What Moving Abroad Is Really Like (Part 2)
As you may already realise after reading Part 1 of this post, moving abroad can be a fun but challenging experience.
Whether you’ve already booked your plane tickets or are only considering working or studying in another country, this article will hopefully help you prepare for what’s in store.
Here’s Part 2 of a list of 10 things anyone who’s ever moved abroad will relate to.
Living in a different country will affect your relationship with food. And not just by forcing you to have a long distance relationship with your mom’s cooking…
Once you start getting used to the prices in the supermarket, you’ll be able to pay a little more attention to what’s actually on the shelves (or not). On the one hand, this is a great opportunity to explore new flavours and indulge in local specialities. However, being deprived of the foods you’ve always considered essential to your survival can also be quite stressful.
Hopefully, your visiting friends and relatives will be more than happy to make room for a few special treats in their suitcases. Some people take this even further and have food mailed to them from time to time by their loving parents.
Eventually you’ll also find a few foreign ingredients and dishes that you’ll absolutely love. Which means that when you have to move again you’ll likely miss them too. You’ll also probably become a bit of a snob and insist that you won’t eat gelato unless you’re in Italy and that gummy bears taste better in Germany.
You. Will. Miss. Home.
No matter how excited you were about leaving, there will be times when you’d give anything to go back to your home country at a moment’s notice. You’d be surprised how many ways nostalgia can find its way into your heart. You’ll miss everything, even the food you never liked and the TV shows you used to hate.
At the beginning everything in the new country might seem strange or even hostile. As a result, you’ll call your country of origin ‘home’ and refer to where you live abroad in some other, impersonal way. However, as time goes by, you might find yourself calling them both ‘home’ or even preferring the latter.
The more time you spend at your destination, the more connected you’ll feel to it, even if you keep in touch with people back ‘home’. After a while even simple questions like ‘Where do you live?’ can become quite difficult to answer.
And don’t forget you’ll have an existential crisis every time someone asks you for your ‘permanent address’.
Whether you travel back once a year or visit your home country more frequently you’ll probably spend more time hanging around airports than actually flying anywhere.
Between making sure your suitcases aren’t over the weight limit and trying not to lose your way around the terminal, your first few flights will be a nightmare. However, after a few trips you’ll be able to navigate airports like a pro. You’ll know where to look for free power outlets and where to get a relatively cheap bottle of water after security.
You’ll also develop a passionate hate for inexperienced travellers. Nothing will make you more irritated than nearly missing your flight because someone in the queue tried to put a six-pack of beer in their hand luggage.
If you often have to wait long hours for connecting flights, you’ll also learn the best ways to kill time at the airport without spending all of your money in the Duty Free zone. For example, you might finish that report you’ve been putting off for weeks. Or you can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and do some serious binge watching.
Of course, being stuck at an airport will also make you sad and tired sometimes. However, all of your frustration will likely go away once you see the person waiting for you in arrivals.
One of the most interesting things about moving abroad is the way it changes your perspective.
When you first arrive, you’ll likely notice a lot of differences, from the way people dress to how and when they eat. Some of those things will be funny or annoying to you even after you’ve been there for a while. However, there will also be a lot of customs you’ll like so much you’ll incorporate them into your daily life.
Going away will also allow you reflect on your own country. No doubt you’ll even joke about some of the stereotypes you’ll hear about your own nationality from the locals. Overall, though, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many people find it interesting and want to know more about your culture and traditions.
Lastly, attempting to integrate in a completely new culture will make you really appreciate things people usually take for granted, such as the ability to communicate. Even simple things like grocery shopping take a lot longer if you have to navigate a linguistic labyrinth.
And if you think apartment hunting is hard, try signing an accommodation contract over the phone in a language you can’t speak yet.
Overall, there are a lot of uncertainties about moving abroad. You never know if you’ll be able to learn the language, stomach the food or cope with being away from everything you know for extended periods of time. However, if there’s one thing you can know for sure about moving countries it’s that it will make you more independent.
With all its challenges, moving abroad will definitely make you step out of your comfort zone. Even if your uni or workplace organise some orientation events for new arrivals, be prepared to hit the ground running and quickly adapt to new situations.
The inability to turn to friends or family for support will be very stressful and often frightening. On the plus side, every problem you resolve all by yourself while abroad will give you a huge sense of achievement.
Marta is a Warwick graduate with a Masters for Research in Italian Studies. Fluent in three languages, she is passionate about people, research and intercultural communication. Find her on LinkedIn and her personal blog.
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