My Expat Story: Erin El-Tawil

At Global Living Magazine we want to connect with our readers — know what you’re all about, what you love, where you’ve been and where you’re going. The best way to do this? Hear it straight from YOU!

We received an email from American expat Erin El-Tawil, who currently lives in Fukui, Japan. In 2012, Erin moved from Houston, Texas to Fukui where she now works as an English teacher in a public Japanese high school.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 1.48.47 PMWhat’s your favorite part of expatriate life?

My favorite part of living as an expatriate is the challenge and opportunity for growth. When I moved to Japan in the fall of 2012 I didn’t quite realize the impact of what I was doing. I was moving to a country that I knew nothing about, had never visited before, and didn’t speak the native language. I thought I would learn some new Japanese expressions, see some cool places, and return home to the United States.

The challenge of living in a foreign country was something I thought little about. However, I am challenged daily. I am challenged to let go of my pride and following cultural etiquette I don’t fully agree with. I am challenged to be brave and try things I never thought would be required of me. I am challenged to be flexible in a world I am continuing to grow to understand. I love the growth that comes with that.

What’s been the hardest part?

The hardest part has to be living far from my family. In the two and a half years that I have lived in Japan, one sister has graduated from college, my two sisters have both gotten married, my first niece was born, my dad was in a near life threatening accident, and 2 grandparents have passed away. It’s hard to be so far away from family and feel like you are missing these huge milestones in their life.

I have gotten much better at being deliberate with communication. Japan and Texas is a 14-hour time difference, so our windows to talk are very small. Being far away has shown me which relationships are worth putting the effort for and which aren’t.

Where have you lived around the world? Favorite places?

I grew up in Texas in the United States. I now live in rural Japan as an English teacher. I have traveled extensively through Asia now. Some of my favorite places are Cambodia, Austin Texas, Kyoto Japan, and Indonesia.

Where do you want to move eventually?

I do want to move back to Austin for a few years at least to be close to my family. I’m not sure exactly when, but I have a feeling it is coming soon.

After that I don’t have any definitive plans. I don’t see myself as someone who will live in one place for too long. I would love to live for a short while in Indonesia, but not permanently. I would also really love to learn to speak Spanish better, so maybe somewhere in South or Central America.

What is your sense of home?

For me home is a place that gives you rest. At the end of a working day at my school, my apartment is my home. After a few years of living away from Texas and its glorious food, eating fajitas at my favorite Mexican restaurant tastes like home. After a long vacation to Southeast Asia, getting off the train in my Japanese town is home. After a long plane ride from Japan to Texas seeing my family at the airport arrivals gate is home.

Share anything you’d like us to hear.

Living as an expatriate isn’t easily fully understood by people who have never lived abroad. I definitely couldn’t have predicted the crazy things that have happened to me in the last few years or what I have learned about myself in the process.

I know my experiences in Japan have forever changed me and it makes me wonder what life experiences are waiting for me in other countries. I have so much that I don’t understand about the world and the people that live in it. I am eager to travel and grow. I can’t imagine my life any other way now.

Keep up with Erin’s expat adventures by reading her blog, www.breathingmeansmore.com or follow her on Instagram @breathingmeansmore.

If you’d like to be featured on our ‘My Expat Story’ section, send an email to us at info@globallivingmagazine.com and tell us about your experience as an expatriate by answering the above questions. Don’t forget to include your Twitter handle so we can help you connect with other expats from around the world!


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