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Living & Working abroad

What No One Told You About Moving Abroad Alone

Nov 01, 2023 by Fredrik Häggrot

There's great comfort in connecting with other expats who can share their experiences from the destination you're considering because every country is unique. However, certain things often come up when we ask expats "What do you wish someone had told you before you moved abroad?" So, we've compiled these responses into a handy list of things you'll wish you knew before making that international leap.

Taking the plunge and moving abroad is a massive, courageous step. It's an experience that will impact the rest of your life, reshaping your perspectives through exposure to a new culture, politics, environment, healthcare system, job market, people, and living standards. Your first move to a foreign country is particularly special because you step into the unknown, unsure of what to expect.

1. Mentally Moving Takes Longer Than Physically

 Once you've decided to move abroad, things can happen pretty fast – from landing a job and finding a place to live to packing your bags and settling into your new apartment in a new country with new routines and a new job. Physically moving your belongings and shifting your activities might only take a few hours. But the mental transition of feeling at ease in a new culture and establishing workable routines can take much longer.

2. Life Back Home Goes On Without You

When you leave your homeland to embrace new challenges in a foreign country, it's easy to think that life back home is on pause. But that's not the case. Be prepared for some heart-tugs when you see photos or videos of your friends and family having fun without you. For your own peace of mind, accept that their lives move forward. Celebrate their joy and focus on all the things you have to be grateful for.

3. Work Cultures Vary

Work cultures vary worldwide, so be prepared for a change from what you're used to at home. Think England's tea-drinking tradition, Sweden's famous 'fika' breaks, or Southern Europe's 'merienda' – a light afternoon meal to tide you over until dinner at 9 pm. Conflict resolution strategies, work methodologies, punctuality norms, and dress codes are a few areas where you might feel the sting of a different work culture. Thankfully, you can learn to navigate these cultural differences in the workplace!

4. Your Language Skills Will Be Affected

You might leave your home country with high expectations of improving your language skills – and you most likely will! You'll probably develop and enhance your proficiency in the language of your new home, both in understanding, speaking, and writing. However, an unexpected side effect might be that your mother tongue might falter a bit, simply because you're not using them as often. You may even pick up new words in your new language that feel so natural you'll end up incorporating them into your mother tongue when you return home!

5. Reminders of Your Homeland Will Evoke Emotions

If you believe you don't hold a special or deep connection to your homeland, you're in for a surprise when something or someone links you back to it while living abroad. Brace yourself for the extra sparkle in your eyes when you hear someone talk about food, music, brands, or words from your home country.

6. Food Tastes Different

Regardless of where you are in the world, it can be hard to replicate the nostalgic taste of the food you grew up with. Be prepared for a slight taste shift, as cooking methods, food culture, and ingredients vary between countries. You might think pizza should taste like pizza wherever you are, but with that mindset, you could be in for disappointment.

However, every country excels at something food-wise. Try to discover the national dish and local specialties and enjoy flavors you wouldn't experience back home. Think Spain's patatas bravas or authentic Italian pizza.

You may not like all the typical foods of your new country

7. You'll Continue to Convert Currencies in Your Head

If you move to a country with a different currency than you're used to, expect to be constantly calculating conversion rates. It might take some time to get the hang of local pricing, locate the inexpensive shops, and grasp how the costs differ from those in your homeland.

8. Give it some time!

People Are Different You surely anticipate people to be different in the new country, but it's only when you experience it that you truly understand it. Perhaps you'll arrive in a land full of people with a laid-back, delightful life attitude, or you might move to a bustling city brimming with high aspirations.

The new environment, surroundings, and people's attitudes might morph you into a better version of yourself. Have you heard about "surrounding yourself with the right people"? Moving abroad could be a step in the right direction.

And if finding new friends abroad sounds daunting, we have a few tips for you that could help.

9. You'll View Your Homeland Differently

After being away from your homeland for a while, you'll start to view it differently. This might result in not wanting to move back home as you initially planned. You might be enjoying life in the new country or maybe you've caught the wanderlust bug, eager for more global adventures.

Being away from something provides perspective – a perspective that can be eye-opening and valuable for the future. Your homeland will always be there, and there are numerous places in the world worth visiting.

With that said, moving abroad is a big adventure and an experience that will surely impact how you see yourself and the world. It brings both positive and negative emotions but from a big-picture perspective, we at Workwide Recruit believe it is an immensely valuable and positive experience.