Are expats born or made?

09 Dec

War monument beside the church in Le Sappey en Chartreuse, France

Well, the short answer is of course, who knows? But, admittedly, I’ve always wanted to learn French and live in France for a very long time now, for reasons still unknown to me.  Maybe you’ve seen similarities in your life such as, have you always gravitated toward European design or euro-inspired objects?  Or have you unwittingly surrounded yourself with things that hearken back to another era and have always had a deep-rooted desire to see more than just your backyard? Friends and acquaintances who traveled were always so exciting and a bit of a mystery to me. Somehow, they always seemed ‘different’ when they returned, but I could never put my finger on what it was at the time, that made them seem that way.

According to recent and ground-breaking cognitive research, the ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument, is becoming more definitive on the roles of genetics and environment and the eternal tug of war that they play with our futures.  Leading experts in cognition are suggesting that 60 percent of who we are is genetic and the remaining 40 percent is environmentally determined (to find out more on this subject, reference: The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, Second Edition: Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research by Pierce J. Howard, PhD).  Does this mean we only have a 10 percent margin of error to get it right (relax, only joking of course)?

Growing up, our family would go on water skiing trips with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Those times were indelible and I remember how much fun we had skiing until our legs were weak and could barely walk at the end of the day, have a great meal with family and then sleep like a rock, all to do it again the next day. The place were we camped wasn’t far (only about a 2 hour drive) but it felt like a world away to us! To this day, my parents are still camping (not water skiing anymore though) and seeing the US via their RV and loving it. In college, my friends and I would go hiking and camping in local national parks all within a day’s drive.  Just like in my childhood, it wasn’t too far away, but we felt like we were–and on a student’s budget, that was a good thing! What’s the point? Everyone enjoys a vacation, but most are ready to get back to their routine and life as they left it. For a future expat, something is always missing when you get home, you miss that ‘far away’ feeling.  You are still restless, still wanting more but not sure why or how to remedy it. This may be the first sign that you are starting to become, as I like to say, ‘a citizen of the world’.  If you’re looking for a cure, there isn’t one. Vacations may only be a short-term fix to your ongoing condition.

What is it that makes a seeker, seek?  A wanderer, wander?  In my case, it appears it was a bit of both (nature & nurture). The truth is, we don’t know why some of us have the urge to travel, to see the final frontier, to boldly go…OK, I’ll stop, you get the point.  What we do know, is that it [desire to see/know more] is part of what drives us and calls us to risk so much and gamble on the unknown.  I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything, but we can underestimate the commitment, emotional toll and conversely, the complete joy the experience brings. Please do share your expat stories, other travel stories or questions with me and feel free to suggest future topics.

Happy travels (bon voyage)!


Posted by on December 9, 2010 in Daily life in France


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

18 responses to “Are expats born or made?

  1. av2247

    January 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    How true it is. And possibly the greatest blog title out there.

    -from out in Abu Dhabi

  2. Steph

    January 7, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    agree totally, but aren’t we *living* there to be there or *leaving* where we are coming from ? travelling or living abroad is somehow a way to distant yourself from yourself, maybe make a clean start away from the troubles, and reinvent yourself… this is first article I am reading, so I’ll get cracking on the others! thanks for sharing your Experience Expatriotgames!

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      Totally agree, Steph! There is that part as well…do keep reading and let me know what else is on your mind; maybe we need to delve into that part more? Let me know and thank you!

  3. lana86

    January 7, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    “Everyone enjoys a vacation, but most are ready to get back to their routine and life as they left it. For a future expat, something is always missing when you get home, you miss that ‘far away’ feeling. You are still restless, still wanting more but not sure why or how to remedy it…The truth is, we don’t know why some of us have the urge to travel, to see the final frontier, to boldly go…”

    Wonderfully said! I completely agree. I’m an expatriate currently living in Europe, and I agree with everything you’ve said. I think it’s always interesting how expatriates always find so much in common with other expatriates, despite their original respective backgrounds.

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 12:52 am

      Yes indeed, we do share a lot through this experience and thank you for your kind words. Do share you stories, I’d love to compare notes! Happy travels to you, Lana!

    • Steph

      January 8, 2011 at 5:50 am

      Lana, same for me ! when visiting our expat friends in Romania, we found ourselves partying with their own circle of friends, after only 5 minutes spent together, we’d already established a strong bond ! because we are similar, irrespective of background and where we are coming from !
      That’s why I loved so much the movie ” l’ Auberge Espagnole ” ! 🙂

      @ Expatriotgames : well done again.

  4. Michi

    January 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    “For a future expat, something is always missing when you get home, you miss that ‘far away’ feeling. You are still restless, still wanting more but not sure why or how to remedy it. This may be the first sign that you are starting to become, as I like to say, ‘a citizen of the world’.”

    You nailed it right on the head!! Thank you!!
    When I returned to California after having lived in Spain for 2 years, I was restless, I was depressed, I wanted MORE of what was out there.
    This has actually given me a good idea for a future post; my dad always told me he envisioned me in New York, my mom always remembers how obsessed I was with Spain (and my little 9-year old brother is currently obsessed with France!!)
    It’s interesting, the genetics part you mentioned. I come from a long line of immigrant ancestors – they traveled from China, Italy, Spain, and the outcome was interracial children that weren’t very common back then. These children settled in Latin America. Their immediate children (my parents) ended up in the multicultural city of Los Angeles. And I grew up in a country that as much as I still love and adore today, I had the urge to fly and see what else what out there. Once I left it seems, there was no coming back. At least no yet! 🙂

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      Hello Michi, by all means…link away and thank you for representing the Latina-Californian voice of Spain and for your wonderful insights and comments. All the best to you and your students> They should be thrilled to have a teacher such as you, “keep on rolling”! ;0)

  5. Michi

    January 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    P.S. Do you mind if I add you on to the “Cool Beans” section of my blog? I love linking to other expat blogs, and your posts are awesome! 🙂

  6. frenchimmersion

    January 8, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I have to heartily agree with you too, my great grandfather was an expat and district commissioner in Africa, and I had never really made a link to the genetic bearing it may have had on me! My husband has just left for a temporary assignment in Nigeria for work and i am remaining in France with our 4 kids after our first year living the “french dream”, and friends back home have asked me why i haven’t got the first plane home. My answer is that I can’t, I cannot explain it but I haven’t finished with france yet, and nothing is drawing me back to the UK. There is too much to learn, and with my husband absent, i’m challenged to the hilt, but still can’t let go. Your article is true food for thought and well written.
    I’ve blogged month by month – “Total immersion – French style” but am about to set on a whole new chapter, Total immersion – Tout seul

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 8:14 am

      Yes, the genetic link is real and true, cheers to Grandpa, eh? Oooh, tout seul, sounds like a winner to me. Keep us posted et bon courage!

  7. frustratedmum

    January 9, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Love your blog. I’m an expat of over 12 years now in Belgium, and totally see that ‘sense of escape, do something different’ side of me that brought me here in the first place. Living abroad gave me the escape for a few years, but it has taken a long time to come to terms with, and accept that, you cannot actually run away from yourself (2 holiday homes later!). Now I love it here for what it is, and myself at the same time. Great to see a blog which actually talks you through the experience. Keep up the great writing! Lizzi

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Ah Belgique! My husband is Belgian, so we are there often. The food is fab and so I gain a few extra pounds in returning and we stock our coolers with all the goodies we can’t find in France. Glad you’re caught up to yourself now and happy! Thanks for your support, Liz and you do the same (keep writing)!

  8. seekingmisadventure

    January 9, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I just came across your blog today and really enjoy it. I’m not an expat but I am an avid traveler and can certainly appreciate the changes that occur every time you visit a new place and every time you go from being an outsider to becoming a part of a new community, one you might have never thought you could have belonged.
    Good luck and I look forward to reading your blog!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 5:35 am

      Thanks K.E. and happy travels to you too, my fellow travel-phile ;0)

  9. Renee

    January 10, 2011 at 6:50 am

    I love your blog! You are so inspiring. My travel experience is limited but your words in this post excite me because that is exactly how I feel. Everyone in my life right now don’t understand my desire to leave. So its nice to hear words like yours! Thank you!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:53 am

      What a delightful compliment, thanks so much Renee. It’s my job to do just that for you, so keep stoking your travel fires, you’ll get there, I just know it!


Have something to share?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: