When Do Expats Become Locals?

Posted on 20. Jan, 2014 by in Expat Life

Many people make a home for themselves far away from their place of birth, crossing seas and continents to find where they are most happy. But when does an expat start to feel like a local? Are there different triggers for different people? And do some of the things you’re feeling now on your expat journey suggest your definition of ‘home’ is already shifting? Here we look at five sure signs that what once seemed daunting has become familiar, if still exciting!

living abroad

Linguistic immersion: When you accidentally slip in a word from your adopted language on the phone to your parents, or are accused of being pretentious for your foreign word choices by friends back home, the time has come when your linguistic fluency has reached another level. You’re no longer restricted by what you can say – instead you have two languages from which to choose the perfect expression. Enjoy the freedom and hear yourself start ‘code-switching’ with other bilinguals!

Finding love: You’re no longer yearning for the girl next door, but the man or woman you’ve met on the other side of the world. Sure you still love your family, but your home is now definitely where your heart is! Be warned - you may have to fly a lot of people over for your wedding.

Being part of the community: You used to be the ‘expat’, but now you’re just another person in your local community, recognised by waiters, shopkeepers, bar owners, joining other parents on the school run, organising community events. And it’s not an effort any more – you’re comfortable and consequently having more fun with your new-found friends.

living abroad

Reverse culture shock: You visit friends back home and can’t stop telling them how bad their country is – the weather, the transport, the working hours, the meal times. What used to be strange quirks of your expat life are just life, and it’s going back home after living abroad which feels unfamiliar. Try not to annoy those back in your birth country, but it’s fine to feel a rush a relief once you’re back where you want to be.

Becoming a citizen: Whatever it took (a long spell of residency, marriage, passing tricky tests) you’ve made it and have a shiny new passport – be proud.

* Disclosure: This post was contributed by a third party, but I did not receive compensation for it. I thought the content would be a great tool to the blog’s ever-growing expat resources and thoughts.

Have you lived abroad long enough to ever feel like a local? If so, what was the trigger point?

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6 Responses to “When Do Expats Become Locals?”

  1. Paul

    23. Jan, 2014

    I think expats become local when they feel like they have. When they have a sense of community and of purpose within that community, not unlike at home.

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  2. Beverley Johnson

    23. Jan, 2014

    As an expat, I think it really depends on the community and culture of the country you live in. Some cultures accept foreigners immediately, others, not so much. It requires a lot of respect and open-mindedness in both cases though.

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    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      27. Jan, 2014

      Very true! Not all cultures welcome expats the same way. Have you experienced difficulties with integration?

      Reply to this comment
  3. Andrea

    23. Jan, 2014

    I don’t know that expats really become locals, at least not for several years.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      27. Jan, 2014

      I’m not sure I agree with this. I think expats can become locals quite rapidly if they put their hearts into the situation they are in and take great interest in integrating and discovering their host city’s treasures.

      Reply to this comment

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