My boyfriend and I will be moving abroad to Granada, Spain over the next few weeks, and I was reminded of the first time I decided to pack my bags and live life as an expat for the first time. Since then, I’ve lived in Europe on several occasions and each has presented its own challenges and memories.
As I think about moving this time, I remember the times where I missed my home, my family, and my friends. If you are thinking about moving abroad, here are some things you might want to keep in mind before you make the decision to live in a foreign country.
You will be an outsider
No matter where you move, whether it is an English-speaking country or not, you are always going to feel like you cannot completely relate with the culture and the mindset the locals have. You can even learn to speak the language, dress like your neighbors, and try to make friends in your new home, but you will always be missing the feeling of belonging.
Your life at home will never be the same
When you’ve finally made the decision to return to your home country after living abroad for a few months or years, you’re going to find that nothing is quite what you remembered it. When I came back to my home town after living in Florence for six months, my friends had entered into new relationships, moved to another place, and had developed lives that I hadn’t been aware of while I was away.
Life goes on, and even though I didn’t expect things to be entirely the same when I returned, I didn’t expect that I would feel so left out and isolated when I was back home.
You will change too
Living in Italy taught me how to grocery shop differently. With only three types of cereal and a limited variety of imported foods, I learned to be happy with what I had. Even now, I am uncomfortable in American grocery stores, where I see rows and rows of food—most that will never be eaten. My idea of what I needed in order to be happy changed. I didn’t need more clothes or a large apartment in order to feel content. I appreciated what I had more by having less.
But this had also made it more difficult to live in a capitalist society that is always wanting more. I have lost a sense of patriotism that I felt before I moved abroad, and feeling disconnected from the rest of the world is impossible now.
Moving abroad isn’t for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with visiting a place for a short period of time instead of living there. Before you make the choice to leave behind the life you have, make sure you’re willing to accept the implications that come with moving to a foreign country.
Expats, how have you changed after living abroad?