Living in a foreign country isn’t all roses, it comes with many positive and negative experiences too. It isn’t for everyone, but if you’re wondering whether to move abroad, just think how you’ll know it is or it isn’t for you if you never try it.
I know how it feels seeing others having a great time abroad. But like with everything, people mostly show the good things and, of course, everyone has a different experience.
This is the main reason why you should experience living in a foreign country on your own and not by other people’s stories.
Personally, it’s one experience that will teach you many things and it will make you grow, but before you grow, you sometimes need to go through less pleasant situations, you need to step out of your comfort zone.
In this blog, you’ll learn the difficulties you may come up with in your expat journey.
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Getting overwhelmed with the moving process
Who said moving abroad is easy? If moving to a different flat or city in your country is tiring, moving abroad is even more so. You need to think about what you really need to take with you and what you don’t.
I found myself overpacking, and if you’re in that situation, I completely understand what you’re going through. Something that can help you is writing down a list of all the essentials you must take with you – from passport and important documents to electronic devices.
By writing a list, whether you do it on your phone or on paper, you’re decreasing the chances of forgetting important things you can’t buy in your new country.
Dealing with paperwork
This is probably the most daunting thing when moving overseas. You aren’t familiar with the legal and administrative system in your new country, and therefore, you’re likely to struggle with filling in or reading documents.
Bureaucracy varies from country to country, but the truth is that some countries make things easier for new residents. For example, Spanish bureaucracy is very slow, and documents aren’t easy to read (I’m telling you from a Spanish native perspective).
However, you can always find help and advice from expats in your new country because they had to go through the same process as you. Alternatively, in some countries, you may find some associations that help expats to fill in and translate documents for free.
Learning the language
Moving to a country where locals don’t speak your language is another challenge of living abroad. You really need to learn the language if you want to fit in the place and immerse yourself in the culture.
I find learning a language a very exciting process because you go from feeling uncomfortable because you only know very basic words or sentences to confident and proficient in the language.
Something that I wish I knew before moving to the UK was the fact that I was going to struggle with the local accent. When you normally learn a foreign language, you learn the “standard” language, and you don’t get to hear a diversity of accents. This is what happened to me.
Once I landed in Leeds, I felt upset because I couldn’t understand everything! This doesn’t only happen with English, but with other languages as well.
If you’re new to the language, it’s very important you try to talk with the locals. I know how easy it is to get away without talking to anyone in the supermarket or library because you’ll find that some countries will have self-service checkouts.
However, you can attend language exchanges, join a class to socialise with new people, read books, etc.
Another simple thing you can do is getting a language app to improve your vocabulary and grammar. Babbel is the best language app to level up your skills – you can learn anything from basic vocabulary to pronunciation.
Finding the right job
Finding a job is sometimes a challenge for new expats. If you’re struggling with the language, it can be even more difficult.
There are job opportunities that don’t require you to have great communication skills but they often pay less and may not be the jobs you want.
Alternatives to this are working remotely or for an international company that communicates in your native language or a language that you’re proficient in.
Experiencing cultural shocks
Living abroad comes with many surprises, and of course, culture shocks that come from experiencing a different culture than yours. What’s normal to someone may not be to you.
The best thing to overcome cultural shocks is to accept them. This doesn’t mean you need to agree with the way something is done but understand there are other ways to do it and you must respect it.
Depending on the destination you move to and your culture, you’ll have bigger or smaller cultural shocks. But you’ll definitely experience some!
I remember the first time I heard the cashier calling me “love”, I felt awkward and confused. However, I discovered later this is a common thing to say in Yorkshire, the area I moved in.
Fitting in the country
You may feel you don’t fit in your new country, however, you must remember that this is often a temporary feeling. It takes a bit of time to familiarise yourself with the place, culture, people, etc.
Every time you’re in a new environment, it’s ok to feel this way. Give yourself some time to adapt to the place and look for ways to adapt quicker – attend cultural events, make friends, join a class, improve your language skills, etc.
However, if you continue feeling like you don’t fit for a while, this can be a sign that you may have moved to the wrong place.
In that case, don’t worry about the time and effort you’ve put in to fit in this new place because I’m sure you’ve learnt something from it.
Are you an introvert and new to a country? I’ve been there, and it can be overwhelming. But, if you put effort into meeting new people, you’ll make friends quicker.
Making friends quicker will depend on how the local culture is and how you are. But even, if the locals are more reserved than in your culture or you’re an introvert, you’ll meet new people for sure.
There are many ways you can meet local people (I mean you’re surrounded by them!), so you just need the right opportunity to start a conversation.
Here are different ways you can make friends with the locals and expats:
- Use social media (there are plenty of expat Facebook groups to join and meet people).
- Attend a language exchange. People do go there to improve their language and make friends.
- Join a society at university.
- Invite work or uni colleagues over for some food and drinks.
- Get involved in a volunteering project.
- Be open-minded and always accept invites.
Leaving family and friends behind
By moving abroad, you leave behind your previous life, including family and friends. That doesn’t mean you won’t see them again or lose them, but the relationship will likely change.
Something that you can’t do is not moving abroad because of the fear of losing friends and family. This will only make you regret not moving abroad later.
It’s important to remember that although your relationship with them will change, they will be there for you if you ever need it. If they aren’t there for you, that means they weren’t your real friends.
Every expat misses home, family and friends at some point in their living abroad experience. Be kind to yourself and understand this is normal.
The moment you move abroad, you go through many changes in your life, some you’ll love and some you won’t, so it’s inevitable to compare your hometown with your new city.
Not only will you miss family and friends, but things you hadn’t considered before such as food, weather, a special place, smell…you name it!
When I used to live in Spain, having sunny days was something usual and normal to me. However, once I moved to the UK, I started missing the weather and appreciating it.
Sunny days, especially during the winter months, are rare. So whenever there’s a bit of sun, I’m super happy.
Despite all the difficulties you find along the way during your expat journey, the advantages of living in a foreign country outweighs the disadvantages. I can’t fully describe how rewarding it is and how much you grow since the moment you leave your home country.
It opens your eyes to a new culture, teaches you invaluable lessons, makes you grow and be more independent.
P.S. Do you know any friend who’s moving abroad? Share the blog with them 🙂
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