Learning a New Way of Life- Living Abroad
Moving to a new country is so exciting and offers so many wonderful opportunities. Having the chance to immerse yourself in a different culture and create a new home amongst your new community is a ‘once in a lifetime’ for many. As expats, we are so very blessed for having such experiences.
But just like any transition, it’s not always a smooth ride in. There will always be challenges to face, big and small, and living a new way of life in a new country is one of the biggest.
As people do, we grow up settling into our comforts, routines and preferences of how we like to do things around our everyday lives. It can be very hard to switch the mindset as we get older and be open to change but I think it’s so important that we at least try. Change and transitions are learning opportunities and can teach us so much about the world and people around us and most importantly about ourselves.
Opening the mind to the outside world and taking those chances when they show up are blessings waiting for you! So what it is it like living in a new country? And how does it really change your everyday life?
Well, from my own experience of living in the UK for 11 years, I can tell you that it changes enough to create an imbalance of some kind. It could be emotional, physical, social, cultural, to a mental imbalance. It’s how you handle it that’s important.
For me, living in the UK, there were small changes in my everyday life. Things like, how I did laundry. Most flats have combined washer and dryer, so if you’re not familiar with this type of unit, you soon find out that it takes a very long time to do one load of laundry. The cycles are much longer, even the quick setting. Needless to say, the ‘dryer’ wasn’t as efficient as the washer, so we would end up line drying the clothes in the end anyway. Not to say that this was a major shift in my life, but there were days when I missed having two separate machines and getting it all done in one day. I really had to plan out our laundry days accordingly.
Another thing that changed was food shopping. Now this I didn’t mind at all, the food is so much fresher and organic in Europe. They don’t use all the preservatives and additives to help the food last longer so I would find myself at the market a few times a week at the most, to keep us stocked for meals. Another reason why I would shop often is because most flats in the UK have mini refrigerators, so there was not much space to do a real stock up like we’re used to in America. Oh, how I missed my BIG fridge at times! ;)
The weather was a major factor, for me, in regards to my auto immune condition. With many days of dark, wet and cold conditions this affected my muscle and joints (not to mention my mindset!) Coming from the sunny state of California I have to say that moving to the UK was a major shock to the system. It took me a very long time to adjust and to be quite honest, I'm not sure I ever really did! There would be days of aches and pains and then others of slight depression and low energy. I did, however, use a blue light at home and I also took vitamin D supplements and they did help but not as much as I had hoped. The change of weather had me completely under for a while so be very weary of the climate changes.
Getting around was fairly easy once I got used to the underground, buses and overground routes. It takes a while of course to learn the routes and the best times to travel on a day to day basis. You have to prepare yourself for anything when it comes to the public transport. There’s always a strike, or delay and of course the last minute cancellations so you have to be on top of your game if you’re trying to get somewhere on time. You really have to plan out your trips with extra time and if it’s raining? Ha! It’s always an adventure! If there’s one thing I learned about living in the UK, always take your umbrella! (even in the summer!)
Making friends can take some time, so patience is definitely a virtue on this one! It takes a bit of effort to make genuine connections as well. When we first moved to the UK we lived in the countryside, so it was a little harder to get out socially and connect. It wasn’t until I started volunteering that I made some great friends, I even met other American expats :) Then as I began frequenting the local markets, cafes/pubs and shops, I started developing friendships around town. It’s important to remember that not all cultures are as outgoing and extraverted (like Americans), so be kind and don’t take things personally when connections don’t work out. I’m so grateful for all the beautiful friends I’ve made throughout my expat life, not just in the UK but from all over the world and I’m super blessed for all of them!
Maybe you can resonate with some of these challenges or perhaps you’re considering a move abroad? Either way, there is always something to learn and never assume that your home life will be the same because it will definitely change.
Keep an open mind when settling into your new home and/or make sure to consider these challenges when you do move abroad. The more you can learn about the daily life in your new home country the better and easier you can make those transitions.
Regardless, the expat life is always full of surprises and that’s what’s so exciting about it!
My best advice? Stay mindful ;)