Expat Life

How to find your ‘Moai’ as an expat?

Expatriation Series – Episode 1

Have you ever heard of the term ‘Moai’? What does it mean and how could this be related to expatriation?

1. Experiencing a new culture

Moving abroad is such a fantastic adventure! We leave our home country, full of hope, dreams, fantasies and of course loads of expectations. Some of them may be right, others not so much. And that is exactly when we may go through the now popular ‘culture shock‘.

The initially euphoric stage known as ‘Tourist Stage‘, when nearly everything is sunshine and rainbows, may be followed by a dramatic plunge. A deep sense of loss starts kicking in. You miss your friends, family, habits, and you may realise that your usual behaviours are misunderstood in the new culture. You feel somehow deprived of your identity since the image of you the locals send you back does not reflect who you are usually.

When you move into an unfamiliar environment, your old habits are uprooted which in turn leads to a very disturbing inadequacy. This may cause psychological uncertainty, really tough to face in an unknown culture where no one seems to respond the same way you usually do.

2. Finding your ‘Moai’

A solution to this painful drawback could be to find your ‘Moai’. So what is this?

In Japan, there is an Island called Okinawa, the land of immortals. The island is known for its citizens’ long life expectancy. It is also said that they do not suffer stress and anxiety, not as much as the other Japanese and clearly far less than we do in the West.

One of their inestimable ingredients is their ‘Moai’. A strong and caring social network made of friends who support one another however tough the phase they are in.

3. My Advice

We could well be inspired by Okinawan Moai and start finding a few caring and non-judgemental friends to share our stories and feelings with. Building a healthy and supportive social group with a few individuals, some locals included to get a better grasp on their culture, could be a gentle and transformative way to help you settle in nicely, at your own pace.


Born in Paris, I was raised in an international and multicultural environment. I moved to London a couple of decades later and I must say that I did not go through any culture shock in London, a few inadequacies at times but nothing that felt like overwhelming or painful. However, moving back to Paris a couple of years ago the shock I felt was excruciating and I felt so inadequate, a total alien in my supposed-to-be ‘home country’. You are not alone, and you may feel these weird emotions in a non linear way. Call me to learn more and be supported.

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