20 Things They Don’t Tell You About Moving Abroad

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Chasing sunsets in a new land? Great!

But guess what? There’s a ton you don’t know about moving abroad – yet. But don’t stress; I’ve got 20 insider scoops on expat life, the secrets nobody tells you. From culture shocks to those “aha” moments, this guide spills all the tea. 

Here are some of the things they don’t often tell you about moving abroad.

1. Life Abroad Is Not Like What You See in the Movies

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For starters, movies like Midnight in Paris and Under the Tuscan Sun (sorry, Gen Z’s) paint a rosy picture of life abroad, but reality hits harder than expected. If you want a more realistic glimpse, think Emily in Paris, but remember, even that doesn’t capture the whole story.

2. The Less You Bring With You, the Better

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Honestly, you don’t need to pack everything you own. It doesn’t matter how long your stay abroad will be. Just pack as little as you can. It makes everything a lot easier, especially when it’s time to go back home, and you need to bring in everything you bought overseas and all the stuff you carried from home.

3. Loneliness Is Real

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People don’t emphasize this enough, but living abroad can make you lonely, and I mean lonely. Even for those who enjoy loneliness and prefer to be single, being abroad and longing for the familiar streets and faces back home hits hard. Plus, work abroad always tends to spill into your personal time. This makes work-life balance a real challenge. 

But hey, that’s expat life for you. The work culture in some countries, especially in the first world, is different, which often means blurred boundaries. Tough, but you will adapt.

4. Making New Friends Is a Hustle

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Making friends in a new country is a real challenge, even for social butterflies. It will take you some time to meet people and form connections. And from what I have gathered, building new relationships abroad can feel like 21st-century dating (if you know, you know).

You will find yourself stepping out of your comfort zone, joining hobby clubs, and attending expat meetups just to connect and fit in.

5. You Earn in Dollars and Pounds; You Spend in Dollars and Pounds

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The mental currency conversion game is a familiar tale for many during their initial months abroad. Some stick with it longer because dropping 200 dollars on jeans without knowing the home currency equivalent is tough. 

But does knowing the conversion help? Absolutely. It keeps you financially savvy and prudent in your spending. Bottom line: If you’re earning in dollars or pounds, you’re bound to spend in dollars or pounds. Know this and know peace.

6. There Is a Lot of Pressure To Perform and Succeed

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The pressure to perform and succeed in a foreign country is real. It’s worse if you are from a developing country and transitioning to a first-world one. The expectations from back home cast a looming shadow akin to a clingy ghost. It’s like having a personal cheerleader that occasionally throws shade.

7. Lack of a Support System

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A fast-paced life doesn’t necessarily afford the luxury of having people around. Although the systems work smoothly in many foreign countries and procedures are in place, there is simply a lack of a distinct human touch. 

Outside of the workplace, finding a company can be a challenge, so work becomes your closest companion, and loneliness hits with full force.

8. Homesickness Hits Differently

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I don’t think people realize how intense homesickness can be. Worse, even within 3-5 years, your home country can change so much that when you return, it’s not the same place you remember. It’s a double loss! And, of course, there’s the inevitable reverse culture shock.

9. Racial Caste

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Surprise, surprise! In some countries, there’s an unexpected racial caste system in play. Because, you know, nothing quite says “welcome” like being treated like an extra on a bad reality show.

10. Your Identity Will Take Center Stage

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Being abroad puts your cultural identity in the spotlight and turns you into a de facto ambassador for your home country. Africans and Indians tend to be the most hit. So don’t be surprised by the relentless loop of questions about African safaris, hunger in Africa, and the typical questions about Bollywood and curries. 

And to Africans, you’ll find yourself constantly clarifying that Africa is not a country but a whole continent. My goodness!

11. Bureaucratic Processes

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Dealing with paperwork in foreign countries can be tough. Getting a visa, local ID, driving license, opening a bank account, and figuring out local rules—it’s a bit much to handle. 

12. Cost of Living Is Bizarre!

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Brace yourself if you’re moving to a fast-paced country because the cost of living in these countries is not just about the rent or groceries but also includes hidden costs like healthcare, taxes, transportation, and even leisure activities. It requires a lot of mental and financial preparation.

13. Culture Shock Is Real

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Moving to a different place means everything is a bit different- the food, the vibes, and all that. It takes time to adjust. Some people find it difficult, especially because of the food, the rules, and sometimes the religious differences.

The key? Take time to understand the local scene, respect the cultural differences, and give yourself time to adapt. That way, you’ll enjoy your move more.

14. The Silent Social Cues

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Speaking of culture, traditional countries, mainly in Europe and Asia, have unwritten rules about how loud to be in public spaces or how to greet people. Do you handshake, kiss, hug, or just say ‘hi’? Each place has its own style. Learn the cues so you can avoid ending up in awkward moments!

15. The Unexpected Voltage!

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Beware! Your trusty hair dryer might pull a fireworks stunt in a foreign outlet, turning your morning routine into an unintentional light show.

16. FOMO Will Hit You Hard

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Living abroad means missing out on things back home, and it stings! Unless you’re just a quick, cheap flight away to avoid missing significant moments. You’ll prioritize some and try to be there, but you can only catch some things. 

Once you’ve taken the leap to another country, you’re off creating new memories while dealing with a serious case of fear of missing out (also known as FOMO) for the stuff happening back home.

17. Working Experience Is Not What You Know

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Working in a new country can be a whole new ballgame, different from what you’re used to back home. The office culture, work practices, and expectations might throw you a curveball.

18. Healthcare Systems Differ Crucially

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Healthcare systems vary significantly, so it’s crucial to get acquainted with the local setup, understand insurance options, and explore alternative remedies, whether traditional or otherwise. 

19. It’s Okay to ‘Hate’ Your New Country

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It’s okay to have mixed feelings about your new country. You shouldn’t feel pressured to suppress your emotions or fear being labeled ungrateful. Feel it, vent it out, but don’t bottle it up. Your feelings are valid, and it’s all part of the journey. Cultural shock can last up to half a year or even more. But it will eventually pass.

20. The Move Will Change You!

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I can see the eyebrow raise, but listen: travel changes you. It shapes who you are, teaching patience, resilience, responsibility, independence, contentment, and gratitude – new languages, cultural experiences – lessons that stick. 

So expect to change, even slightly. Some experiences abroad might sting, but they’ll shape you.

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