What’s the truth about living abroad? After spending more than a third of my life abroad, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it’s really like to live internationally. Here are my thoughts, from A – Z, in case you are about to make that leap.
A is for Adventure – because life abroad is one big adventure. Ha. Don’t get fooled. Reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not quite the fairytale many people think it is. Yes, you get a lot out of it, probably some adventures along the way too, but more often than not, it’s also a struggle, a sacrifice and a constant learning curve.
B is for being Bilingual – because when you move abroad, you are likely to become bilingual. Speaking another language will be a huge part of your new life. If you don’t speak the language of your new destination, make it a priority to learn. It will help you with the integration process, so make sure to enrol in that language class.
C is for Challenges – because there will be more than a fair share of challenges along the road. Apart from the obvious, such as missing home, there will be a culture shock; you will have to deal with everyday issues such as paying your own bills, learn what it’s like to live in a foreign country, find out how everything works, plus paperwork in a foreign language, no fun. Some challenges will be exciting others terrifying. Take that into account.
D is for Diversity – because there is a likelihood that your destination will be an enticing place for people from all different ethnic backgrounds. You will meet people of different skin colour, religions, values, so you will learn to appreciate and respect the diverse and multicultural world we live in.
E is for Experiences – because no matter how lonely or homesick you feel sometimes, life abroad is a life-changing experience. You get to lead an entirely new way of life. Everything will be different and unfamiliar, your eyes and mind will open to a whole new chapter in your life.
F is for Friendships – because as mentioned in point (D), you will meet people from all walks of life and different countries. Some of your newly found friends may not be around for long. Especially if they are foreigners like yourself. Many people will come and go. Others will stick around, and you will build some real friendships. Your friendships back home will also be tested, and you will realise who your true friends really are.
G is for Goodbyes – because there will be goodbyes. Many of them. You will lose the count of how many times you’ve said goodbyes to your loved ones when leaving (yet again) the comfort of your home country. Every time I visit Slovakia, saying goodbye to family and friends is the most difficult part.
H is for Home – because you will start to appreciate your home and your family more when you move abroad. Everything you took for granted previously is suddenly so precious. The distance between you and the fact that you don’t get to see them often will make the family gatherings a lot more special.
I is for Independence – because it’s amazing how much and how fast you can grow and mature when you move abroad. No more home-cooked meal, or someone else doing your laundry and housework. You will learn how to manage your finances. At least that’s the idea. Otherwise, you might get into some trouble here. Hello, independence.
J is for Journey – because life abroad is a journey. Your new life is about to take a whole new direction. That journey will be exciting, overwhelming, full of surprises and the unexpected, and there will be high and lows. Lots of them. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
K is for Key – because the key to successful move abroad is proper planning and research before you make that big move. Something I failed big-time. You can learn from my mistakes here.
L is for Loneliness – because you will feel lonely at one point or another. This is a natural part of life abroad and leaving your relatives behind. And it’s ok to feel sad and lonely sometimes. It takes time to make new friends, but even then, maybe not as often as at the beginning, feelings of isolation and loneliness will creep in occasionally.
M is for Missing home – this goes hand in hand with loneliness. There will be times when you will just wish you could be there. There will be special days like weddings, funerals, family celebrations, anniversaries, get-togethers and you will have to pick only a few of these many events that you will be able to attend. It’s always hard not to feel like being left out when you can’t be there.
N is for National cuisine – because your taste buds will change completely when you move abroad. You will be exposed to new foods, smells, ingredients. Some dishes will become your new favourites, and some will never make it to your new redesigned recipe book. Being open and willing to try new local dishes is all that counts. You just never know whether you like that dish until you give it a try.
O is for Out of your comfort zone – because leaving your home and country essentially means leaving your comfort zone. Everything that was so close to your heart, everything familiar, everything you knew up to this point will be gone. Welcome to the life abroad.
P is for Passport – because passport will be your most prized, number one possession. It will accompany you everywhere you travel. Whether that’s trips home or some others eye-opening destinations, your passport is sure to be there following you on your adventures.
Q is for Questions – because you will have millions of them. How do I register with GP? How can I open a bank account? How do I rent a place? Where’s the nearest hospital? You get the idea. The questions just don’t end.
R is for Relationships – because if you move abroad as a single person, you may have some romance coming your way. Multicultural relationships have their pros and cons. While it will enrich your life, it’s also a hard work maintaining a relationship where the two of you might have some different values, backgrounds or religion. But it can be done.
S is for Social media – because you need to stay connected to your loved ones back home. First, there were just phone calls, then Skype. Now there is …everything. There really is no shortage of various online platforms you can use to keep in touch with your loved ones back home. Transfering photos, seeing each others ‘live’ on the screen, all are readily available. For my parents though (the old-school folks), traditional phone calls still prevail.
T is for Traditions – because you will get to know and experience different countries’ traditions and customs. Embrace them, but don’t forget to celebrate your own traditions as well.
U is for Unusual stuff – because you will encounter a lot of it in your new destination. For example, the confusion that driving on the other side of the road can cause. Or not having a clue when someone tells you how tall they are and how much they weigh. Or when you see such an odd thing like two separate taps in the bathroom, one for freezing, the other for boiling water. Just bizarre.
V is for Vacations – because who doesn’t love holidays? For most people holiday means a nice relaxing time preferably somewhere exotic with crystal clear water and sandy beaches. For others, like myself, who chose life abroad, very often holiday means visiting family in your home country. You will have to decide whether you’ll go home or somewhere else.
W is for Where are you from? – because this will be the most common question you will get asked. And then, if you are from some ‘unknown’ country like Slovakia, the next question might be regarding your capital city, or even better is the guessing game. ‘So, what’s the capital of Slovakia? Prague?’ Argh, well, NO.
X is for Multiply – because you can multiply the number of destinations you call your ‘home’. Isn’t that awesome?
Y is for Yourself – because you will learn a lot about yourself. You will realise just how resilient, strong and self-reliant you really are.
Z is for Zero – because you want to avoid this. Especially in your bank account. Go back to point (I) about managing your finances and make it your priority.
That’s it, guys. I hope you gained some valuable insight into the life abroad. Let me know what you think. Anything you would add or change?