There are countless posts out there about the positives of living in a foreign country. And, while I for one would wholeheartedly recommend it, if you live abroad, you’ll know that it doesn’t come without its frustrations and difficulties.
But, as well as the lessons living abroad has taught me, something I’ve learnt is the importance of embracing these experiences, and laughing about them too.
Here are some experiences you’re sure to relate to if you live abroad:
1. you hate it sometimes
We all have bad days. This is a normal part of life, whether you live abroad or in your home country. But, if you are living away from home, you’ll probably experience days when a lot of your anger and resentment will come from and be directed at your adopted country.
Everything annoys you or seems to be the wrong way to go about things. Minor differences will be amplified, you miss your family and you feel like no one understands you.
And I know I’m not alone in this. Several of my friends here have excused their complaints and bad moods by explaining, “Sorry, I’m just having an ‘I hate Spain day’.”
I’ve found that, what works for me, is to take myself away and immerse myself in my home culture. The other week I had a bad day so I stomped home listening to Wolf Alice on full volume. Then I had several cups of tea and laughed along to Scott Mills’ podcast. And I soon felt better.
So if you’re feeling like this, my advice is to bask in the warm glow of your home country. Allow yourself to enjoy all the things you love about it. Then get back to the real world outside and live where you live. Because you know you love it too really, flaws and all.
2. You’ve heard these questions countless times
If you live abroad, from the day you arrive until the end of time, every conversation with someone new will start with these questions:
- Where are you from?
- How long have you lived here?
Get used to it.
3. You can’t help but compare
Living abroad means accepting the differences between your home country and wherever you’ve chosen to live.
Despite this, it’s hard not to make comparisons from time to time. As much as you try not to, you’ll often hear yourself saying, “But in my country it’s like this”. And at least one annoying person will remind you that you don’t live there, you live here.
In some cases, chances are that in your home country, certain things are better, or more efficient, or make more sense. But, if you want someone to agree with you, you’ll probably have to find someone else from back home.
4. your normal definitely isn’t their normal
On the flip side, if you live abroad you’ll often confuse and surprise the locals when you say and do things you consider to be perfectly normal.
In Thailand, my friends and I were a constant source of amusement to the Thai teachers at school because we ate cereal for breakfast.
Even here in Spain I’ve got odd looks for putting cold milk in my tea. And I never fail to amaze people when I tell them that dinner is at 6 pm in my parents’ house.
Food customs aside, as a UK citizen in Spain, people constantly ask me why we don’t have ID cards, and “what happens if a policeman stops you on the street?”, “Umm, that’s never happened to me here or in the UK….” I reply.
I also like to play up to it by telling them that a friend of mine can’t drive and doesn’t have a passport so she doesn’t actually have any ID. Cue gasps and surprised faces.
5. You’re NEVER NOT IN SEARCH OF SOMETHING
Part of the experience when you live abroad is embracing new cultures and learning to live like the locals. But you’ll also go to extreme lengths to obtain specific products which are a lot easier to find in your home country.
For me this has meant a lot of online scrolling in search of everything from curl cream to oven gloves. I’ve roamed the city for a jar of Marmite on several occasions. An upcoming trip to the UK always calls for a shopping list of all the things I might run out of in the next six months. And then there are the bulk Topshop orders I make, trying to find jeans and trousers which are long enough for my much-longer-than-a-Spanish-girl’s legs.
6. That SENSE OF Accomplishment
Living amongst different cultures can be difficult at times, especially if you don’t have a good handle on the local language.
And then there’s learning how to navigate local customs such as queuing practices (or lack thereof). Or which behaviours are considered impolite. Not to mention the dreaded red tape you’re sure to encounter when you live abroad.
As a result, successfully completing even the simplest of acts often results in a huge sense of accomplishment. I remember the first time I bought a pair of shoes here in Barcelona. I walked out of the shop swinging that paper bag feeling so pleased with myself – you’d think I’d just closed a multi-million euro deal. But to me it was a big achievement; when I first starting learning Spanish the thought of conversing with a shop assistant seemed impossible.
Unfortunately not everything is as simple as buying a pair of shoes when you live abroad. Applications for ID cards, visas etc. can be stressful and extremely frustrating. And it’s not always clear what you have to do when it comes to things like registering with a doctor or paying taxes.
But you’ll get through it, and you’ll feel a huge sense of achievement when you do. Plus, if there’s a next time you’ll already know the drill.
7. you wouldn’t change a thing
Despite all the frustrations, eye-rolling moments and annoyances, there’ll be countless amazing moments which will remind you why you made the choice to live abroad.
And if not, if it’s more bad than good, then I hope you’ll be able to move on and find your own home from home.
You’re Sure To Relate If You Live Abroad
Getting the balance right between making your adopted country feel like home and adapting to a new way of life can be complicated at times.
That said, I know I for one wouldn’t change it for the world.
Can you relate to these experiences of living abroad? Or do you have any of your own to add to the list? Let me know by commenting below.