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  • Writer's pictureDmitry Milashchuk

Expat’s life is not necessarily for everyone

Once I heard from a colleague of mine: "Living in Geneva is quite a burden for me and my family. We would rather come back home". The statement had surprised me a lot - cause their home wasn't exactly Auckland or Singapore, but rather small industrial town in Eastern Europe. Still, small things, day-to-day life in different culture, with no close friends or relatives nearby, was so challenging for them, that they were seriously considering an option to return.

At that moment I realised that not everyone is equally excited about this living abroad experience as I am. I live as an expat for almost 15 years and appreciate a lot the diversity of cultures, frequent moves and general instability of future destinations. For that period I have changed 2 countries, 4 cities and 7 different homes. My wife and son have even higher scores on such counting - but it is a different story.

My expat career started in spring of 2006, when I got a call from HQ of the company, I was working in Ukraine. They were asking if I'm interested in the short term assignment in Serbia, for maximum 12 months project. At that time I knew approximately nothing about that country and had steady and well paid HR Manager position. We moved in to our own apartment we just bought. Nevertheless it took me around 5 sec to say “Yes".

I didn't know then that it was a beginning of 15 years journey and I will not return to that new apartment. There will be homes in Belgrade and Geneva, international teams and multimillion projects to manage, business trips to more than 40 countries. But all of these will come later, I didn't really plan for such life signing my first international contract.

The conclusion I made after those years is that most important features of expat's behaviour are flexibility and willingness to take risks. Be ready to take a leap of faith and trust your decisions, even though they can totally change your life and life of your family.

What was the most difficult, when you moved to another country? Or, if you just planning to, what is your biggest fear?

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