If you’ve read the rest of this series, you know that I LOVE living abroad, but that it was a heckuva journey getting here. If you missed my posts on building a location-independent business and moving abroad with a family of four, you can find those here:
But that’s not what today’s post is about, because for once, we’re not going to be talking about me. I know, it’s sad. We must all just try to rise above and enjoy the fact that today’s post is all about hearing from people who aren’t me. People who have lived abroad longer and gained far more experience, and who definitely know what they’re talking about more than I do.
Without further ado … the experts.
I’ve had the opportunity to move to and live in three different countries. Australia, the U.K. and now, the U.S. The benefits have always far outweighed hassles. There are always challenges, of course. Namely, the packing and unpacking (ugh, the worst) but there is a joy to be found from streamlining the stuff you attach to your life. Each time we move, we have less stuff. And I like that. Establishing new social circles can also be challenging but we’ve always seen it as an opportunity to get out of our comfort zone. We push ourselves to explore and make new connections because we think that’s the point of being somewhere new!
From a business point of view, being a freelancer copywriter and coach, I’ve been able to work around the globe without impacting my income or clients.
To anyone moving abroad, I’d say this: Embrace the change! You’re moving for a reason. If you were happy for everything to remain the same, you could have stayed at home. So instead of expecting your new home to be like your last – or trying to recreate your old life – take full advantage of all the fresh opportunities and experiences on offer. It might be uncomfortable at first and you might feel out of your depth for a while, but that’s where your new friends will come in! When you’re open to another culture and show an interest in their community, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’re welcomed into it.
Although I’m now happily settled in my little corner of England, I’ve definitely been changed by my adventures abroad. They’re just a part of who I am – someone who is hopefully braver, more empathetic, and more culturally aware than I would have been if I’d stayed at ‘home’. As a writer, that new perspective is invaluable.
When I decided to take the plunge and book a one-way ticket to China, my friends and family thought I was crazy. Even though I knew they were probably right, I still got on that plane and never looked back. Despite the number of challenges I face on a daily basis, moving to another country has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Living abroad has given me a new perspective on life and unforgettable memories that have shaped me into the writer I am today. I’ve learned more about myself in this last year than I ever would back home.
My time living abroad has deepened my emotional intelligence and in turn has enriched my writing. Learning to cope with new, unfamiliar emotions is something every expat must face, and as a writer this is the closest I will ever get to my characters. I did this for the experience, so I would know exactly how it feels to be lost. To be foreign. To be alone. I no longer have to imagine how my characters feel — I know how they feel.
This lifestyle makes you know yourself much better and also makes you smarter and knowledgeable about the world. It wakes you up. Just like everything else, great benefits come together with big challenges. Being alone, structuring your day with habits and sustaining your lifestyle financially is not easy, which makes this lifestyle optimal to relatively low number of people on the long run.
The biggest challenge of moving my family abroad is learning to help the children adjust to our new surroundings. It usually takes a few weeks for life to feel somewhat “normal” again after a big transition, and we transitioned quite a few times in a three-year period. You have to be patient and understanding in those critical weeks leading up to and after altering life as they know it. While this has been a struggle along our path, this time of letting our hearts guide us brought us unforgettable adventures and a global community of friends and family. It taught us that there are so many possibilities and opportunities in this world, and that following our own unique dream is the way to go. At this time, we’re weaving together the challenge with the rewards by building a home base in one lovely corner of the world, where we can continue to travel from when opportunity strikes!
The best thing about moving abroad has been getting to see and experience the world from a completely different culture. I’ve been fortunate to have several opportunities to travel abroad, but nothing immerses you in a culture quite like uprooting your entire life and relocating. It’s an arresting feeling, to be a foreigner, but one I think many of us could learn a lot from. I love that moving to Australia really broadened my perspective of the world.
It’s incredibly hard watching old friends and family continue with everyday life, even though you’re always experiencing a rich and fulfilling life. There’s something called the triangle effect, which basically talks about this feeling of not quite being at home anywhere once you’ve moved abroad. Anytime you meet someone new, you’re automatically a foreigner, but you also sort of cease to be a native of your original home. This year, my husband and I had our first child, and it’s been a hard thing to know so many of my family and friends are missing this milestone in our life, just as I’ve missed out on milestones for them. But also, this is my home, so nothing is truly “missing.”
What I’d advise someone else…take the leap. No matter how hard it is or how scared you are, it will be worth it a hundred times over.
The best thing about living abroad was definitely learning about the country, its people and its culture. You get to see a country in a completely different way when you actually live there and participate in the daily lives of locals and other foreigners. It’s very different from just visiting for a week or two.
The worst thing about living abroad was probably missing my friends and family in Finland. It’s not that easy to travel back and forth when the flights cost almost a thousand euros and take eight to twelve hours. Also in Finland schools, universities and public health care are practically free, which means I didn’t have the kinds of savings many people in other countries have. I didn’t have a college savings plan or stuff like that because I never had to save money for college. I knew that both studying and health care in the USA are expensive, but it was still a bit of a shock when I actually had to pay them. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, the rents where crazy!
Advise to those who are planning to move abroad: Be patient. The whole process can take time. It won’t happen in a week. Make sure you do your research and know what kind of documents and permits you need. You don’t want to apply for the wrong permits and not be allowed in the country.
The best thing about moving abroad is by far immersing yourself in a new culture. I love culture, language and getting to know new people and having new experiences. Moving is all about that!
The worst thing about moving abroad is leaving behind people you love. Since living abroad I’ve missed out on a lot of my friends’ and extended family’s milestones and events because we can’t always be there. It’s especially hard when a family member or friend is seriously ill. But social media really helps with that these days.
Advice to people moving abroad: Spring clean before you pack. Really. It’s best to get rid of a lot the things you don’t need and prioritize. Learn the basics of the language, especially if not many people speak English or your language there. Or become really familiar with talking with your hands. Study the coins. It’s so embarrassing to hold up a queue because you have to read the coins!
I was born and raised in California, moved to Taiwan when I was 7 years old and moved back to the states when I was 14. At first, it was hard to adapt mostly because of the language. But since I was young, it wasn’t too hard to absorb it fairly quickly. It’s the best way to learn and pick up a new language; if I hadn’t moved, I would not have learned two additional languages (Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese) fluently and learned to see the world differently.
Advice? Really, really look into the place you’re moving to and gauge it with your comfort level. I’m all about spontaneous decisions and just go out and “live it up,” but if it’s for the long run, there are a lot of things to consider. Especially if you have a family. Make sure everyone is on the same page and realize that life won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean it will be bad. In fact, you might fall in the love with the place so much that you never want to go back to where you used to live! One thing for sure is, you won’t be the same person ever again.
The most obvious good thing about moving abroad is that you can really change your life. New country + new language + new circumstances = new you. You can become a completely different person: better or worst depends only on you. As for me I like to look around every day to see the differences between people from my country and the locals: in ways of communications, in ways they raise their children, in every habit. I don’t bother myself with illusions that this makes me better. But of course this enriches me. Enriches with knowledge, understanding, emotions and experience.
The worst? Almost everything can be the worst thing if you don’t like changes. Because you will change everything. Sometimes shopping becomes a very hard quest (once I bought small pies for tea. They were with lard O.o). Every single thing in your life changes in a blink of an eye. And it depends only on you if you accept it or not.
Be yourself. Or completely change yourself. Try everything you see. Talk local language in every possible case. Eat local food (pies with lard were not bad actually). Find new friends among both locals and your fellow citizens. Find out what you really like and dislike about your moving. Look at it without fear or favor. This is the biggest adventure in your life and you should do something to enjoy it!
I think it’s important to remember that living abroad doesn’t have to be an all or nothing deal. I’ve met a lot of people who did a few months or years and went back to their country. But I think that the experience in itself is priceless. It won’t always be easy (especially if there’s a language barrier), but like everything in life you’ll learn through it and you’ll find a way to make the most out of it. And if it doesn’t work out and you end up going home, at least you can say that you’ve tried! It’s better to have tried than to wonder all your life, “What if I had the guts to do it ?”
The distance with my family was very hard the first year but I got used to it after. I know it’s harder for a lot of people but obviously it’s easy to keep in touch with loved ones nowadays. Another difficult thing that I discovered was racism. As a white woman from France I never had to deal with it until I moved to Tokyo. I was 21 and it was kind a shock for me. And the shock can come from really small differences between you and them. It’s little things like the way people talk about money or deal with situations such as gift giving (it still surprises me when people don’t open my gifts in front of me).
Honestly I never planned my life as an expat, it just happened. It’s really different from the vision I had when I was 18. But I don’t regret it. The friendships you make may be short lived or last a decade but they are valuable: It’s the community of people who will help you find your way around (especially if language is a barrier), or make you feel like you’re still at home when you have coffee with them.
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