Packing up your belongings, booking a one-way ticket, and travelling across the world to find your new home is something that many of us dream of. There’s a reason why Eat Pray Love was such a success, many of us have that secret itch to try somewhere new. To discover and immerse ourselves in a new culture, climate or language even if just for a little while.
It’s not for everyone, many of us are happy staying where we currently call home, and that’s inspiring as you’ve found where you are most content and don’t feel the urge to shake that up. However some people feel that need to explore. To settle somewhere different, to start afresh or to have a change of scenery and routine.
Thinking about moving to a new country is one thing, but then actually going and doing it, well that’s where the fun starts. If you are thinking of moving, looking for the catalyst to begin your new journey abroad or want to know what it’s really like from people who have done it before, then look no further than this article.
I have spoken to a series of ten friends, colleagues and family members who have lived in at least two places overseas, and have kindly shared their experiences of living somewhere entirely different with me.
The best parts of living somewhere new
I asked ten people what they thought was the best thing about living abroad, and the top answer time and time again was, you guessed it, food.
The chance to try new cuisines, local dishes and learn new ways to cook food was a really big draw when choosing where to move to and settle down.
New cultures, habits and the chance to learn a new language were close contenders, as was the chance to ‘explore new experiences and opportunities that are now on your doorstep’. It seems that when moving we are looking for something unique, that we haven’t come across before. Less of the same old and more of the new and undiscovered.
For me, food certainly is up there, alongside the chance to immerse yourself in local traditions, history and culture. When you visit a place, even for an extended period of time, you don’t truly get to know the day to day way of living, eating and adventuring. Moving there lets you soak in the culture over a period of time, and take away from it the parts that really resonate with you.
What can be frustrating or difficult?
When moving, it’s certainly filled with so many highs and new experiences, but it would be misleading to pretend there’s not a fair share of lows you have to go through as with any other journey.
Again, this question resulted in quite a unanimous answer across the group. First and foremost, when moving abroad the most frustrating part of settling in is getting to grips with the new languages. For many people, classes and lessons in person are seen as an essential when you move to a new country. If you don’t make this effort, it can make day to day living much more difficult, especially if you have a problem like one of the respondents such as water coming through your ceiling on a bank holiday. Plus, as a lot of people said making friends was a big challenge for them, language classes are a perfect way to do this.
Second most common was missing family and friends from home. Even if the distance isn’t too far, people said that they didn’t really realise how much they’d miss home and the people that made it special until they had left. Modern technology makes it a little easier now but it’s important to make sure you make time to go back now and then and connect in person, or even better, treat your friends to a free-accommodation holiday with all the local tips and tours included in your new country! On a personal note, having a steady stream of loved ones come out to see us over the last five months has been so important and we are forever grateful to our friends who have made the journey to come see us. You’ve helped us settle a lot easier.
Lastly, a big one is learning to adapt and getting to grips with the local quirks, habits and culture to make sure you feel like you really do fit in. Examples include later dinner timings, local noise laws, paperwork preparation and driving etiquette to name a few. The more you can research, observe and practice local habits, the easier you’ll settle.
Adapt to your new home, don’t try to make it adapt to you.
Where is the best place you’ve lived?
Obviously this is a subjective list, but I wanted to ask it to give you a flavour of why certain places really resonate with people.
- San Francisco – The city and ease of being able to travel around California
- Harrogate – Because of how beautiful Yorkshire is each and every day!
- Spain – For the food, weather and later chilled lifestyle
- Switzerland – For the incredible outdoors, the environmentally friendly nature, the pet friendly culture and the views. It’s such a healthy, happy country. Plus, it’s super central, making it so easy to explore other countries.
- Greece – For the people, the history, the food and the culture. It’s warm, both in personality and in climate.
- Germany – Language, very green and great vegetarian food, as well as being really environmentally friendly.
- Germany – But more for the circumstance and being in early twenties without kids
- Belgium – For the easy access to travelling in Europe
- Switzerland – For the nature, quality of life, food and outdoor activities
- Vietnam – Because it was so different to what I was used to, so always interesting
- Spain – Because it has all the excitement of living somewhere foreign but with the ease of access to home comforts. Plus it’s a beautiful, hot country.
- New Zealand – So much space, I loved all of it. Such a varied selection of scenery and places to visit. The Southern Alps to the Beaches, the Glaciers to Milford Sounds. North Island to South Island. Cultures within cultures
- Norway – I loved the country and the no nonsense approach to life of the people.
How has living somewhere abroad changed you?
A big theme for everyone I asked was that living somewhere overseas had a big impact on their confidence. A lot of them developed a stronger understanding of what they were capable of, and also became more social in situations with new people or experiences.
Also, things became less of a need for many people. As they moved, they became very conscious of what things they kept and prized, and what they would often leave behind or find a pain to move. Living with less became more of a reality, in the search of more experiences and adventures.
As you choose to travel to create a new home, it becomes unsurprising that many of our respondents said that living abroad only fuelled their passion to travel personally more as well.
Finally, many of our respondents said moving abroad changed their health outlook and activeness, for the better.
For me personally, moving abroad made me be more adaptive and open to the unknown. As a chronic planner, I like to know what’s going on and can be a little bit of a control freak when it comes to organization. Knowledge and plans soothe me, but you can’t rely on this when moving abroad. Things will go wrong, you will hit local roadblocks, and there’s going to be hurdles to overcome that you didn’t expect. It taught me to make a plan, but then be flexible when it comes to putting it into practice.
And lastly, what one piece of advice would the insiders give to those who were considering living overseas?
- Any move is what you make of it
- There’s never a right time. People do it alone, with kids, with pets. If you keep waiting for the right moment, you’ll never do it.
- Learn the basics of the language and keep at it when moving
- Research before living somewhere, and do this in detail, even if you have vacationed there or have family there who love it, it doesn’t mean it will suit you
- Immerse yourself in the culture and don’t expect it to feel like a holiday
- Get involve, get immersed and enjoy every moment of the experience as you don’t know how long you’ll be there
- Just make sure you understand what you are hoping to get out of it, a new country won’t fix longer term lingering problems.
- Understand local laws and customs
But the main advice from everyone? Just do it. You can plan, organize and dream about it, but the reality is, until you are there, you won’t know what to expect so go for it.
Thanks to everyone who helped me pull this together, your insights have been so valuable. I hope if anyone reading this is thinking of moving abroad, it inspires you to go for it. Even if it’s just for a little while, it’s a great opportunity.