Most of us know a person that comes from another place, that wasn't born and raised where they are currently living, in short, an expat.
We like these people, they bring a whole new set of experiences and ideas to the table. They have a different way of seeing the world and relating to the things that we take for granted. Hanging out with expats gives us a chance to experience our day to day lives from a whole new perspective.
Yes, expats are cool but what the hell do we give them for their birthdays, Christmas or indeed any other time we feel like showing them how much we appreciate them and want to show it by finding that special something.
In order to answer this question, you first need to understand what it is like to be an expat.
If you have traveled for an extended period of time then you probably have a good understanding of what it means to be away from friends and family and the culture you grew up in. People that have chosen to live away from their home have the same struggles you might have encountered on your travels. These struggles basically center around the feeling that people don't understand you, they don't get you. This feeling can manifest its self in many ways, for example, the inability to communicate that you are lost and need help getting to your destination or that you simply don't feel like you can share your stories or experiences because your background is so different that people won't understand. There are struggles with living away from home but also huge benefits ... that is why people choose to live as expats in the first place!
To survive and thrive as an expat means you have to fit in. You have to find a way of letting enough of your own personality and culture shine through without overwhelming everyone around you. We all want to fit in and we all want to be seen for who we are. These two things don't necessarily go hand in hand and this is the constant struggle of the expat.
So how can you help your favorite expat fit in and stand out at the same time?
Food is such an integrated part of our culture and daily lives. For many, different culinary experiences are a huge motivation for traveling. That said, sometimes you don't want to be challenged by your breakfast, sometimes you just want the thing that you are used to eating, something that reminds you of home. Enter the food subscription service!
There are lots of different food subscription services! this could be a great way of giving your expat a "taste of home". However, They will need a stable address otherwise constantly updating the address for the subscription service will become a nightmare and some countries have very strict rules on what food products are allowed to come into the country.
Living away from your home, family and friends usually means you spend a lot of time by yourself ... at least until you start to meet new people. Maybe you could help fill in those long hours by gifting your expat a streaming service?
Now, I am not suggesting that you encourage them to spend every waking moment in their own world, cut off from the culture they are living in but I am suggesting that expat life can be hard, sometimes its really nice to be able to shut out the outside world and take a break. I have been living overseas for a number of years in different countries and I can assure you that its not always sunshine and roses! sometimes all you want to do is just switch off and not be constantly reminded that you are a long way from home. A subscription to a streaming service like Netflix or Spotify might just give your expat the chance to take a time out and recharge. Remember that if your expat is struggling with learning a new language it can be exhausting, and sometimes all they will want to do is relax and watch or listen to something that does not require a huge mental effort to understand!
If the person you are buying for loves to read then maybe should consider the Amazon Kindle. The Kindle is an e-reader, think a lightweight tablet that you can download digital books onto. There are literally thousands of books available as e-books and Kindle does not take up much room and you can have as many books with you as you want. This is great for expats because if you are living in a different place it might not be possible to find books you want to read or books you are cable of reading.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, enjoying your time as an expat is all about striking the right balance between fitting in and still being true to your self and where you come from. You want to be unique ... just like everyone else!
I have found that the hardest part of living away from home is sharing your story. Telling people where you are from and what life is like there compared to the experiences you have had in the place you are living now. This seems easy enough, just open your mouth and start talking right?
Well, sometimes it can be easier just to say nothing because the situation or experience you want to describe is just so far removed from the day to day reality of where you are living now that it can be intimidating just starting the conversation, sometimes it is easier to just say nothing.
Every expat likes to be asked about where they are from because it gives them a chance to tell their story, it means that they don't have to hide where they come, it gives them a chance to stand out and show that they are unique but without forcing it on people because someone else asked them. I have been in this situation many times, you spend some much time and effort trying to fit in that you completely neglect who you are and where you come from but neglecting your own identity never plays out well in the long run. What you really want as an expat is to be seen for the person you are and here is where a map can help.
Maps are beautiful visualizations of physical places. We are all used to navigating using maps but they are also a great way of showing where we are from without being too in your face.
Hanging a map on your wall, of the places you have been or the place you come from gives people that visual cue that might need to start a conversation. Maybe they themselves have been to the same place as you?
you might discover you have more in common than you thought.
Displaying a map on your wall is a personal statement about who you are and where you come from, and making this kind of statement becomes increasingly important when you are living away from home. The nice thing about hanging a map on your wall is that it says a lot about who you are but its not too in your face. Holiday photos say a lot about you as a person but they are very personal and might seem a little comforting.
Think about the kind of questions you ask someone you have met for the first time, you don't often start the conversation by asking to see photos of them in a swimsuit, but you might ask where they are from or where they have been.
Most expats will not travel with all of their home decors and will likely be interested in personalizing their new home. I map on the wall could be that personal touch that will remind them of home, and help start those all-important conversations about who they are and where they are from when meeting new people.
Maps are not going away anytime soon, we will always need a way of visually orientating ourselves and inspiring pieces for art to decorate our homes with. This is why a map might just be the perfect gift for your expat.