to move back overseas. A more senior position, better money, great career opportunity. One that will probably never present itself again, especially not in my home country. The decision seems like a total no brainer. So why am I finding it hard to get excited about it?

I'm in my mid 30s and still single, and I'd like to settle down and have a family at some point. A part of me wants a simpler life. And I worry that leaving again so quickly is perhaps inconsistent with these goals. And that if I leave again, it may be harder to ever return. At the same time, this is a great opportunity, I know people in the city I'd be going to, and you only live once, right?

Are there any other expats out there who can relate to this sense of ambivalence? Or have any advice on breaking through it?
posted by aussie_in_NY to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I understand where you're coming from...I'm a rolling stone as well. You first should decide whether you want to /can get settled down in the new country.
posted by lotusmish at 6:22 PM on April 28, 2012

If I were finding it hard to get excited about the great career opportunity, there's no way I'd go for it. But I might be a bit of a hedonist.
posted by aniola at 6:23 PM on April 28, 2012

How tied to the idea of where you're from as your "base" are you? Apart from family, the reasons you're describing for going back are things you could have anywhere in the world. As an expat, sometimes I feel that folks have an expectation I'll settle down back home once I get all this out of my system. But I think the thing we learn as expats is that home is something you create, and it's not necessarily where you're from.

Is this job something that could align with your goals around settling down? Or is the proximity of family/ease of living in your home country a big part of that? A career opportunity is only great if it moves you in the right direction.
posted by clipperton at 6:42 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's ok for your priorities to change from "career" to "personal life". When you're just getting started, "career" is important. And then after a decade you've got yourself established, professionally-speaking. That experience doesn't go away. Yes this might be an amazing job, but if it's not right for you at the moment, that's ok. Odds are good that if you want to come back to that kind of work in the future, like in a couple of years, then other opportunities will present themselves.

Think about what you want your life to be like in 10 years. What do you want for a personal life - wife, kids, a house and a dog? Living close to your extended family? Or a wife and kids, and you'd be cool with living abroad with them in tow? What do you want for your professional life? Climbing corporate ladders to the top? Or something mid-range? And then you realistically work back from those goals to figure out what's best for your life now.

Just remember - few decisions are permanent ones, and your career and where you live are among the more flexible things for someone with professional experience in demand.
posted by lizbunny at 6:44 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

So why am I finding it hard to get excited about it?

Yeah, I agree, it's okay to change what you want. And maybe you're not excited because you don't want that anymore. That's fine - if you want to settle down, maybe that's what you should do.
posted by mleigh at 7:59 PM on April 28, 2012

If you are ready to settle down and get married, could you see doing that in the other country? If not then don't go or go but have a very definite plan for returning home on a regular basis and moving back there. Keep in touch with friends you've made and make frequent trips home.
posted by fshgrl at 11:05 PM on April 28, 2012

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