10 Ways Living Abroad Changes You
1. The slates are cleaned.
No one knows you, who your family is, how you act, how other people think you act, where you worked. You leave your country and you leave behind stressful jobs/relationships/your social network. This allows you to completely reinvent yourself and no one will know otherwise and no one cares either.
Use this time wisely to decide which direction you want to develop and go for it! There’s no one stopping you.
2. You grow more independent.
This is a new game and your support system back home can’t play since they don’t know the rules. It’s up to you to figure out the rules of life in your new country on your own. Adulting is hard, but adulting abroad is a real challenge with a different set of cultural norms and laws to accompany it.
All you can do is gather your courage and handle your business. If you need or want help, there’s probably an expat community with plenty of people who have been there/done that and who’d be happy to help you accomplish your task. I know we have a great Expat community in Spb!
3. Your comfort zone expands.
When you move abroad, you have to get outside of your comfort zone on a daily basis and you find out that it’s ok to hang out there outside of it.
Even the smallest of tasks (like going to the grocery store and taking the bus) are uncomfortable at first, but after a while these ‘scary’ experiences become normal and easier to deal with the next time you don’t know what’s going on. You just figure it out and move on – no sweat.
4. You are living the dream!
You have quit your job, accepted that new job opportunity abroad or just finished college and you want to take on a challenge before settling down to the 9 to 5. You now have a unique opportunity to travel all the time. It’s much cheaper to travel across the seas when you live across the seas so you can go to those places on your bucket list and many more just because you can. It takes less time and money and it’s less inconvenient than an 8+ hour flight.
P.S. did you know that Russia has 4 weeks of paid vacation time and that does NOT include national holidays?
5. You understand your own nationality better.
It’s not like you didn’t understand them before, but living in a new country forces you to return to the basics and take a closer look. You enter an almost childlike phase where you have to re-examine the world around you, see how people interact there, learn how you can interact with them and what role you play. All the while, you can’t help but compare it to the world you came from. You understand the cultural norms from your homeland better when you encounter and try to fit into cultural norms from a new society.
6. The way you see and do things changes.
Societies do things differently: they cook, drive, eat and play differently. There’s nothing like being in a completely different environment to awaken your creativity. You’ve been removed from your comfort zone, stripped of your social network, forced to see things in a new light and it pushes and encourages growth and creativity every step of the way. New possibilities come with new skills.
You’re ahead of the game because of the experiences you have or have seen along the way. Your communication improves (both verbally and non-verbally), you enhance your ability to address a multi-cultural audience, you deal with complications on your own and in another language and you take a piece of your new environment with you. All of these things combined can take you far at work whether it be working for a company or starting your own business with all that you’ve learned. And let’s talk about your taste buds or culinary skills (if you like to cook) – those have also expanded as you’ve no doubt tried new foods and maybe new recipes at home.
7. You have friends EVERYWHERE!
One of the hardest things about expat life has turned out to also be one of the coolest. It’s taken me years to realize how great this double-edged sword is and learn to appreciate it.
As expats, we form deep bonds with other expats: we share the same interests, the same experiences, we become each other’s support system and when someone leaves it SUCKS.
I’ve come to learn that goodbye is no longer a goodbye. It’s true that you won’t see that person as much anymore, but the cool thing is that you can go visit them in their new homeland and they can visit you as well when they start to miss their old stomping grounds and it’s a win-win!
Also, do you know about the microphone function on Facebook, WhatsApp and many other messenger apps? It’s a really cool way to stay close to someone. Sure there’s Skype, but being on an 8-9 hour time difference makes that difficult. So the microphone button is a fun way to hear each other and feel like you’re having a real conversation.
8. You know yourself better.
All of the cultural awareness and going back to the basics makes you examine yourself as well as gaining an understanding of what you can and can’t handle and what you do and don’t want in life. Not to mention the identity struggle of whether you’re still from your nationality, from theirs or something of both.
This is a benefit, but also a hard lesson. You go back to your homeland and it’s changed, the people and places there have changed, your family has changed and everyone is much older than you remembered. It’s a jolting experience, to say the least. On the other hand, after that, you return to your new home and you realize that you aren’t exactly a member of that society yet either. The search for ‘where is my home and who am I’ is in full swing.
Once you’ve had time to come to terms with that, you can appreciate that you are a new you – version 2.0 – even better than before. You are equipped with new knowledge of the world and how things work differently in other countries, how to communicate better with others and how to build a unique future for yourself and your family.
9. The roads you take.
Once you’ve figured out who you are and what your role is in both lands and you immersed yourself into your new culture, then you merge the two together and become a part of both. It’s cool to be able to be a part of both societies.
10. You become a storyteller.
Have I told you about the time I bought shampoo at the beauty store and got two free champagne glasses? That’s one of my favorites and also the story about the proposal from the plumber. Maybe I’ll tell you about that someday….