10 lessons learned after living abroad
Imagine turing up on the other side of the world, not knowing what to expect or how you will get through the next couple of years. For some, it can be a tricky part of their lives and careers. You can make it whatever you want it to be.
Having lived abroad and traveled as much as we have, it is safe to say that a few life lessons were learned whilst settling into our new life! The top 10 lessons would have to be …
- Always choose experience over money
I should state upfront that I am an accountant, so this decision certainly wasn’t easy, but WOW, was it worth it!
When we decided to move to the UK, we decided up front that this was a lifestyle choice and we were adamant that our ambition was to explore as much of Europe (our new back yard!) as possible. To put it simply, you only live once and this experience is something not everyone is able to do in their lifetime. So, the fact of the matter is that you’re moving and making a significant change to your life – why not make the most of it!
- Give it a chance!
Change is often one of the most difficult hurdles in life. Has anyone seen or heard of the change curve?
Denial – Anger – Exploring – Acceptance
The denial and anger are a result of looking to the past (what you had, friends, family, security) and whilst the trigger varies for everyone, looking to the future is when you really start exploring and accepting the change. This, is when you realise how lucky you are to have made the move.
I have met so many people who struggled with the move, clearly looking to the past and all they want to do is move back to what they know. This can be a challenge because it is so easy to pack your bags and move to what you know, you honestly just need to give it a chance! Set yourself a time limit and if by the end of that time you’re still not looking to the future then I agree, the move may not have been for you. The best way to kick-start your new life is to get out and make some new friends (see point 3) and plan that first holiday so you have something to look forward! Either way, you’ve spent a small fortune to relocate so try to stick it out and before you know it, you will never want to leave!
- Make new friends
For us, we moved over together which makes things a lot easier. We always had each other to rely on, keep each other company or head out together on that miserably cold and wet winter evening. However some of my favourite memories living in London is the new experiences and friends we made. We ended up in so many unusual places that we would never have experienced if it weren’t for these friends, from festive pantomimes, improv shows, getting dressed up and being ridiculous, or simply exploring new neighborhoods, pubs and restaurants.
Admittedly, it’s not easy making new friends, especially not when you’re on the brink of your 30’s as the majority of people are already in an intimate circle of friends, settling down to have a family or simply aren’t interested in heading out. I realise 30’s isn’t that old, but it’s challenging when everyone is off getting married or having babies! This, is where it pays to play nice at work, make the effort to head out to the socials or go for a beer after work, even if you’re not keen, you will naturally find out who’s who in the zoo and if all goes well, make that a personal friendship that extends beyond the workplace. Many people have lived or traveled abroad so you’re bound to have a few things in common and plenty to talk about… you just have to put yourself out there!
- You don’t feel settled yet? That’s ok – it takes some time!
Often, when the excitement wears off of the moving abroad, getting a place to live and finding a job – you might start to feel a little lost. This is perfectly normal and feeling completely settled can take some time. For us, we got in to a routine fairly quickly which helped. No routine is exactly the same and just because you’re in a routine, doesn’t mean it’s a good one! Sure, having a job with a stable income is important, but you need more than this. Back home, our routine included the weekly lunch with the family, birthday parties and heading to the shops. Not very exciting, but it certainly kept us busy!
The thing you’ll realise when you arrive in an unfamiliar place, is just how much time you really do have! We quickly moved onto lesson number 1, it’s not cheap moving abroad and let me assure you, that rental deposit hurts, but we quickly bought a yearly planner, booked in our first couple of holidays and turned up to our new jobs with our leave requests. This was great, it set a precedent of sort that we’re there to work hard, but also and most importantly, explore their country (which they love) and the rest of Europe. This habit quickly became a part of our routine, we booked a trip each month (or sometimes more!), these varied from weekend getaways to longer trips – we found so much inspiration, the more people we spoke to, the more inspiration we were given to travel to places that absolutely weren’t on draft 1.0 of our bucket list! Many of these places we didn’t even know existed!
- The fear of missing out…
The truth is, you’re never going to be content with what you have – we had an amazing lifestyle, but social media is in my mind the devil’s advocate. You’re forever seeing little bits and pieces of what your family and friends back home are doing. You’re also in a different season, so when it’s grey and rainy (yes, I know!) and it feels like you haven’t seen the sun in a month, your social media feeds will be scattered with the ‘perfect’ Australian lifestyle, mates sitting at the beach, mates enjoying a beer while throwing a steak (no one throws shrimps) on the barbie or simply going for those amazing coastal walks.
But really – we, honestly had such great winters, Christmas in London is spectacular, we went to top ski resorts and we even escaped winter by heading to the Mediterranean where the sun is warm all year round!
In hindsight, the only thing I really missed, it would have to be the Sydney Fish Markets and for Jenna, her Allen’s lollies. I’m sure Jenna must have tried every other confectionery company in London and allegedly none of them came close to the Allens Chico Babies or the Allens Strawberries & Cream. Honestly, Jenna’s mum brought over around 5kg of lollies when they came to visit, but on the plus side they had plenty of space for their new purchases!
- Make the most of your weekends and long weekends
This is something I feel we did exceptionally well. Don’t get me wrong, it is exhausting but getting away for a weekend or long weekend is the best way to see Europe while working full-time. Head off on a Friday evening and come back on the Sunday evening or Monday evening if you can swing a day off or incorporate your holiday with a public holiday. Imagine escaping to Spain or southern France in the winter to get some sunshine, or popping over to Italy for some amazing Italian food or Norway for some hiking… all of this is possible from London. Of course, those cheap flights everyone tells you about really aren’t that cheap if you’re flying out on a Friday night and returning on a Sunday night… but, if you book well enough in advance you get reasonable fares and trust me – it is entirely worth it. I look back on our 2 years and only wish we had more time for more weekends away. In my opinion this is one of the most important lessons!
- Work hard – Play hard
Aussies have a reputation of working hard. And that is simply because we do work hard. We put in the hours and produce high quality work. This was perfectly matched with what the Brits are good at – play hard! Combine the hard work with some play time and you’ll fit in to your new life in no time. If you’re lucky, your work will take you across the world. I was lucky enough to explore a decent amount of the UK whilst working in Liverpool, Leeds, Skipton, Birmingham and even more fortunate to have my job take me to Atlanta, USA as well as Budapest, Hungary – of course you’d be silly not to tack on a small holiday at the end of it and see some sights while you’re there!
- Give it everything you’ve got, take some risks!
You don’t want to live with regrets. So what do you have to lose? Just give it a go, take a few risks! The last thing you want is to regret not trying… and what’s the worst that can happen? Something not work out? You need to move back home? Taking risks is often what creates those endless opportunities which you normally wouldn’t have dreamt about. What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life? For some, moving abroad is probably one of the biggest risks as there can be a lot to lose. For others, that’s the easy part and everything else that comes after is the tricky bit. Try to step out of your own bubble and experience something different every once and a while.
- Home sickness… or not?
So, for us it was simple. We never got homesick, not even once! We put it down to the fact that we hit the ground running and kept too busy exploring the world to get bored and think about being so far away from our family. Also, there is Facebook and Skype – easy to keep in contact with people! Our tip here – keep busy and always have something to look forward to!
- Get the most out of your time abroad
Sounds simple, right? In a nutshell, if you sit at home and think about how unhappy you are, how much you miss your family and friends then the chances are you will never be happy. You need to make the most of every opportunity and be excited about what could be right around the corner. Embrace living in a different country, embrace the cultures surrounding you and enjoy the moment. And remember, not everyone is as lucky as you are to be living abroad!