If you asked me what the single hardest part is about moving to a foreign country, I’d struggle to give you just one answer.
In almost fifteen years of packing suitcases, getting guide books ready, jumping on planes and carting my family from one incredible location to another, I’ve witnessed the kind of nervous excitement that puts you on the verge of bringing up your dinner. Whether it’s starting a new job, trying to secure property or simply making new friends, the panic always kicks in and doubts bubble up to the surface of your sought-after expat dream.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my international journey, nervous energy and all. For the sheer, unadulterated freedom that comes from leaving the borders of your home town, county and country for the rest of the world is unbeatable. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing and a little of that bright-eyed optimism has worn away over the years.
If you yearn for the far-flung reaches of this planet, much as I did when I set out, then follow closely the challenges faced with moving overseas from someone who’s been there and got the t-shirt.
Family and friendships may fade over time
The thought of leaving behind familiarity – particularly close family and established friendships – nearly sent me into a blind panic before even setting foot on a plane. You know it will be tough but nothing prepares you for the sense of isolation that awaits. People are friendly and encouraging but you’ve left behind accumulated years’ worth of dear relationships and it can feel like nothing will ever compare, nor should it.
I’m grateful for a few things. One is the advent of social media and technology in general – the chance to connect on a regular basis with those loved ones left behind. I also value the notion of friendship like I never did before. I have friends who never left home and who I rarely hear from. The moment I departed, I may as well have dropped off the face of the earth because they did – and they never stay in touch. Even when I recently left Australia, those I thought of as close friends immediately disappeared from my life. It’s a wake-up call and a test of true relationships – the ones built on a desire to stay informed of each other’s whereabouts, whatever the time or place, and that remain solid and faithful as the years pass by.
Sorting out a home can be tough without help
I’ve bought and sold houses in three continents – I sold a home in England only to buy in Ottawa, then again in Sydney and now back in Canada, this time outside of Vancouver. The process of selling and buying has been emotional, fraught with issues and has no doubt cost us time and money. But it’s also been valuable, in our minds, to own property where we choose to live. Owning property – whether a house, condo or even a piece of land – weaves us into the local community fabric and we feel connected and committed to our new home. It’s not for everyone but it makes complete sense to me.
Whether you plan to sell your home in advance of a big move and/or buy one in the place that you’re headed to, consider this: you will need the support of the experts. We relied on word of mouth to secure the services of locally-placed real estate agents to sell our homes and, on the whole, we did okay, but I do feel that we got lucky. I’d suggest using someone like RateMyAgent whose main focus is to help vendors find the right agent. What’s great about RateMyAgent is that all vendor reviews are linked to actual property sale details so users can see agents selling homes similar to their own. With over 3,000 genuine reviews from vendors posted on the site every week, RateMyAgent provides an invaluable tool to find a trusted, knowledgeable agent.
Change will never be easy for you
If you’ve ever moved house, you’ll know how unsettling it can feel in those first few weeks and months. Ditto too for changing a job or starting something new. Moving overseas is all that and more – and it happens at the same time, all of it. The sensation of being out of control and in too deep is ever present but you can either fear it or learn to embrace it for what it is. And there really is no middle ground because you either roll your sleeves up and start living life or turn back for the comfort of a former home.
Gratitude is a wonderful thing and I try hard to turn negatives into positives whenever I can. I may not fully understand the local culture or I might despair for familiar things back home – the weather, the environment, even the food – but I try to welcome the differences around me, the new friendships, subtle variations in language, the way things are done and also how I’m able to react to these differences and grow as a person, appreciating the life I’m leading and the discoveries I’m making around me. This road isn’t easy and I often wonder if I might have been happier leading a simpler life but it’s not possible to rewind past encounters and I’m not one for regrets.
Moving to another country is one of the most daunting things a person can do. There are so many reasons to remain in your original home, rather than fight the fear of change, of difference, of living as a foreigner among another people.
And it is hard. Everything you know and recognise will change in a heartbeat – the moment you step off that plane – and your world will shift on its axis to reveal a more intriguing, exciting side.
But it is awesome. Because you’ll chase your passions, discover opportunity and find yourself. You’ll learn what makes you tick and you’ll build a knowledge about yourself that comes from jumping into something feet first. To know who you truly are and what your desires are, your purpose, your strengths, even your weaknesses. This is the kind of knowledge that is golden as you move through your life.
This post was supported by RateMyAgent.