Expats: does moving abroad make you happier?

For expats abroad, the grass isn’t always greener…or is it?

The above statement is a genuine question, I have no concept of how many of us out there harbour this notion. Are there many of us who dream of moving abroad?

Whilst I’m fairly content with the community and country I live in, I do get horrendously itchy feet now and again. Perhaps it’s because I’ve moved around a fair bit during my life. I’ve had 16 different homes in England, Malaysia and Singapore, and the latest one in Eversley, Hampshire, is the place I’ve stayed put the longest. Eight and a half years. Admittedly, I dream of the next jump and yet I try not to get swept away by the ideology that life would be better elsewhere. I know what it’s like to be somewhere warm and sunny and yet feel like something is missing. Still, I remain very nostalgic about my childhood abroad, and I have hang-ups about not giving my children a similar experience, one which revolves around outdoor living and swimming in warm oceans. I struggle during winter when we’re stuck inside and there’s little natural warmth and light (don’t we all?), and I have trouble accepting that’s just life.

This Easter, we took our three children to the other side of the world, to the island of Mauritius. My husband has an office there, he travels there three times a year to spend time with his team, and we were fortunate to stay in a house belonging to his business partner. This was our first big adventure since having our first baby eight years ago. Sure, we’d holidayed in France and Spain, but we hadn’t braved (or afforded!) long-haul. This was unknown and exotic, and it came with huge expectations of bonding, exploring, photographing and writing. It was my dream holiday, I vowed to fill every waking hour with something constructive and creative, and I also worried, what if I didn’t want to come home? What if I wanted to stay? What if the trip made me restless?

In Mauritius I had the good fortune of meeting Sophie Le Brozec, a British expat who is living on the island with her husband and two children. It wasn’t an accidental meeting, I’d followed her on social media for a few months prior to the trip. I’d discovered her Franglaise Mummy blog (now retired), and then been steered towards her Life Reboot Camp, an online course and supportive community for women out there needing a, well, reboot! I was intrigued and pretty much hooked on Sophie’s story and personality. Who is this woman? I wondered, I NEED to know more about her. I stalked her for a while and then signed up to her course. Why not? Don’t we all need a reboot?

Sophie on La Preneuse Beach, Mauritius

Sophie is a straight-talking, no-nonsense lady and she warns about expecting the grass to be greener on the other side of the world.

“I live in paradise and the grass isn’t greener here than in London,” she says, “I think this surprises people as they expect paradise to eradicate all possible problems. Recently I have Skyped friends and family back in the UK who have been surprised that I’m still dealing with the same parenting strife I had in London.

After all, changing location is only one tweak to your life. If you’re a stressy mummy you’re not going to suddenly win Zen Mum of the Year award. If your child is the king/queen of tantrums, just because you have palm trees in your garden, doesn’t mean that they’re going to suddenly chill right out.”

Sophie and her two daughters, La Preneuse Beach

Sophie’s point, and it’s a very good one, is that is depends on your REASON for wanting to move. She makes it very clear that she and her husband did not move to Mauritius to save their relationship, or because one of them was unhappy, or because something was wrong in their lives and needed fixing. In fact, they’d been through their tough times and were now in a good place. Their financial situation was finally stable and enabled them to live anywhere, as long as there was good internet access. Primarily, the move was due to the climate and the desire to raise their daughters bilingually.

They are wise words from someone who should know. Did I come back from Mauritius with a heavy heart, wanting to stay and set up a life there? Hmm, it crossed my mind, but right now it’s not on the cards, the majority of my husband’s work is here in England. Trust me, I’m not naïve, I can see that nowhere is perfect, there are pros and cons to every place. England isn’t warm and sunny enough, but on occasion, Mauritius can be far too hot some months, and it’s a heat that saps your energy and leaves you feeling lethargic. The south-east of England may be busy and hectic, and Mauritius is snoozy and laid-back…but is it a bit too much so? There are traffic jams here and trust me, there are traffic jams there. Bad weather here, and also bad weather there.

Sophie and her husband, enjoying their life in Mauritius

Still, the magic of outdoor living, the soothing presence of the Indian ocean and the new opportunities that would be open to my children remain stuck in my mind. Who knows? Maybe one day…

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