If moving abroad were the easiest thing in the world, everyone would be doing it, at least for a while. The problem is it doesn’t only bring you sunshine and rainbows, it also comes with storms and floods. Sometimes of tears. When you move away from home you can’t possibly leave everything behind and this will leave an imprint on the new life you’re starting abroad. This is actually an issue with most expats.
That’s why, in this installment of our Expat Stories, we’re talking about the things that may not go your way or the worst things about moving abroad. To get the whole picture and not get overly pessimistic about the whole moving experience (which could prove to be the experience of a lifetime), don’t forget to also check out the best things about moving abroad!
So, the worst things about moving abroad can be…
Everything is local and… different
When you move to a foreign country you expect that everything will be different and specific to that certain country, from climate and food to habits and laws. However, expectations are as different from reality as theory is from practice. Even if we had the right expectations, the actual experience is always much stronger and can sometimes become overwhelming. That’s when we can talk about the concept of culture shock.
Many expats claim that it’s sometimes difficult to understand and adapt to local culture. They have to learn a new language, all sorts of new mannerisms and customs, and get used to a new currency. Besides, the paperwork required is excruciating, especially if you want to start your own business.
Changing your lifestyle is never easy
How many times have you tried to get on a diet and how many New Year resolutions have you broken? It’s a fact: changing your lifestyle is hard and requires a lot of patience and commitment. By moving abroad you change your life and by definition changing your life means changing your lifestyle.
You will not like everything about your new expat life, but you will have to adapt to it and it’s not going to be easy. You’ll probably be a lot busier, you’ll live in a brand new town that’s also busier and everything will seem crowded, fast, and exhausting. Getting used to this pace is not easy, but it certainly is doable.
You’re an alien, you’re a little alien
Many people confess that moving abroad, especially if you move alone, can be a very alienating experience. You’ll feel alone both because you will find yourself among people you don’t know and who don’t know you and because your loved ones will be far away from you.
Our Expat Heroes explained that there were times when they felt nostalgic, lonely, and out of place in their new countries. Besides, the feeling of being a stranger is always reinforced when every single person you meet asks you where you’re from and what your story is.
You miss your home country
Whether you like to admit it or not, you’re going to miss it, trust me. The food, the weather, your favorite places… They will all gain a special place in your heart that you never even knew they had. Myint Soe, our Expat Hero from Myanmar who moved to USA to improve his career, confesses he still misses Myanmar and doesn’t think this feeling will ever go away. ‘I always want to go back to my hometown’, he says.
However, after a while some expats get the double trouble: they spend a lot of time in their adoptive country and fall in love with it and when they have to move back home they get the reverse heartache: they miss their adoptive country. Also, if they can choose where to live permanently, it’s a very tough decision to make and it will leave them heartbroken no matter the choice.
And, of course, your friends & family
OK, this is nothing new. If you ask an expat what they don’t like about their life abroad, missing their friends and family is one of the first answers they will give you. If not THE first one. Miguel de Carvalho, our Expat Hero who left Portugal for Canada in search of a better life, would add that, besides missing his family and friends, being an expat is also difficult when saying goodbye to them, because you never know if you’ll see them again.
Remember Erika Oliver, our Expat Hero from Germany? Erika is a typical expat: ever since she arrived in the States she has missed her family back home. However, she thinks accepting your sadness is not a solution. She proposes taking action! She proposes calling home to feel closer to your loved ones. For that, she thinks KeepCalling is the best solution because ‘It’s so easy and so inexpensive and we always have a great connection.’
All in all…
Moving abroad is one of the most complex experiences anyone can have, so of course it has its upsides and downsides. Many people have a sort of love-hate relationship with their expat lives. What matters is how it makes you feel at the end of the day. If you can let go of all the negatives and just be proud of this achievement, it’s all worth it. If nothing goes your way and you can’t find anything appealing in your new life, maybe you should reconsider your decision. There’s no shame in it, many people choose to go back home after an international experience.
Whatever group you belong to, be proud of your courage to move abroad and be happy you are free to choose for your own sake. Also, don’t forget to come back here for some more expat related articles!