The Annual Expat Migration

By alison - August 23, 2007 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

Andrew and I have just returned from three weeks of summer vacation in Eastern Canada. Back in Belgium, as August is drawing to a close, autumn seems to be already in the air.

Although we’ve heard about the annual autumn expat migration, this is the first year we’ve felt its impact on us. This year, it seems, friends near and far are moving on.

Whether it’s your family packing up boxes or you are saying goodbye to parting friends, expat life is a temporaryl thing. Expats have many reasons to move on – Contracts come to an end; new employment opportunities arise; relationships begin and end; children are born and get older; and for some, a more permanent home beckons.

Meanwhile, back home, life also moves on… even when you aren’t there to witness it.

Visiting Canada this past month, Andrew and I saw that life had quietly kept moving on while we were busy living in Belgium. Our friends and family have moved and spread out. Babies have been born and started walking and talking without us being there to witness it. Andrew’s parents have moved out of the city, his little sister has her own place now, and his brother and sister-in-law have moved closer to home. My Mom has retired and now she and my Dad are working tirelessly on their yard and garden.

When Andrew and I returned to Belgium, we found that the expat migration was already in full swing. Last week, one of my first expat friends returned to the States to continue her education. Others will follow in the coming months.

Our wonderful Belgian neighbours have also moved to the next village. Although they haven’t gone far we will miss our spontaneous get-togethers.

Fortunately, not all of the moving about will be sad for us. We hear our new neighbours are also expats and we look forward to meeting them and swapping stories.

Andrew also has a Canadian colleague who has accepted the challenge of working from the Belgian office for six months. His girlfriend will join him in a month. Andrew and I look forward to helping them overcome their own expat challenges (not to mention having some fellow Canucks to spend time with).

As we step back and look at our own expat lives, Andrew and I can see that we are moving on also. We have agreed to extend Andrew’s contract for a few more years. We’ve made our temporary home look a lot more permanent over the past few months. We have made new friends and we have advanced in our careers.

I guess whether you are there to notice it or not, life for everyone is slowly but surely moving on.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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