Design Your Life
The Black Expat: My Life Abroad Is ‘Crazy, Wild, And Exciting’
By DeAnna Taylor
Meet Joel from Chicago. After studying Japanese and Chinese in college, he made it a goal to live and work abroad. He currently lives in Japan, where he works as an English Assistant Language teacher in the public school system.
Joel has lived abroad for five years. He spent two years in China and the last three in Japan. During this time, he has been able to travel to India, Thailand, and Malaysia.
We spoke with him about his life abroad as a Black expat:
Travel Noire: Why did you make the move abroad?
Joel: I moved abroad originally because I was always interested in Chinese and Japanese culture. The second reason was to generate income after college.
Travel Noire: What challenges have you faced as a Black man in Asia?
Joel: The challenges I’ve faced as a Black man abroad have been minimal to my race and more so to my mindset of doing things. The problems I’ve had would be from me not being patient for a certain outcome, not handling a situation correctly due to my actions or words, or just lack of work ethic.
The most valuable lesson I have learned is people only work with those they like and trust. Be hardworking, trustworthy, and spend time finding solutions over complaining, so time is spent wisely.
Travel Noire: What have been the positives?
Joel: The positives are that I have been lucky enough to be born in a country that allows me to be able to travel almost anywhere around the world. The gratitude I have for the life I live, in comparison to people I’ve seen around the world who have it way worse than I can ever imagine and can still put a genuine smile on their face. My gratitude is sky high, and I can’t complain about the hardships.
Travel Noire: How does your life abroad compare to your life back in the States?
Joel: The decisions we make are even more crucial because now we are under the jurisdiction of another country. Being in the states, I knew the culture, the way to do things and how people think. In another country, being able to adapt is extremely important because not being able to either means living a negative life or having to leave. Life abroad is much more unpredictable, wild, crazy, fun and exciting than before because traveling is awesome. Even the hardest experiences I’ve had while traveling, in hindsight, have become my best memories. Stories that we can tell about our past adventures aren’t fun if there’s no craziness involved.
Travel Noire: What has been the most memorable moment since being abroad?
Joel: My most memorable moment would be from my first year in China. I was lazy and had that American pride, thinking I was the man. My boss at the time, an older Swedish guy, sat me down and told me that if I didn’t get my act together, he’d be the one to kick me out of China. For a man, to hear another man tell you what you need to hear, is the best feeling ever.
My boss also let me know that to live in a place is to be in love with the people there. You’ll never fall in love with the city no matter how cool, modern, or even “old school” it might be. You stay because you care about the people and the people care about you.
Travel Noire: Do you have any advice for those wanting to transition to the expat life?
Joel: I get messages from people asking if they’ll be treated bad or weird because they are Black. The straight answer is maybe. However, if we think that we might not be liked because of what we look like, instead of going in and truly focusing on having the time of our lives, then that is what we will attract. Life is short, you’re not promised tomorrow and to spend any time thinking about negative events in the future that have not happened yet is not worthy of your time.
Travel Noire: Where can we find you on social media?
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.