The Transformation of Being an Expat

Becoming an expat, change happens whether you expect it or not. Depending where you are in the world, the change may be more extreme than others. You will go through an emotional change, your perspective on life may switch, and your physical appearance may change. Moving to Hong Kong, I was not sure what the journey entailed but was open to the new experiences ahead. Being an expat helped me change in more ways than one. Most importantly, it brought me back to life.

Being Western..and American, I knew all eyes were going to be on me. I had friends try to warn me that the Asian culture can be very vain and materialistic, focusing a lot on the outer appearance. With armor on, I braced myself for the judgement. Prior to moving to Asia, I wasn’t exactly 100% comfortable in my skin. I was by no means overweight but I wasn’t insanely fit or healthy either. I was so busy finishing up my Master’s and working full-time that I wasn’t focusing on myself. After moving to Hong Kong, the lifestyle (walking everywhereeee while sweating profusely) and food options (or lack there of) helped aid in weight loss. Over a few months, I began to notice a positive difference in my health and appearance. I even started to go to my condo’s gym and take local yoga classes. I was feeling better than I had in years; more energy, more endurance, and more confidence. Being the blunt culture that they are, one of my coworkers informed me that I wasn’t fat anymore..Ah, thanks buddy.

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This was the first peak to my healthier lifestyle. Cue the decline.

As I was just getting back into a healthier and stable lifestyle in Hong Kong, I picked up and moved to Korea for a new job. Moving from a bustling international city to a small Korean town, was a bit of a shock on all ends.

Stocked grocery stores with a variety of fruits and vegetables to small corner stores with overpriced rotten vegetables.

State of the art gyms to overpriced old school 80’s style gyms.

A pretty pleasant teaching position to an emotionally draining work environment.

My situation was not ideal, but my goodness did I try to pull myself through this.

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What people don’t realize is the highs and lows that expats experience. Outsiders see the pretty pictures we post but don’t know the day to day ebbs and flows. It’s a straight roller coaster, especially on your health. Settling to unsettling. Culture shock to reverse culture shock. It’s apart of the game but it doesn’t make it any easier. Korea wrecked havoc on my body. From drinking excessively, sleeping irregularly, having an imbalanced diet, and raging stress, my body was shot. My hair was falling out, I had chronic fatigue, and a weak immune system. Korea was all around unkind and I didn’t know how to repair it.

A stint in Bali helped bring the balance back. Two weeks alone to recharge was EXACTLY what I needed; daily yoga, organic fresh meals, and meditation. Under the jungle canopy, I vowed that America would not drag me back down again upon my return. I was terrified to fall back into my old habits but my intentions were set. I am pleased to report that the black lung from Hong Kong is gone, my chronic fatigue has disappeared, and I am in the best shape I have ever been. Granted, I still enjoy my American treats but have learned that moderation is key.

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If being an expat has taught me anything, it’s that physical and emotional health is a crucial component to living a happy life.  Nothing could have prepared me for the transformation, good or bad. However, it taught me to listen to my body. If you don’t like what’s going on or how you’re feeling, change it. Your surroundings and circumstances may change but you ulimately have the power of how you handle the change.