Things I’ve learned from living abroad

  • Living abroad is very different to being on holiday. Sounds obvious, but needs saying. Of course you can stretch out that holiday feeling but sooner or later reality kicks in.
  • Upping sticks and moving abroad usually might mean leaving your job too. It might seem very romantic to go off and live with your Italian boyfriend in his southern Italian village at the time. But what are you going to do when you get there? Get a job to go to. Or look as soon as you get there. Alternatively, any big project while keep you going for a while.
  • Get out, get out and get out. You’re here to meet people.
  • Don’t fall into the comfort zone of what’s immediately around you. Comfort zones can lose their appeal. Keep forcing yourself out of yours. This applies whether you’ve been in a place a year or twenty years.
  • Remember why you’re there. This may be work, family or simply because you love the place. It will give you something to hang onto during difficult times. Chances are the good times will come round again.
  • Learn the language. Do it. People are more like to accept you if they can speak your language. It’s your passport to the country. And if you stay there long enough, it will give you a whole new social and cultural identity.
  • Make yourself a family. And I don’t mean partner, kids and in-laws (if you have them). Finding other people in a similar position is the best support and therapy there is.
  • There’s a huge psychological difference between living abroad for a few years and living abroad when you know it’s permanent and maybe the only way out is via a divorce. There is why my friends joke that we’re the “lifers.” Lots of positives too, but there will be negatives and sometimes those negatives will outweigh the positives.
  • Be kind to yourself. Contrary to what we may be led to believe, not everyone is upping sticks and offing all the time. It’s a big change. Become an expert at your own hygge.
  • Remember to enjoy it. Always take time out for the best bits. You came for that amazing view from the café up on the cliffs? Make sure you make time to revisit it.

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