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11 Things Nobody Tells You About Moving Abroad Alone

I came up with the idea of moving abroad alone because I wanted to be different and I wanted a different life. It was at uni when I was doing my Translation and Interpreting studies that I realised how many wonderful countries and cultures are out there, and that I wouldn’t get to know them if I was staying in my country

I also realised I didn’t want to follow the “system” (study, find a permanent job, marry and have kids) or my parents’ suggestions: “you should stay in Spain and be close to your family. You don’t need to go to the UK to practise your English because you could find a job as a receptionist on Costa del Sol which is full of tourists.”

I wanted to be free and independent. I wanted to improve my English. I wanted to aspire to do more in life and do what my heart was telling me: MOVE ABROAD!

It wasn’t an easy decision to make because my family wasn’t supportive at the beginning. Some people were asking me things like, “but what are you going to do there alone?” But I didn’t listen to all this noise and, regardless of being a bit scared, I chose to do it! And do you know what?

It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I have no regrets and I wouldn’t change a thing. I met my partner, made friends, improved my English, and had many other beautiful experiences.

It’s likely that you’re considering moving abroad alone because 1) you want to experience how it feels and you’ve heard some people saying it’s very cool; 2) you want to learn or improve on a new language; 3) you want to have work experience abroad; 4) you want a better future or opportunities you can’t find in your country; 5) or love. 

 Whatever the reason is, I’ll tell you the things that no one talks about moving abroad alone.

11 Things Nobody Tells You About Moving Abroad Alone 11 Things Nobody Tells You About Moving Abroad Alone

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What It’s Like Moving Abroad Alone In Your 20s

You’ll start appreciating your home country

You may think that your country doesn’t have certain things (and that’s why you’ve moved abroad). Nevertheless, you’ll start missing little things you hadn’t thought of before.

For example, if you used to live close to the seaside and you move abroad to a city that doesn’t have a beach, you’ll miss it. Or you’ll miss your country’s traditional food that even if you try to prepare this meal in your new city, it won’t taste the same because there’s a specific ingredient you can’t find or the ingredients taste slightly different.

I used to take for granted being in a sunny country, but now that I live in the United Kingdom, where most of the time, the weather is cloudy and rainy, I appreciate my home country and I make the most of the sunny days here. Being grateful for what you have or you used to have is something that you will learn when living abroad. 

However, if you’re still struggling to be grateful I recommend using a journal in which you can write a couple of things (even the small things count!) you’re grateful for every single day. I personally use The Five Minute Journal for this since it tells you daily motivational quotes and gives you the space to write the things you’re grateful for.

You’ll miss home 

This may seem an obvious one BUT some people are more independent and think it is very rare they’ll miss home. When you’ve just moved abroad (especially alone)  you’ll miss having help from your family, your friends, etc.

You’ll miss meeting your friends and speaking your language. It’s true that when you’re having a good time, you probably feel ok, but on those days when you feel angry, upset or sad, you’ll miss the comfort and maybe see one of your friends face to face rather than through Skype or WhatsApp. 

When I moved to the UK, I have to admit, I felt homesick on more than one occasion. The first day I arrived in the UK I felt quite nervous! It was nighttime and I was alone in the airport with three massive suitcases that I could barely move.

I had no idea what to do! I managed to order a taxi (at that time you need to book a private one because there aren’t any taxis outside the airport waiting for you) and the taxi driver was a bit creepy…

Imagine being alone in a taxi with many suitcases and not knowing where you’re heading to!

Fortunately, I arrived at my accommodation and all I wanted to do is cry because it isn’t easy when you don’t have anyone to give you a hand and you don’t know anyone there. I wish that one of my friends or family was around to help me at that moment.

Malaga port

📌 Related blog post: 9 Difficulties of living in a foreign country that no one tells you

You’ll likely struggle with the language

If you move abroad to a country where you don’t speak the language or it’s your second language, you’ll struggle at the beginning. You may think “oh well…I’ve studied this language back home” or “I have an advanced language certificate.” You’ll still struggle. 

For example, I studied English at uni and had a good level of English before moving to the UK, however, it was difficult to understand the locals! Why? I learned what is called the “Standard British English” (it sounds posh and it’s normally associated with Londoners) but I moved to the wonderful county of Yorkshire where the accent is very different. 

This doesn’t only happen in the UK but in many other countries such as Italy, Spain, etc. Accents are quite interesting, but you’ll get used to them and become a pro! 

You’ll improve your language skills

This point is linked to the previous one. You’ll improve your language skills faster because you’re completely immersed in the language and culture.

However, you need to make an effort to improve your language skills. If you stay at home and don’t mix with locals or use your native language all day, there’s no way you are going to make progress.

5 Top tips to improve a foreign language

  1. Get out of your comfort zone and speak to the locals. This is the most effective way to improve your language. If this sounds too intimidating, you can look for events or language exchanges where you’ll find friendly people that will help you learn.
  2. Read books, newspapers or magazines in a foreign language.
  3. Watch subtitled films or series.
  4. Listen to the radio, especially local radio so you get used to the accent.
  5. A good way to remember new words or idioms is to write them down on sticky notes and place them around your room. This way you’ll see them all the time and it will make you memorise and learn the word quicker. 

TIP: please don’t always trust locals! Native people make mistakes in their own language, and if you’ve studied this language (grammar, reading, etc.) before, follow your instinct! Question them or have a look online.

I have some British friends that make the same grammar mistakes all the time (i.e. “I were at home” instead of “I was at home!”) 

You’ll question whether you want to be an expat forever

I think there are three types of people: 1) LOVE the country and want to remain there forever (they found their “new home” and feel they belong to that community!) 2) LIKE it but not enough to be there forever (they normally go to look for an experience) or 3) HATE it and will go back to their countries. 

In the beginning, it can be very exciting or scary, but regardless, you’re going to experience something you haven’t before.

Nevertheless, when the time passes and you’ve been living in this country for a couple of months (or years), you’ll start asking yourself whether you feel comfortable.

By comfortable, I mean if you have made new friends if you feel integrated if you have a job that you like or you can cope with and you’re happy in this place. You’ll probably ask yourself whether you’d like to live there forever, go back to your home country, or go to a different one.

leeds liverpool canal view

You’ll feel like you belong to more than one place

No one told me about this when I moved but it happens!

When you live abroad and travel to your home country, you’ll feel different because you don’t have the same routines as before, there are new shops/restaurants, people get older or take different paths in life, etc. 

Not only will you see the changes, but others will feel you’ve changed as well, and you may not like the same things as before. 

The thing is, you may still feel you belong to your hometown (it’s where you’ve grown up and you have plenty of memories), however, you’ll miss your new life.

Also, if you decide to permanently go back to your country, you’ll feel some emptiness because you also belong to the new place now. However, at the same time, you’ll feel grateful for the beautiful experience you have lived.

Last but not least, you feel like you don’t know where you belong! For example, you don’t want to live in this place anymore but you don’t feel prepared to go back to your home country and don’t know where you want to live next. But let me tell you something: it is alright and I relate to you because I am in that situation.

You feel pressured into making decisions or wanting to know where to go next, but it’s fine to take your time. If you feel like this, why don’t you try to explore or travel to places before making a decision?

I used to think that I’d love to live in New York, however, after I visited NYC, I realised that I don’t see myself there even if I really love the city.  

Your food taste is very likely to change

If you love trying different food and immerse yourself in the culture, you can experience some changes in your taste in food. For example, from my experience, if you live in a Mediterranean country, you are less likely to normally eat other international food. 

Nevertheless, if you live in countries such as the UK or USA, there is a bigger diversity of food. Talking about my personal experience, I’d only tried Indian food once before moving to the UK and I thought it was too spicy for me. But now I absolutely love it!

Chicken ruby curry at Dishoom

You’ll sometimes find it easier to be friends with expats like you 

This depends on the country you move to but it is easier to make friends with people from other countries who live there. Why? I believe it’s because you have similar experiences such as finding a new job in a different country with a different system, learning or improving a second language, missing home, etc. 

If you move abroad alone and you feel a bit lonely, there are many international or language groups in which you can meet lovely people and learn about their cultures.

I personally recommend looking for Facebook groups (i.e. “Language Exchange in X place”), university events (if you’re moving to study abroad) and the tourist website of that destination under the “events” section. 

Another way to find people is by using other social media platforms like Instagram. I have made connections and new friends by engaging with their content.

You’ll change your routine

This is absolutely normal because of different time zones, different types of food, different work times, etc. When you move abroad, you have to adapt to the local culture (if you really want to have a different experience.) 

For example, when I moved to Leeds, I had to change my meal times since, in Spain, we have more meals at different times (i.e. Spanish people normally have dinner at 9-10 pm whereas British people have dinner at 5-6 pm.) 

My advice is to take it easy with the changes because moving abroad is already a big change. Take your time to settle down, don’t be afraid to ask others about cultural things that are new to you and relax! 

view from royal armouries museum in leeds

You’ll learn something new every day

Maybe you learn new words or idioms in the local language, something cultural, or a new place. Although you may have spent some time in that place and think you already know everything, you’re always learning. 

I’ve been living in the UK for over five years and I still haven’t visited as many places as I wanted or learned all the local phrases.

Living abroad does make you more curious about exploring and travelling to other places. You’ll definitely travel to more new places than before, and even if you don’t know anyone yet, travel solo! There are many benefits of travelling alone like becoming more confident and learning about yourself.

You’ll spend more money than expected

If you have never moved abroad, you probably underestimate how much money you can spend on moving to a new country.

Before I moved, I knew that I needed to save money for accommodation, food and transport. But there are many more things you’ll need (i.e. furniture if it’s not included in your rent or kitchen utensils). These may seem inexpensive things, but when you add them up, they make a difference.

My biggest advice is to have 3 months savings or more before moving abroad. You don’t want to be in a situation in which you’re stressing about money and you need to ask for money from family or friends.

At the same time, although finding a job can be easy in some countries, it all depends on the demand, time of the year, your skills, etc. You won’t get paid straight away, so again it’s important to have savings.

TIP: Looking for the best currency conversion? An app that really helped me with money transfer rates is xe.com

At the end of the day, don’t let others influence your choices, but be aware of the changes that can happen! In my opinion, living abroad is something that everyone should try once because it’s wonderful how your perspective of the world changes and how you grow personally. 

It can be a difficult experience in the beginning, but it’s totally rewarding in the end because the truth is that there are lots of benefits of moving abroad. And even if you don’t have a good experience, you’ll have learned what you want and what you don’t want in life.

If you’ve experienced moving abroad before, do you have a story or any tips to share with others? If you haven’t, what motivates you to move abroad?

Let me know in the comments below.

Love,

Cristina xx

P.S. If you aren’t sure about where to move, have a look at expat tips for the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany

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