So, you have friends or family members living abroad. They belong neither to their adopted or their homeland. They are caught in the middle, confused souls, who often want to return, but can’t, or desire to linger on just a little longer.
Whatever the case, from images you have seen of their unending vacations, tweets, beach trips, sparkling faces, scuba dives, tidy houses and fancy cars, here are some of the myths associated with them, demystified.
1. Life is a party.
However attractive your friend’s facebook check-ins look every Friday night, chances are it is just at a café near their home, as they could not venture far because it was snowing or pouring badly. While you imagine them dancing to some feet tapping number, they are actually quietly nursing a drink, whining about the bad weather all through the week, or silently eating their dinner.
2. They make new friends every day.
While their so-called friends might well have very interesting names, most likely they are just colleagues from their workplace. Living abroad you quickly realize that everybody has clear-cut priorities and boundaries and you may not be hanging out with same people every day, unlike back home. Of course, you do make some friends, but it often takes far longer for you to jell than at home.
3. They have unlimited free time.
You do have lot of free time on your hands when you live abroad, but then also you do not have the luxuries of fresh home cooked meals, nor do have somebody to tend to your plants or vacuum the house, or do the dishes. So the free time you have goes into these chores everyday.
You do your yoga, but only after stuffing your dishes in the dishwasher or clothes in the laundry room downstairs. You read a book on a lovely afternoon after scraping some time following a trip to the grocery store six miles away, just to buy a particular spice.
4. They have become a foreigner.
It’s not surprising how many people assume that you have taken a leaf out of your fellow foreigner friends and embraced their ways. A trip back home and your friends and family members begin to tease you playfully that you have started behaving or even looking like a foreigner. You have picked up an accent perhaps, if only to make yourself understood, or prefer bottled water or boiled food because your stomach is more sensitive.
5. They are minting money.
Expecting your friends to mint money in a foreign land is not unlike doing exercises and hoarding up on rich food. It is pointless and immaterial. The exchange rate is the one thing that attracts people to distant lands and to linger longer in the hope of hoarding some money. Sadly thought, if they are earning in dollars, they are spending in the same currency. Posturing for the folks back home adds to the costs, as do those tickets home.
6. They vacation six months in a year.
True, they do vacation a lot more abroad, but then mostly in the summer months as the winters in the West are dark and dreary. Also some NRIs come for short terms, so they want to see everything before they need to pack their bags again. Also the reason they plan so many trips abroad is because there is not much to do at home as they don’t have buddies.
7. They are just plain lucky.
Most likely, it is an opportunity, job prospect, live in partner, marital bliss, family move or just financial considerations that prompt a person to move abroad, not mere luck. Behind the flashy pictures is immense hard work, petty jobs, language classes, overtime shifts on weekends, weather blues, culture shock and food cravings.
8. Their daily life is happening.
A far cry from it. Infact it is very monotonous, like life anywhere. They begin their day looking at weather predictions and end it the same was in anticipation of the next day. Their last text messages are from a spouse reminding them of the laundry or their boss reemphasizing the project deadline. They sit in a bus erect, staring into their phones unmindful of the people around them. They return home headphones plugged into their ears, reminiscing the last trip back home.
9. They have become health freaks.
Looking at the sculpted bodies, few bellies and those toned biceps, they do get tempted to watch their weight and diet a little bit, but few go overboard. The Yoga they did back home is followed rigorously by crunches too. The time they squeezed in for a quick treadmill run may be replaced by a 3 km run at the nearest park. They still can’t stay away from the rich staple food and those delicious sweets.
10. They have starry airs now.
People grow when they are abroad. That is often mistaken for having changed, or becoming pompous. Adjusting to a new profession and formal way of life drives many into a shell and makes them a tad introverted. Mostly, the lack of friends makes them more introvert than was true at home.
11. They have forgotten home for good.
Quite the opposite. NRIs abroad follow home developments far more zealously — news updates about the elections, epidemics, sports telecasts, weather conditions, festivals. The ability not to be there during a festival, national day or just a particular season or a wedding makes them feel morose and lost.
12. They will never come back.
Finally, the last one, the tearful and unpredictable one. That they have gone for good, that they can’t adjust in the motherland anymore. The answers vary. Sometimes even the person doesn’t know when he is returning. At times he can’t, but wants to. Bound by priorities, responsibilities, a separate identity or just a time lapse, they go abroad, unsure of their future.
In pursuit of dreams, love and career NRIs change countries, home and even an identity, but the inner core endures. The kid who bruised his knees in the backyard and now wears a tuxedo to his friend’s wedding; the girl who tied her hair in plaits does hair extensions for big celebrities; the parents who raised their child alone in a small town, now take long walks alone by the beach; the nerd who solved the puzzles in math at school, now a CEO at a multi dollar firm.