Now that we’ve gotten comfy and surpassed the 1-year mark of moving abroad, we’ve had the chance to reflect. Upon reflection, we realized some things that could be helpful to someone thinking of moving or already living abroad. Obviously, these insights are all just our opinion so if you have a different perspective we’d love to hear about it. Also, this is a bit of a long post but hey… there’s a lot to think about!
When in Rome
Be a yes person! Do you want to do something new? Yes. Do you want to go somewhere new? Yes. Do you want to eat something new? Yes. Saying yes can take you on adventures, good and bad of course but nonetheless, you’ll have something to look back on and learn from. Step out of your comfort zone sometimes. It’s good to keep an open mind. Even if you’ve never had the desire to order the raw steak tartare in France or the squid ink risotto in Croatia, if you find yourself there try it! (Although be warned… the risotto does leave a black tinge to your mouth!) Haven’t had the urge to attend a cow parade? If it’s a popular thing to do in your new spot then you should reconsider! Get weird with it.
Showing respect in cultures that are unfamiliar to you can be difficult, but it’s ever important! It’s amazing how a little effort can go a long way with locals. It pays to know a bit of the language wherever you go and use it when you do. You may feel like a complete idiot, especially when they respond to your attempted French in English, but they will be happy you tried regardless! There may be certain laws to follow where you may not be legally reprimanded but you will tick some people off (like recycling glass on a Sunday in Switzerland). It’s important to familiarize yourself with and follow these guidelines to be an upstanding “citizen” or visitor wherever you go. It’s just a nice way to be. It’s also good to be aware of the cultural differences and social norms. If it’s offensive to cut your spaghetti in Italy, then try not to do it. And speaking of dining, in many areas it’s not pleasant to wave down your waiter for any reason. We don’t eat out much but we found out quickly that dining is a much slower process than in the U.S. We are assumed to enjoy our time and take it easy when out and about.
Every Day and Once a Year Essentials
If you have a special condition or know you may need a surgery in the near future, research if it’s worth it to take care of those things before moving instead of assuming it will be the same process to do those things abroad. In addition to that, think about things you use day to day. Contact solution, deodorant, over the counter medications, and prescription medications… these things may not and probably won’t be the same. Most deodorant here for example doesn’t contain aluminum (meaning it’s essentially perfume). Many over the counter medications from the U.S. aren’t over the counter here, adding an extra step and cost to speak with a doctor before getting something. They may not carry the same prescription drugs either like a certain birth control for example, which can be an unwanted adjustment. Consider buying some of these things in bulk if possible before moving and if not, plan for how you will adapt.
Another key thing to take into consideration is your budget. Make and keep a budget for yourself ahead of time if you don’t have one already and see how much you’re spending on things. Using that, anticipate changes that you think you’ll have post move and figure up if it’s feasible. It’s impossible to think of everything but prepare for that and it will make everything much smoother.
Pack light. When you have limited space like we did for the move, you’re not just parting with family and friends but much of your belongings that you may love. We’re both the type of people who can easily pare down and get rid of unnecessary items but we know for some this could be more difficult. Being able to say goodbye to certain things and stay organized during the move is key. Pre-move, we made a list of all items we packed up to take. Mainly to ensure everything made it over and without damage but also forcing us to think of the purpose for bringing each piece. Not to mention if you haven’t seen where you’ll live before, you probably don’t know what all you will want/how much space you’ll have. It’s easy to want to pack everything “just in case” but in the end, it’s easier to take only what you know will get used.
Don’t be Misled
Hate to be the bearer of bad news… but those beautiful Instagram photos you see most likely have AT LEAST one filter on them or have been taken at the most perfect time of day. So when you see them in person it’s just not quite what you imagined. We’ve had this feeling on a few occasions. In any case, it’s always more beautiful in person than the doctored photo portrays because it gives you a different feeling. Being able to smell the air, hear the noises around you, and take in the image at once is more awe inspiring than any photo alone can ever be. Don’t let the lack of popularity of a certain place fool you into choosing to travel elsewhere either.
We quickly realized it’s better not to have expectations ahead of any travel or experiences. We prepare for trips unconventionally compared to most, by not planning much outside of where we’ll be sleeping and perhaps some major spots we want to hit that save time by having a reservation. Trip planning can be a time where expectations are naturally made, reading reviews or seeing photos of a spot gives you an idea of it in your head. You envision something great and go with such high expectations that may be hard to meet. However, there’s moments where those thoughts are exceeded and that’s a pleasant surprise. If you don’t set a bar then you allow yourself to make a judgement in the moment, not letting others opinions affect yours. In line with that, don’t expect everyone to be friendly and welcoming in your new city. Maybe the one thing to expect during a move of this magnitude is that not everything will go smoothly and there are bound to be hiccups; however, it’s not impossible! We found certain aspects hard but we overcame them and feel as though we settled in easily and adapted well.
Don’t Ditch Your Routine
It’s important to keep something steady in your life when transitioning to a new phase. Keep the happy habits and create new ones! If you go for a run every morning or out to brunch once a week then continue to do those things post move if they’re important to you. Even if they aren’t at your favorite spots with your favorite people, you’ll find that you can make new favorites along the way! And creating new habits or traditions is a fun way to stay excited and adapt easier. We for example, bought a juicer upon arrival and have juiced nearly every morning since (pending if we’re home)! It’s one of those things that we feel we’ll continue to do when we return to the States.
Overthinking = Waste of Time
Enjoy the ride! If you’re thinking of making the move (internationally or domestically) or have already, make the most of it! It’s not for everyone but if it’s an option and you’re on the fence, it doesn’t hurt to try something new. And if you have already, make the most of your time. It doesn’t pay to dwell on the “what if” or “should I” moments. Just do it and learn the things you’d enjoy doing again and the things you could live without. A lot of great things have come from us moving, a lot of fun, and a lot of learning experiences to boot.