Life is hard on the continent. You have masses of unemployment; about 25 million people. That is more than the population of Romania, and that country is big, very big. Students are shipped out of their comfortable student housing after college and then straight into social housing. Far away from city centers and bars they used to frequent; that sweet period of life living in that bubble of naïveté. Their diplomas are deemed worthless by employers that only want the best and getting a degree has turned into a tricky investment, like buying stock in a startup. If you are willing to move to get a job, you need at least fluency in several languages to succeed. When you find one, try keeping it. A computer can do most work cheaper and more efficient, so always be ready to get kicked out to the street. Academia thus creates a generation of beggars with a piece of paper in hand. The ebb and flow of a European country's economy decides which fish will swim, and who gets left on the beach to dry up, slowly. All the while, to the amazement of many, lots of people from Africa and the Middle East wash up on our shores, supposing paradise.
For more and more people, this unstable, insecure way of living has become rule. When you read the papers, and follow the news, it's often the plight of these have-nots that is addressed. But for a reader, it's also often an obsession of journalists we are confronted with. There is a large part of society that I'd like to call the happy few. And they are not few. Their voices are often not heard in the media, even though they are big media consumers. They are people who don't always feel they owe anything to those that can't keep up with the never-lasting speed of a heartless economy that leaves many behind. Instead, they have busy lifestyles with full agendas to tend to, demanding jobs and spouses. There is a demand for their empathy from people that need it, or feel like it is owed to them. Who will write about those that feel like they don't owe anything?
Only a few can. In any society that ever existed, there have always been winners and losers. Often, the winners are not really winners. Most people work hard to get where they are, and stay there. It is called the middle class. When you work hard, you hopefully get to pick the fruits of your labor; why is there always someone frowning upon you, next to someone holding out their hand? It seems the way it has become on the continent. When two parts of society are moving ever further apart, it is reasonable to say that its members will do too. Contact between the two decreases, and the opinions that they have of one another can become more extreme, because it is not influenced by any reasoning from the other side. What stands then between the two of them, and has an unbiased, yet intellectual opinion? It is the expat.
Expats have a nice life. Thoughts that run through their mind on a daily basis are of the kind of: if I do this or that, will it look too snobby? Should I stay in the same neighborhood I've lived in, or move to a nicer one? Should I get a bigger house? Should I try vacationing further from home, or get myself some expensive clothes? It is a class of society that is quite apart from everything else, kind of like a diaspora of people that policy makers never worry about. They settled into a life of work far from home, not taking life in itself too seriously. Their time off is what they live for more, always planning to discover something new and exciting about the place where they settled. They have some money, and are willing to spend it. The locals they meet are often highly educated and worldly, ever able and willing to give an honest and unbiased opinion on their country.
Expat life is exciting too. It's like your first day at high school. You have no friends, and everything is new. That feeling can be scary. Since an expat is no child, a capacity to make something out of the situation is dormant. They just have to wake it up. This calls for will and putting creativity to use. It's nothing like rolling into a steady job after college, where nothing really changes much, apart from a larger paycheck. First off comes a feeling of loneliness due to having free time and no one to spend it with. A feeling of urgency washes over them to immediately start getting to know as much people as they can. Who wants to be lonely? After a while the expat starts treasuring this new-found alone time. Phone-calls back home become less frequent and the friends they thought they shared a great bond with start replying less and less.
It seems lots of people will forget about your existence, once you step out of the circle they move in. Something Facebook has no answer for. This is what expats deal with all the time. But the true friends survive; they can be very few in number from the ones that had abandoned you, and you never expected that they would give you the cold shoulder so quickly. But the distance to where home used to be is so long that life doesn't seem to run parallel to theirs anymore. The tempo of the new place is different. It is often slower. With a job that demands your steady attention and new places and people to discover in your free time, good memories from home will begin to fade. This is due to the flow of time, and there is not much you can do about it. This doesn't mean those memories are worthless. It just means that they won't support you forever.
As memories fade, an expat’s view on the world will become forward looking and the focus will become more on what lays around him and in front of him. The air, sun and everything that is beautiful will touch his core, and a newfound inspiration and appreciation will build up inside.
Expats are often on the hunt for a challenge. Seeking one is what made them expats in the first place. Even while living abroad for a while, they will want to escape from this new dullness of life. With moving to another country, they never escaped being part of the working masses, and being unique abroad will fail to stay fresh. They are still worker bees. People that produce something on a daily basis - lots of times without using much of their brains. Is that what they studied for all this time? What they sweat for? All those teachers giving them a hard time?
This feeling will pass and revive an appreciation for this new place called home. This feeling they will radiate towards the people around them, and ones from their past will often making these people envious. Expats that have turned over a new leaf in their lives will separate people that are true to them from the fake ones. With that, it can feel, and maybe is, a new start in life. Who is not hoping for that sometimes? Often you gain more than you lose, because you never really lose everything you used to be. From a certain age, say mid-twenties, certain traits and characteristics that will have shaped you are hard to shed. Certain memories and experiences we carry with us are too grand to shake off. Even moving to another country won't change that.
But do ask him of his opinion on something, anything, and he will sure try and give you a good effort.