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Unrealistic Expectations of Life Abroad in Diary of Returning Expat

The Telegraph is running a series of articles by expat Robert Pickles who’s returning to the UK after a number of years spent ‘living the dream’ in Australia, and his ‘Diary of a Returning Expat’ has caused quite a stir amongst the expatriate community…

Mr. Pickles has dared to admit that he doesn’t actually like Australia – and that he and his partner Alison can’t wait to return to Blighty.  Expats commenting about his diary online are divided in their opinions – some accept that it’s just one man’s take, even if they don’t accept his position; but other commentators have aggressively criticised Mr. Pickles for openly voicing his true feelings about his adopted nation.

‘How can anyone not love Australia – surely that says more about the author than the nation…’ is a common thread amongst those choosing to comment on the diary.  Whatever your opinion, what Mr. Pickles’ diary definitely does do is highlight the fact that many expats have extremely unrealistic expectations of what their adopted nation will be like…but that doesn’t mean they have to return to the UK, it just means they’ve picked the wrong country to emigrate to!

Learning Valuable Lessons From the Diary of a Returning Expat

Australia is consistently in the top 5 nations in terms of favourite choices with Britons who want to move abroad.  The reasons given for choosing to emigrate Down Under always include the weather, the laid back lifestyle and the emphasis on outdoor living (beaches and barbeques anyone?)…and it seems that Robert Pickles bought into this idyllic idea about Australia and emigrated.

His opinions about the nation have dramatically changed however, and whilst in his diary he hasn’t quite gone as far as saying ‘you’ll find more culture in a pot of yoghurt,’ he has cast a new light on much that is usually lauded about living Down Under.  “The everyday banality eats into you.  The culture and lack thereof does much the same.”

He also contrasts the joy of having wonderful weather with the reality of a ‘drab and parched’ landscape – and he highlights the fact that the sunshine might be conducive to outdoor living, but that “the vast array of insects… with fizzing wings and frenzied little eyes” aren’t.

Whether you’re an expat living in Australia who agrees with Mr. Pickles’ take on the nation or not, or you’re actively planning your emigration Down Under and you’re certain you’ve made the right country choice for example, the fact of the matter is this diary really gives a certain amount of balance to the unusually ‘perfect’ picture that is so often painted of Australia.

What it also does is give some personal perspective to every day life in a nation where there is an “incredible variety of spiders…” with a worrying “ability to supposedly inflict nightmarish pain” – and in so doing it shows that one man’s paradise is another man’s hell.

Those who want to can take away just the negatives about Australia as highlighted by this returning expat…but I would venture so far as to suggest that what everyone should take away from this article is this: –

Don’t be so certain that your first country choice will be the right country choice…and if you do get it wrong, don’t be so quick to throw in the expat towel.

Country Choice is Critical – But if at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again Elsewhere!

You can bet your bottom dollar that Robert Pickles’ didn’t pack up and emigrate to Australia with the intention of one day chucking it all in and returning to England – about which he admits: “Life in England was hard.  We were hard.”  No – Robert Pickles chose Australia because he was convinced it was the right nation for him.

Clearly Mr. Pickles’ hands on, up close and personal experience of living in Australia has served to show him that actually no, Australia was definitely not the right choice for his long-term happiness…but why are Robert and Alison returning to England?

England is not a happy place to be right now – there is so much dissatisfaction, uncertainty and negativity that it is an even harder place to live than it was before Robert Pickles expatriated.  Therefore, the ‘Diary of a Returning Expat’ may develop to become ‘the Diary of a Dissatisfied Re-pat’ in good time!

Robert Pickles writes: “This is what happens.  You question your motives and reasons.  You start living a life lived previously.  What else is there?”  I’ll tell you what else there is Robert – there are a hundred and one other nations to choose from!  You can change your attitude from thinking you hate being an expat to understanding that you just hate living in Australia.  It’s very different!

Robert and Alison haven’t failed to integrate as expats – they have failed to integrate into their new lives in Australia.  All that serves to show is that they don’t like Australia, it doesn’t suit them – however, they didn’t like living in England either, which is why they chose to emigrate in the first place.

Robert and Alison are not unusual in failing to fall in love with their new nation – and they are not unusual by throwing in the towel and believing that they have to return ‘home’ to the UK to be happy.  However, they may very well find – as countless repatriating Britons do – that they are equally dissatisfied with life once they repatriate.

Many may label such people as purely being ‘impossible to please’ – but the truth for the vast majority of affected expats/re-pats is that they simply haven’t found the right country to call home.

I have lived abroad in four different nations – only one of them felt like home, only one of them was the right choice for me.  And yet I relocated to each country in turn determined to make a life for myself there permanently.  It wasn’t until I found ‘the one’ that I knew for certain I wasn’t just a hard to please person with perpetually itchy feet!

In life it can take many failed attempts to find the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with – and I would like to suggest that we have an equally deep, emotional and perhaps complex relationship with the nation we live in – so why do expats expect to get it right first time, every time?

Like potential partners, countries can also lie!  Australia is the perfect example of this point!  Almost everything you read about moving to live Down Under paints Australia as being the perfect nation to live in – but of course it’s not, as Robert Pickles clearly demonstrates:  “It never ceases to amaze me how the Aussies try to rip us off.  You can read about it in any of the web based expat forums.  Once they spot the accent, the attitude changes and the price goes up.”

Nowhere is perfect, and nowhere is perfect for everyone.  Expats need to accept this before they move abroad otherwise they may spend a lot of time attempting to fit into a new life that genuinely doesn’t suit them, before beating themselves up for failing and returning ‘home’ to a nation they dislike equally as much as their new nation.

In Conclusion

All expats and would-be expats need to change their thinking – if at first you don’t succeed in finding a place to call home abroad, look again, try again and don’t give up on the expat lifestyle so easily.

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