Playing the Skins: The Expat’s Second Chance At Life

As adults we rarely get the chance for a “do over”.

When you move overseas, you are, to a greater or lesser extent, given the chance to change who you are. You can try on different masks, and be someone you’ve always wanted to be. You can change your skin, or slip on other masks. I like to think of this as, “playing the skins”. No, I’m not suggesting you become some hipster, Greenwich Village Jazz drummer. I am suggesting that you can, if you like, experiment with various aspects of your personality.

You can’t completely erase your life, but you can take chances you might not have been comfortable with at home.

If you’ve always wanted to try a particular hobby, picking up a new sport, or attending classes is a great way to meet people with similar interests. Chances are also good that you’ll learn all sorts of things about not just said avocation, but also about your new home and your new neighbors.

Depending on where you’ve moved, you might need to buy a whole new wardrobe, either for style/cultural reasons, or because the climate is drastically different. If you’ve always been a pantsuit type of girl, now might be the ideal time to switch to skirts. And if you’ve always been a pants kind of guy, moving to Scotland could mean…..

For us, one of the best things about Dublin has been living without a car. For Americans, even in most big cities, the mere thought is sacrilege. But it’s been liberating in too many ways to count. Trust me when I tell you that living without auto insurance, parking hassles, repair woes, the soul crushing obsession with “isolation by auto”, and the perceived (control freak) “need” to get everywhere on a schedule set by me has been genuinely liberating.

Moving to a new country almost always necessitates some changes and tweaks to one’s diet. If not a full on overhaul, it will surely demand a few shifts in brand loyalty, and an adjustment in the supply chain. If you’ve always wanted to eat more fruit/veg/meat (whichever), now may be a good time to go down that road. Your new home may be ideally (or horribly) suited to the task.

And, if you’ve always wanted to get in shape, the gym is a great place to meet your neighbors. Finding an exercise partner is an excellent way to make local friends. And cycling, running, and swimming are often good ways to get to know the area.

And, of course, if you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, what better place to learn it than while speaking it regularly in your new home? Immersion in real life is unquestionably the best method of language study and practice.

Not only may expat life be more conducive to these things (different foods, a new language, better public transport, etc.), but something about the process of resetting major parts of our lives as we adjust to a new culture seems to make it easier to fiddle with the small stuff too.

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
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