Elizabeth Gilberts has been living abroad as an expat for some time and her expat journey is worth reading about, from her native home of Scotland to her current residence in The Netherlands and everywhere in between.
Tell us a little about yourself,
Where do you live now and how long have you been there?
I am currently living in Utrecht in the Netherlands. We arrived here in December 2018 after 8 years in south-east Asia.
What do you love about where you live now?
I love cycling everywhere in the city – it’s so easy and accessible. The Dutch are super fast so you have to watch out! At the moment it is summer and the weather has heated up tremendously. However, most houses here do not have air conditioning so it can feel very hot!
What brought you to this location?
It was a new contract for my husband. Utrecht wasn’t our first option but the schools we were looking at were all full, except International school Utrecht. This school is part of the Dutch International School system – so it is partially funded by the government.
How it all began
Where was your first assignment, how long were you there?
Well, I moved to Nottingham from Edinburgh after I finished uni and that was the start of my expat journey!! I lived there for 3 years where I met my husband and we moved back to Edinburgh.
Seriously, ours is a slightly different story to the normal expat – my husband, nor I were moved with our jobs/companies – we chose to move. Originally my husband did fancy the Netherlands, but as I was working as a podiatrist at the time it was too difficult for me as I would have had to have been very proficient at Dutch to get my health registration for the country, so I said no. He was working on a project that was based in Singapore and the more he worked on it the more he liked the sound of the place. At the end of the project we went to Singapore for a holiday, whilst he finished the project up. I really fell in love with the weather, lifestyle etc.
He did what he needed to do to get a job in Singapore and I secured a job working in Tan Tock Seng Hospital – I had no idea what a travelling spouse was. My husband had a 6-month contract, but we didn’t let that deter us; we sold our house in Scotland and moved halfway around the world for an adventure. Fortunately, my husband secured another contract after the 6 months were up.
We did say to ourselves at the time – what if it doesn’t work out? Our answer: we’ll just move back! It did work out for us and I gave up my job as a Podiatrist to retrain as a swim teacher and I thoroughly enjoy it. After 4 years we moved from Singapore to Malaysia (another new job for the husband) and we stayed there for 4 years. We never travelled outside of South east Asia when we lived there. My kids hadn’t seen Europe since they were 3 and 4.5 years old! Now we are here – they are loving it and bizarrely the weather too! Fortunately, I can work in the Netherlands and I am now learning the language as we have lived abroad and stayed here until the kids finish school.
What was your reason for moving abroad in the first place?
Adventure and to let the kids see other parts of the world and experience things we never got to.
Did you travel alone, with kids or with a partner? How would you describe your first experience?
We travelled as a family. I did move to Nottingham on my own – that was harder to settle into as a 22-year-old than moving to a different country and culture with 2 kids and husband in tow!
The expat adventure
Where have you lived so far?
(Nottingham) Singapore, Malaysia, Netherlands
What advice could you give someone who is about to embark on a new posting?
Take your time to settle in – don’t rush it. Explore as much as you can. Join different groups and don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
What is the best advice anyone has given you?
I’m not sure I have received any direct advice, but I am sure on more than one occasion it has been said to not be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
How has being an expat changed you?
I am more tolerant of a lot of things. I am even more thirsty for travelling than I was before we embarked upon living abroad. Now, we get to explore Europe!
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