In the middle of November, I wanted to write something to celebrate my nine-year anniversary of living in Florence. I almost canít believe that nine years have passed since I moved back to Florence after my five-year hiatus in the US. Most of my family and friends in the US define me as an expat although thatís not how I would describe myself even though by definition I am an expat. For me, an expat is someone who chooses to live in another country, embraces the new culture, speaks the countryís language, and adapts to its lifestyle.
Even though I am an expat, I actually feel like a local in both of my ďhomeĒ cities. I see myself as a part of the world I live in and not as a spectator of it. I try to always look past the faÁades, the stereotypes, and the differences between the locals and me. The people around me might have different customs or speak another language, but we are all essentially the same: we all want to follow our hearts and be happy.
For me, being a happy expat is not about the number of years I have lived in a country; itís how well I appreciate the culture, speak the language, and dive into my ďhomeĒ country without judgment.
After all these years (these past nine years plus the nine years I lived in France, England, and Italy from 1990-1999), I consider myself a happy expatriate. I love my life in Italy and France, which keeps my head and heart open and allows me to learn new things (in the culture, language, and customs). I am constantly being stimulated by my life overseas.
Living overseas has allowed me to discover who I truly am as well as to learn more about the world around me. My heart has been flung open so that I can discover, explore, and evolve. I now look beyond the surface, trust my instincts, and connect at a deeper level with others.
I hope that those who dream of living abroad will one day make the leap. Even if you donít live your entire life in another country, the experience of living in another place, even for a short period of time, can stimulate and inspire you in ways that you could never imagine.
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