Learning to Love the Expat Life


At least once and sometimes many times a day I stop and wonder if this is all real.  There was so much paperwork and planning and stress before we got here that there was no time to contemplate what was coming.  As the plane touched down in Brussels after a long and extremely exhausting flight with a screaming child I had a moment of pure panic.  What the hell have we done?  My nerves settled quickly but that doesn’t mean those first couple of weeks weren’t stressful.  Things that were effortless back home sometimes seemed like insurmountable tasks here.  Finding milk that actually tasted like milk (aka “Ellia approved”).  Using the oven.  Using the washing machine.  Finding an apartment.  Making a package of noodles.  Buying chicken at the meat counter.  

European washing machine, expat life.

I’d like the “baby overalls” cycle please. With a side of flower. Thanks.

I quickly realized that everything here needs to be seen as a tiny little adventure, rather than an endless list of things that terrify or irritate me.  I all but danced a jig when I finally found the magical milk that Ellia will actually drink and my French has improved enough so that I can almost prepare packaged foods without the assistance of Google Translate.  On the other hand, my attempt at ordering a roasted chicken in French last week ended with the guy behind the counter giving me an irritated stare and saying “just say it in English”.  Burn.  But hey, I think he knew I wanted some form of chicken so that’s progress right?

View from our bedroom

I’ve stepped way out of my comfort zone more times than I can count.  I’ve started the long and apparently very slow (for me) process of learning a new language.  I’ve made new friends.  I’m learning to love a new city & a new country.  I often feel lonely and isolated and sometimes lost and confused.  But mostly I feel alive.  Life is good and each day here is a gift I plan not to take for granted.

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12 thoughts on “Learning to Love the Expat Life

  1. Nice blog!!
    I am also a new expat in Brussels.
    Now, 4 months after my arrival, I can say that most of paperwork and stress is finished and I am relaxing and enjoying this beautiful city.
    Good luck in your adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, congrats! Best of luck…house hunting is certainly much different here than in the states. Will you be in the city or surrounding Brussels? Please feel free to email me if you have questions, I’d be happy to give you input if I have any!

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      • Thanks- you’re a valuable resource! We’re just at the start of this so I don’t even know the neighborhoods yet. I was shocked to see there’s a Brussels Craigslist- who would’ve thought!

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      • I’ll have to check that out!!! Not sure the circumstances of your move but if you can work with a relocation company I would highly recommend it. We worked with one and our realtor was an invaluable asset. She found apartments for us ahead of time, had input on all the neighborhoods, and helped with every step of the process – from the housing contracts to setting up our cell phones, to cool places to take our daughter. Could not recommend it more!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You are definitely on the right path! Take on the challenges and enjoy the adventure! It’s not easy to live in a different continent at the beginning, but you’ll settle in. We didn’t have relocation service, but two little girls to find schools for in the Silicon Valley, I still remember how overwhelmed I was. In a couple years you’ll look back and cherish all the places you’ve seen and all the experiences you’ve made. Looking forward to hearing more of your stories. Hello from CA! Kathrin

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  3. I am so pleased to hear an upbeat perspective on moving to Belgium. We are thinking about starting expat adventure #2 in Brussels in a few months and all I keep thinking about is how hard it is as first. Reading your positive attitude helps me to (try) to keep things in perspective

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  4. Great post! Moving to a new country is so scary especially when you don’t speak the language! Look forward to hearing about more adventures!

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