Moving abroad is often touted as the ultimate goal of a life well-lived. Having adventures in some exotic, sun-kissed location does sound like a lot of fun doesn’t it? With only 36% of Americans owning valid passports, it’s probably safe to say that they aren’t exactly moving about and experiencing the world in great hordes – regardless of how appealing overseas living is made to sound. But with Millennials redefining travel across the globe, moving overseas may very soon become more of a norm and less of an unreachable goal. However, most of us tend to make that first big move with a lot of expectations which simply can’t be fulfilled. So I’m here to give you the nitty-gritty facts that no one tells you about moving overseas. Whether you’re already abroad, or still in the planning phase, whether you’re in your early twenties or hitting your golden years, it’s always good to know what to expect as an expat abroad.
1. It can be a challenge
Moving abroad is a challenge. It’s as simple as that. Our modern media tends to romanticise life abroad making us think that our days will be spent dancing on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, picnicking in the parks of Paris, or living it up in the pubs of London. The truth is a lot of work goes into living abroad. You’ll most likely end up living in a shadier part of the city to avoid skyrocketing rent prices. You’ll have to accept that getting things like your work visa settled will require time and patience. You’ll struggle with the language and cultural differences and probably end up fitting your foot squarely in your mouth more than once.
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At some point during your time abroad you will find yourself asking: “Is this what I really want?” While I can’t answer that question for you, I can tell you this: that as much of a challenge living abroad is, it’s completely worth it. Yes it’s a struggle and some days you may find yourself wishing for the old familiar ways of your home country, but it’s the challenges that make these experiences so much more rewarding and memorable. And, although you may not realize it right away, the challenges will help you grow as a person. You’ll be surprised at how well you can navigate the unknown once you’ve spent time living overseas.
2. It can be lonely
Living abroad means that you will miss out on a lot of events going on back home. Weddings, baby showers, hospital appointments, and family get-togethers will become mainly a part of your past. Your friends will get used to you
calling messaging them up to tell them that you can’t make it to yet another big event. Your family will learn to accept that you can’t always afford to come home for family reunions much less holidays. Time and financial constraints will start to determine if this will be the year you can go to one friend’s wedding while trying to cram in a quick visit to your family. And, let me tell you, this can be incredibly hard. I first moved abroad at the age of seventeen and have been living overseas for close to a decade now. Those emotions I experienced when I was seventeen and realised I couldn’t just fly home to visit my best friend who was going through a difficult time, I still experience now when I see my friends and family back home posting pictures of celebrations and milestones that I’ve missed out on.
As hard as it is to not be present at all those big events in your loved ones’ lives, you’ll find ways to embrace that this is a part of life abroad. Don’t worry, you’ll build a new life and find new friends who you can celebrate the big milestones with. This doesn’t take away from how much your friends and family mean to you back home and it isn’t a replacement for them, but it means that you’re still managing to forge strong connections with other people. You’re learning how to be happy even when you’re outside your usual comfort zone of friends and family and that is a really big deal!
3. It can be a rollercoaster
Like I said above, people tend to idealise and romanticise life abroad. If you’ve dreamt for years of living in France or Ireland or Argentina, you probably have a very positive image of what your life will be like. You can’t imagine ever hating anything about your country of choice because you’ve spent so long dreaming about moving there. Allow me to set you straight: living abroad will be a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days you will love where you live, some days you will hate it, and that’s okay. Life is messy and moving abroad certainly isn’t the key to making it any less so. Crappy situations are just as likely (or more likely) to come up abroad as they are at home.
Give yourself space to experience these emotions instead of bottling them up. Find a trusted friend you can vent to when you’re having a particularly bad day and feel like really hating on the country you’re living in. But, at the same time, enjoy the good days. Take full advantage of the wonderful and unique parts of living in a foreign country. Learning to accept the good with the bad is all part of the great adventure! What are some of the things no one warned you about before moving abroad? What are some of your favorite parts about living overseas? Share with us!