Ever get the feeling while staring out your office window that there’s somewhere better out there? Each year people decide that the grass is always greener and pack up our stuff and move to a foreign country. Where, let’s be honest, the reality of living in Japan, New York, Paris or Australia is very different than what the TV shows, movies and even books of our youth showed. In the movies the hero, or heroine always seem to land on their feet, there’s no problem with their visa, packing their stuff seems super quick and’s accompanied by a montage of melancholic music while there’s unlimited cash at their disposal.
Once they land on new soil, the main character immediately gets an amazing job, finds a bunch of new friends and even a love interest when those who have actually taken the plunge know that for the first couple of months you’re pretty much alone. In fact, those of us who haven’t had to rely on our gut instincts or a few odd phrases believe that traveling the world is a romantic, thrilling experience and while it’s exciting ‘moving abroad is actually a lot harder than you might think.
Unfortunately, unless you’re already royalty yourself the chances of you meeting a secret prince in a Rome piazza in a funny, yet slightly unrealistic encounter is virtually nil. You won’t be seated on the flight next to your new best friend and if your suitcase gets lost it’s not going to end up arriving twenty-four hours later. Firstly, deciding to move to a brand new country requires a lot of paperwork, from arranging your visa or work permits to finding a place to live, renting a car, arranging to move your stuff and even new insurance documentation.
For instance, out in Barbados just opening a bank account is an all day process! Partly because everyone takes things a little easier out there but also because you need multiple forms of identification, the forms aren’t always clear and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to use the account straight away either. In some countries, rent isn’t paid monthly. Instead, it’s quarterly, and your contact isn’t with your landlord but the local building office who have the ability to increase your payments whenever they like. Even having internet, phone or cable installed is harder because unless you’ve lucked out on an English speaking worker, you’re going to have a hell of a time trying to tell them that you’d like both sports and movie channels, please!
Moving Stuff Is Expensive
If you’re headed overseas, short of paying hefty extra baggage allowance fees or using a firm to move your belongings in shipping containers then you’ll need to carry everything yourself. Now’s the time to have a gigantic decluttering session, give away items you no longer want or need and open an Ebay account to sell those ten pairs of black boots you never wear. It’s up to you what you do with your belongs, be it leaving them in a friend’s loft, they won’t thank you, in your parent’s garage, ditto, in storage, expensive, or down the local tip but you will need to take some stuff with you. Forget heavy items like lots of books; you can always buy English copies in your new country or download E-book versions onto your iPad if you really can’t bear to part with your favorite novels.
Yes, Norway is lovely and sunny now but in the winter the temperature drops well below freezing so does it make more sense to take all your jumpers with you, or buy new ones once you get settled in? Be ruthless with your packing decisions because this isn’t a holiday it’s a lifestyle change and, believe it or not, they do sell shampoo and conditioner elsewhere. Less is most definitely more and don’t forget you’ll probably find unusual trinkets, cute outfits and local must-haves in your adopted country, so if you plan on moving on from there you have to think about all that stuff too!
Languages Are Tricky
No matter how many lessons you’ve had, audiotapes you’ve listened to or phrase books you’ve bought the way language is spoken normally is entirely different. In short, the only way you’re ever going to become fluent in Japanese is by immersing yourself in the culture. Why not live for a few weeks with a local family? Get your roommates to teach you slang or common phrases? Join a anime or manga club? Visit a cat cafe and chat to the locals? Get a part-time job in a ramen shop? It doesn’t matter if you make a fool of yourself as locals love someone who at least tries to speak their native language, instead of insisting they speak English or consulting their phrase book or Google translate every five minutes.
Just because you’ve moved there doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be able to converse with the people around you. It’s going to take time and lots and lots of practice! Even individuals who’ve lived in Norway for years, whose children are half Norwegian and can fool a foreigner that they were born there still struggle with the vowel sounds and sing-song speech patterns of their friends and neighbors.
You Don’t Have To Love It
Travel is a wonderful, incredible life-changing experience that gives you so many opportunities that once you’ve lived on the far side of the world, you’re never quite the same again. However, there’s also a weird sense that if you don’t immediately fall in love with your new home and rush out to buy an ‘love insert country name here’ sweater there’s something wrong with you. Guess what? It’s ok to hate the transport system, get fed up with the lack of organization at work, having to queue for hours only to see the post office is closed for siesta and being frustrated with your inability to find comfort food from home when you get homesick. There are times when you are going to be annoyed, upset and angry with your adopted country but hopefully, they’re outweighed by your feelings of joy, excitement, curiosity and happiness.
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