A few days ago I attended an Expat Fair in Amsterdam. It was full of interesting stands and workshops (and several others just more commercial). But one presentation in particular got me both laughing and thinking... Greg Shapiro is the American-Dutch comedian who gave his voice to Trump in the viral video 'America First, but Netherlands second', launched a while ago. During his short presentation/show at this Expat Fair, he mentioned how expats suffer from 'MND'. My first reaction was one of curiosity; what is this?! He explained: MND stands for 'Multiple Nationality Disorder' :)
Indeed, once you have the experience of living abroad for at least a couple of months, you will never again feel that you can fully integrate back into your own nationality. This gets even stronger, if you have lived abroad for several years and/or in multiple countries. Whether you want it or not, you will start carrying with you a bit of each place you have lived in.
Some also talk about the 'reverse cultural shock'. In the same way you will probably face some cultural challenges every time you move to a different country, there is a somewhat similar feeling whenever you go back to your home country.
Living abroad opens people to new experiences; it proves that you are up to the challenges, that you can adjust, be more open-minded, learn from what that country has that is different ... and even value more some of the things you had back home. You can make friends from all around the world, get rid of expectations from your original culture and re-invent yourself (We even have some workshops on that). You will forever carry all those experiences with you.
Initially, 'Multiple Nationality Disorder' might make you feel lonely, as you could think you no longer fit well into any specific national group. But the number of expats has been growing significantly over the past years and is foreseen to accelerate even more. The forecast from market research and consultancy firm Finaccord* is that in 2021 (just 2 years from now) there will be 87,5 million expats worldwide, representing more than 1% of worldwide population. This means there are almost 90 million people probably suffering from the same 'condition' as you. It is not surprising therefore to see so many expat groups and communities popping up all over the globe. Expats are their own tribe (which does not mean you will feel you want to be friends with all of them); but this is the most likely group where you will feel understood. Obviously, any 'local' with some international experience can also fit into this group. They are actually 'expats in disguise'...
If you recognise these 'symptoms of MND' or have other opinions about it, do share it with us below. I'd love to hear from you. The good news is that, like with most conditions, you don't need to get cured; you can just (happily) live with it! Enjoy your MND! :D
* July 2018, https://www.financialplanningtoday.co.uk/news/item/9023-global-expat-numbers-set-to-soar-to-87-5m-by-2021
Disclaimer: The expression 'Multiple Nationality Disorder' (MND) is a wordplay on the medical condition of 'Multiple Personality Disorder', a mental disorder better known today as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This article does not wish to imply that MND constitutes any type of medical condition or disease. MND is not a medical disorder. However, the indicators associated with MND are real and some may, under certain circumstances, refer to actual medical conditions, such as anxiety or phobias.
(First published on: 15 October 2019. Disclaimer added on: 7 August 2020.)
This article has also been featured/inspired the following articles at Expat Republic and Wittenborg University.
Write a comment
Jay Fontenelle (Tuesday, 15 October 2019 11:44)
I am in agreement with you....very much!
I realize that I am learning even more about myself and putting the pieces together.
Dora Zupka (Tuesday, 15 October 2019 16:50)
I don't really like the word "disorder" to describe this phenomenon. It sounds negative, like it should not be this way when things are "in order". I love how my personality and outlook on things has been formed by living in 4 different countries and having friends from all around the world. A better term should be found to describe this! :D
Humberto Leal (Wednesday, 16 October 2019 15:02)
É muito salutar ver de fora para dentro e de diferentes ângulos, isso dá-nos várias prespectivas do que se passa dentro e podemos assim compreender melhor o nosso canto e mundo em que vivemos.
Filipe (Friday, 07 August 2020 21:44)
How accurate and brilliant is this article! As french born with Portuguese background I have suffered from two absolute distinct, quite opposite cultures. For many years the cartesian, rational and critical culture had taken over the Portuguese Background, more lenient. It was only when I lived in London that I found the equilibrium to balance the two in a neutral zone. It has to do with politics. France is deeply centralised, multiculturalism is not allowed.
Now I assume french nationality on cultural background only and promote the Portuguese side wherever I go.
Well done for this article!