Both before and after moving to Ireland, I did a lot of reading about the expat experience and what I’ve come to realize is that, apparently, not many expats have a situation similar to mine. I am not married and I have no children. Though I moved here for a job, my job did not move me here. Most of the books and websites and articles I have found concentrate on the expat moving with a family, or the expat doing a corporate move.
Even with fellow expats I’ve met, I haven’t come across many who did the move totally and completely alone. If they didn’t have a husband, they had a boyfriend or girlfriend. If they didn’t move with a partner, they moved with a friend. To my recollection, I’ve met exactly one fellow expat who did the move alone, but that was on a one-year visa and the move isn’t permanent.
So, I am the cheese. I stand alone. I am a niche within a niche.
I am not saying that I have had it worse than an expat who made the move with someone, but I’m not saying I had it better either. What I am saying is that the experience is definitely different.
What was better:
- The only person I had to worry about was myself. I wanted to accept the job and move to Dublin. I didn’t have to consider what my spouse would do there, where my children would go to school or if my relationship would survive. My decision only impacted my life.
- All the choices were mine – the neighborhood I lived in, the apartment I rented, the color of the duvet in the guest bedroom. I didn’t need anyone’s approval on anything.
What was worse:
- All the choices were mine. This one is a double-edged sword. With a move this big, there was decision after decision to be made and I admit that at times it would have been nice to have someone help me out. Especially on my visit to IKEA. IKEA can truly be the loneliest place on earth. Should I get the BILLY or the IVAR?! Having to decide that by myself literally brought me to tears in the middle of the IKEA marketplace.
- No tag teaming on the annoying stuff. Because I was on my own, I had to take care of all the minutiae involved in setting up residence in a new country. It would have been nice to split these little annoyances with someone else – “Honey, I’ll go deal with the bank account if you figure out which mobile plan we should go with.”
In the end, everything worked out fine. I had no choice but to handle everything on my own and so I did just that. I figured it out, I made the decisions that needed to be made.
And honestly, in retrospect, I don’t think I would have had it any other way. Yes, it was rough going at the beginning and I had more than my fair share of freak-outs and crying fits, but I think, having done it all on my own, I came out of the experience stronger for it.
And the experience with all its fits and starts, and peaks and valleys, was most uniquely…mine.