Tips to Know Before Moving Abroad
I’ve always dreamed of living in Paris, but living in Paris hasn’t always been a dream. Leaping to move abroad was one of the most exciting and empowering things I’ve ever done, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. If you are also considering leaving it all behind and starting anew, here are four things to prepare for when you make the big move.
It’s all Greek to me
Of course, the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges of moving abroad. High school French didn’t prepare me for the day-to-day trials of surviving in Paris. Once there, you can’t help but take for granted how easy it is to live in a place where you speak the language! My French has improved dramatically since studying and practicing with my cute cafe waiters. Still, I often miss being able to go beyond basic phrases quickly. At first, it will be frustrating to start a conversation with a friendly-looking stranger at the bar. You must commit time each day to practice. There are great apps like Duolingo. An unfamiliar language can be exhausting, but it also stimulates the mind. Hang in there, put in the effort, and find friends to help practice. Commit, and you will see progress.
Brace Yourself for Bureaucracy
The big move abroad is often romanticized, but one thing that you never see in the movies is all the paperwork that it involves! From getting the correct visa to signing up for a new bank and health insurance, finding a good doctor, and everything in between. Getting settled in a new country will be time-consuming; count on it! There are always more forms to fill out and government offices to visit. And, if you’re not a fluent speaker of the language, things are all the more complicated. Talking to other ex-pats who’ve been in your position and reading others’ stories online is a big help when it comes to navigating the intricacies of foreign bureaucracy. If you know what’s coming and can do some preparation in advance, you’ll have less trouble when you arrive. Facebook groups like American Expats in Paris are also a great resource–you would not believe how helpful other Americans are for even the simplest of things!
Make New Friends, but Keep the Old
Leaving your whole network of family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances behind to start all over in a new country is a daunting task for even the most social butterfly. Add in the language barrier, and you have a recipe for loneliness! But, while it can be challenging to rebuild your social circle in a new place, it’s also the best opportunity to meet people who can help expand your horizons.
You have the chance to meet people who differ from those that you’ve known your whole life, and you can build relationships from a clean slate. Thanks to social media and the internet, finding like-minded people looking for new connections is more accessible. Meetup is one of my go-to places to find groups. I’ve had my share of lonely nights, but the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned about myself have made it all worth it.
I never thought I would crave small talk, but I miss those friendly chats while waiting in line. I had to get used to leaning in for cheek kisses instead of handshakes. People not smiling as they pass me by. Some cultures do not have the outgoing personality as Americans do. Remind yourself often this is a different country and culture. Expect to find yourself thinking, hm, that’s not what I’m used to. Embrace it; that’s why you made this dramatic life change. Learn to brush things or people off. Don’t be offended easily.
Go with the flow
Learning the ways of a new culture gives you a better understanding of the people and a new appreciation for the norms of your homeland. I’ve learned that Americans are more outgoing, and to remember it’s a cultural difference. Do not take it personally! Dive in to learn more about the history and heritage of your new country. At times you may feel out of place; embrace it; that’s why you made this dramatic life change.
Starting fresh in a new country and culture is no small feat; the challenges don’t end once you decide to leap. Are you ready to get out, way out, of your comfort zone? You’ll find yourself not knowing what to do or say more often than expected. I can guarantee confusion, frustration, and embarrassment. But, you’ll also have so many opportunities to see and experience things if you hadn’t made a life change. It’s those new adventures things make it all worth it. Despite all the obstacles and struggles, it’s an experience like no other.
If you’re considering moving abroad, I encourage you to do it and take that leap of faith. However, it’s essential that you know why you’re making this change and that you understand the challenges ahead of you. Overall, I’ve learned more about myself from this journey overseas. I’ve followed many new paths over the past few years. Relocating to Paris is the best road I’ve ever been down. Read more about my story here. Where is your destination abroad to live?