There is something exciting about packing up and moving somewhere totally foreign. However, it is not always purely exciting – it can always be truly terrifying. I have lived in six different countries and every time I move I meet new struggles and the latest triumphs.
If you are looking to move to a new country, there are some things you should keep in mind to mentally prepare yourself for this momentous event. It is going to be harder than you imagine, but that is ok because it is also going to be an incredible experience.
Table of contents:
1. Language challenges
The language! A boy is dealing with a different language hard. Of the six countries I’ve lived in, three of them did not speak my native tongue. Dutch, French, and German -all languages that I never once studied in school.
It can feel awfully isolating when you do not understand what the people around you are saying. It is even harder when all you want is to go to the grocery store and pick up some yogurt, only to realize you have no idea what you are buying at is – yogurt or mayo or something else entirely. This is an extremely challenging part of living abroad somewhere where they do not speak your native language and it is definitely the one thing I have disliked the most.
With that being said, you get used to being around a different language and you pick phrases up and if you study a bit soon you will be traipsing around the city like a local in no time. I have found that while it is the hardest part about living in another country, finally being able to order things confidently and converse briefly with people is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.
2. Custom challenges
Another aspect of living in another country is that all of the customs are different. Even if you are moving between two very similar countries, some things are always going to be different. Originally from the US, I spent a year in Australia, and although they spoke my language, ate the same kinds of food, and had the same shops as home, it still took getting used to.
Pay wave? I can pay for something by just waving my card around? No way! You can imagine my confusion, as this was not something that had made its way to the States yet.
3. Food challenges
The grocery store sold kangaroo meat, what the heck?! Why couldn’t I find cornmeal? What on earth is a lamington? These small changes may feel like the end of the world when trying to acclimate yourself to a totally new environment where you do not know anyone, I know I sure felt that way.
Everything can feel stressful, but the most amazing thing about living in different countries for me is the people. I have friends now from all corners of the world. Different cultures, different languages and yet we are united by a shared experience in a particular country.
There is only so much you can read about other countries in books – you really have to be there to soak it all in. And that is a pretty incredible experience.