This is part ten in my Expat Interview Series, where I interview interesting expats around the world. I’m hoping this series of posts will provide some insight into what it is like to live overseas, and might even encourage a few people to pack their bags and make the move!
Meet Sarah Richard, a serial expat who has been travelling the world for over 5 years and probably spends more time in or underwater than outside it! Sarah is the inspiring blogger behind Coffee With a Slice of Life and Girls That Scuba and says she will do anything it takes to not have to give into the life society wanted for her back in the UK and travel the world instead. She is creating her own destiny and believes change is the only constant in her life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way!
What made you move abroad in the first place?
It’s funny, but from a young age, I always knew I didn’t belong in England. It was as if I had been born in the wrong country, so as soon as I had my own freedom and choices, the natural move was to go out and explore the world. I guess I never really intended to ‘live abroad’ but then again, I always intended to never live in the UK.
How long have you been living overseas?
I left my job, sold my house and all my belongings age 22. I gave that “work hard, earn money, have no time to spend money” life a small chance for 3 years or so, but I just couldn’t fit in. My first adventure was to South East Asia, quickly followed by living and working in a summer camp in the U.S. That was over 5 years ago now. Many of those years were spent fleeting between countries until I finally found a place to call home 2 years ago, in the magical city of Hong Kong. That city completely has my heart.
What is the most difficult thing about living so far from home?
For me, home is actually many places. After this many years away from the UK, when people ask me where ‘home’ is, I always answer Hong Kong. Even now after recently moving to Dahab in Egypt. So the most difficult thing? Definitely wanting to be in 100 places at one time, with all of the friends I’ve made along the way. I really wish I could gather up all of my best friends and take them with me wherever I go. The worst thing about being away from my many homes is not being able to share my next home with my friends I’ve met in the last.
How did you make friends when you first arrived?
I get asked this a lot actually, it’s a huge worry of a first time expat. But really, it is something you cannot give a simple answer to, and making friends is just something that falls into place. It helps that I am extremely inquisitive and chatty. In Hong Kong, I literally just asked questions, reached out to strangers and generally went around with a huge smile on my face and pretty much asked people to be my friend. In fact, one of my best friends I met in Hong Kong contacted me through my blog. Her email went a little something like “I’m new to Hong Kong too and I don’t know anyone. I read your last blog post and you seem funny. Do you want to have a coffee”? We met up the next day and she became a huge part of my life from that day forward. So the conclusion to that? Say yes to everything. But if you are looking for practical advice, check out meetup.com and Couchsurfing.
What do you love the most about being an expat?
How the people in the country you are living welcome you with open arms. In my experience the locals are so happy you have chosen to call their country home that they will bend over backward to help you out. And the food. I love being constantly surrounded by new flavours.
Has anything funny happened to you due to cultural differences or language barriers?
Gosh, my life is one hilarious miscommunication after another, how long have you got? The stories mainly include me trying to learn the local language and getting the words tragically wrong and them somehow coming out as an offensive word instead. My favourite one being while I was living with a Spanish family in Ecuador and I told one of the kids not to touch the oven (or so I thought) and it came out not to ‘fuck the oven’.
How do you cope when things are going badly?
Honestly, I’d struggle to tell you something that has gone badly. I go into every situation expecting things not to be easy. I know I am in a different country and I don’t speak the language so I am patient and expect things to take longer or not happen at all. It’s the way you look at things; if you go in with high expectations then you may be disappointed, and yes, things may go badly. But if you go in with an open mind you can change these situations into a funny story or a great lesson.
Do you think you travel a lot more now because you live overseas?
I travel SO much more. The more I see, the more I realise I haven’t seen. This last year living in Hong Kong, I barely touched the ground. I was like an excited kid and just could not stop exploring my neighboring countries. I managed to do one new one every month this year.
What are your future plans?
Plans… what is this word?
If you could give one piece of advice about moving abroad, what would it be?
JUST DO IT. Give it a go. If you don’t like it you can get straight back on the plane and go home, but just give it a chance. Go in with nothing to lose and I guarantee you will come out with so much more gained.