1.The Grass is Greener on the Other Side
Whenever people creep my Facebook page or read my blog posts about living abroad they always say, “you’re so lucky!” I certainly am – and in no way do I want to seem ungrateful for my unbelievable cultural experiences – but I wouldn’t say that living abroad is not always smooth sailing. I am so grateful that I am privileged enough to have these great opportunities – and the balls to go after them. However, it is worth noting that it’s not always all magic and rainbows.
- When I first moved to South Korea I was too afraid to leave my apartment because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find it again – I didn’t even know my address (funnily enough, after living there for over a year I never got to learn my address – it was too complicated).
- The language and cultural barriers make simple things a lot more difficult – like opening up a bank account or seeing a doctor.
- Different countries celebrate different holidays and I remember having to work on Christmas day – talk about depressing.
2. You Will Miss Food from Home
One of the main reasons that I travel is for the food. As exciting as it is to try new dishes, eventually you will begin to miss your boring bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. While living in Asia it didn’t take long until I was sick of eating rice and would have killed for a bowl of pesto pasta, topped with grated parmesan cheese, and paired with a smooth glass of red wine.
It can be hard to predict exactly what you will miss. While living abroad I found that the second I saw any food item from home in a supermarket I would get so excited and buy it. Half of the time though, I would never buy these items back home – it was just the familiarity of them that made me want them. For example, whenever I saw Goldfish crackers I would buy them in a frenzy, but now that I am back home I don’t blink an eye at them in the super market.
3. Friends are Key – They Make or Break Your Experience
It’s the people that make a place – I’m not being cheesy, it’s the truth. If you don’t have a good network of people to share your experiences with I can almost guarantee you will love your experience living abroad. It can be hard to meet people sometimes so take action right away. Join a sports team (I played Ultimate Frisbee while living in South Korea and it was the best decision ever!), go to social events, volunteer, and find a job.
The first place that I ever moved abroad to was Auckland, New Zealand at 18 years old. I worked in a pub where I was the only server on duty, so I didn’t make any friends through work. Of the few girls that I did meet, they were not very friendly. I was miserable and just a click of a button away from buying a plane ticket back home. I ended up leaving New Zealand – but ended up traveling instead of going home right away.
Years later, when I moved to South Korea, I made an effort right away to make friends with good people. While living there I had many challenges (read about my experience here) but the people I met got me through. I had a job as a teacher and got to interact with my sweet and hilarious students everyday and gave back to the community by volunteering at the local orphanage. My co-worker turned into my best friend and my ultimate Frisbee team was like my family (road trips, Thanksgiving dinners, you name it). Had I had this type of network in New Zealand there is not doubt that I would have stayed there longer.
4. You WILL get Homesick
No matter how many friends you make and adventures you get up to, homesickness will inevitably sink in. This is normal. Having good friends that respect your decision to live abroad and still make the effort to keep in touch is key. However, also make an effort to stay busy. The less time that you have to sit and miss your friends and family back home, the less time you will have to experience homesickness.
5. There Will be Customs and Laws that you Won’t Agree With
While living abroad, you will have to abide by each countries laws and cultural norms (for the most part). This can sometimes have it’s perks. Being from Canada, I love living in countries where I can legally drink in public – hello drinks on the beach! Wearing slippers to work in Asia? Sounds wonderful!
There will also be many things that might get on your nerve. When I worked as a server in New Zealand I made very little money because their culture doesn’t tip (and I was used to making very good money as a server in Canada). While working as a teacher in South Korea I got zero sick days. ZERO SICK DAYS! I had to teach five classes a day with strep throat!
6. There Will be Some ‘Basic’ Items That you Won’t be Able to Buy
Before you move abroad it’s important to do some research into ‘basic’ things that you may not be able to get while abroad. For example (and yes I will keep referencing Asia for dramatic purposes because it is so drastically different) they don’t sell my bra size so I had to make sure that I brought enough with me to last a year and a half. Another thing was their toothpaste – I read that it wasn’t very effective – so I brought a year supply with me.
Have any other useful tips for living abroad? Comment below!