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You Should Know These Things Before You Move Abroad

things you should know before moving abroad

If you’re thinking about moving abroad, I’ll be first in line to tell you to do it. Living abroad is the best thing I’ve done and I think any doubts you have, you should push past and make the leap anyway.

But before I moved abroad there were a lot of things I just plain didn’t know, or never thought about before I made the leap to living abroad. Maybe because my first time living abroad was more of a small snowball of thinking that I might do something that somehow turned into an avalanche of actually getting on a plane and going than a really clear decision!

If someone could have told me what I should know before making the decision to move abroad, what would I have wanted to know? Well, probably something like the below…

Home won’t be home anymore

When you’ve moved abroad the concept of home is never going to be quite the same again. You’re now split across two worlds. There’s more than one place where you know how things work and there’s more than one place with things to miss.

If you return to where you came from, you’ll now have another place to miss. If you’re anything like me, you might even end up splitting yourself across more than two places!

Your relationships will change

Clearly your old friendships won’t be the same when you move abroad, but you might not be as prepared as you think. Different friendships evolve in different ways. With all of the technology we have now it’s easy to stay in touch. There are even apps like Zoom that let you play group games with friends, so you can keep your social circle going from abroad. 

Having said that, you’ll find some friends you speak to every day, others maybe only once in a while and when you do nothing has changed. Then some you barely hear from until you go home, or sometimes, not really much again at all. 

At the same time as you’re dealing with how your friendships from home are evolving you’re meeting new people and making new friends. Soon you’ll have friends all over the place and some of your closest friends will have never met each other. It’s weird but you talk about them all to each other and yet they don’t know one another!

If you’re single, chances are you’ll hear before you move abroad “ooooh maybe you’ll meet someone and fall in love!”. I’m not going to say it’s not possible (ahem) but moving abroad does make relationships more complicated.

Dating people from different countries can throw up all sorts of things that you wouldn’t have faced if you stayed at home and got with Johnny from next door. Pesky things called visas, or deciding whether to travel versus staying put, or not having a clue where you want to live but wanting to settle are your new issues.

things to know before you move abroad

Moving abroad is not as easy as it looks

The media gives us a ton of rose-tinted examples of moving abroad. Eat, Pray, Love and Under the Tuscan Sun, to name only two. Moving abroad is easy right? Nope. Moving abroad definitely has its challenges, and they are usually glossed over in movies, although not quite as much in books. Any expat will tell you that living abroad kicks your butt sometimes. Having to organise visas and bank accounts, negotiating a whole new way of life and system of doing things is not always pretty, and more often than not, it’s actually hair-tearingly frustrating.

Plus sometimes, it just doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. Travelling to a place and living there are very different, and it’s not until you move abroad that you realise how much. The key is to remember, even if it doesn’t quite work out how you thought it would, it’s still always worth the adventure.

The world isn’t really that big

The world might seem too big when you’re missing home and it’s too expensive and too far to pop back, but moving abroad also makes it smaller.

You realise it’s not really that big once you’ve moved abroad because things are largely the same all over the world. People have friendship circles and families, they go about their daily lives in much the same ways with meals and work. Sure there are cultural differences but beneath it all, we’re all human.

Then you realise you can make a space for yourself anywhere in the world. Suddenly, the possibilities of where you can place yourself are endless. You’ve done it once, and you can do it again!

You won’t just learn a language

If you’re moving abroad to a country where you don’t speak the language, don’t expect to just “pick it up” like so many people claim you will. Can you really learn a language by moving abroad? Yes, but with hard work. Learning a language takes more than just hearing it, or I would be amazing at Spanish by now! If you really want somewhere to be a home to you, you’ll need to put in the effort to learn the language. That means going out of your way to practice what you do know and to actively try and learn more.

things to know before you move abroad

Living abroad can be lonely

Even though you can make it into one long, grand adventure, living abroad is not a permanent vacation. You still have to do all those things you did at home like work and have a social life, except you’re in another country. I think it’s hard to truly travel solo because it’s so easy to make friends on the road, but let me tell you, it’s not so hard to move abroad solo.

Travelling puts you in constant situations where you meet people, and you can basically make instant friends. When you move abroad you meet a lot of people too, but meeting people and making friends with them are two very different things. People are comfortable in their lives and it can be very difficult to break in.

Sometimes you sit at home alone on a Saturday night trying to convince yourself you totally needed some “you” time. Even though you spent the last week by yourself too…

There are things you can do to help make friends when you move abroad, but it means finding the confidence to put yourself out there and risk being rejected. The easiest way to combat the loneliness is to find other expats, because us outsiders like to stick together. Just don’t let that be the only people you try and connect with.

Get used to goodbyes

That first lot of goodbyes when you move abroad might be hard, but it’s only the beginning. After you’ve lived abroad you’ll have to get used to saying goodbye all the time. Other expat friends will come and go, you’ll be visiting home and coming back again, or you might even move on to another expat home and keep living abroad forever.

In a harsh kind of way you’ll almost get used to it. It doesn’t mean you won’t be sad or it won’t hurt when you have to say goodbye again, but it becomes life. And since the world feels like a smaller place now, you’ll know to never write off the possibility of meeting again.

things to know before you move abroad

You’ll appreciate where you come from more

It’s true that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. When you move abroad and you start exploring your new home you’ll realise how little of the home you had that you appreciated. All of us have that one tourist attraction in our home town that we’ve never bothered to go to, yet everyone who visits always does.

Living abroad gives you an appreciation for what’s around you, and you’ll understand that talk about exploring your home like a tourist like never before. Travelling teaches us to choose the adventure, and living abroad helps us to keep doing it all the time.

You don’t care what’s cool anymore

When you’re at home surrounded by the same people you’re always conscious of what the popular thing of the moment is, even if you don’t realise it. That TV show everyone’s watching, or that new style of clothing everyone’s wearing. You don’t necessarily have to care about it, but it’s there.

When you move abroad you get the opportunity to completely create your own life. You’re that weird foreigner who does what they like. Songs, TV shows and styles will be completely different, and you’ll mash together this mix of things that you love from all over and create your own cool.

You’ll realise you have way too much stuff and you can cope with much less

When you have to pack your entire life into one case or backpack you’ll realise that you probably have way too much stuff, and really you don’t need it all. Clothes are the worst culprit, and the problem is that your new home abroad may have a completely different climate or style that everyone you own is unsuitable for, even if you thought you had it down. Plus shopping.

Do yourself a favour and cut the crap.

bags packed to move abroad

Be prepared to meet your emotions

Moving abroad mean mood swings. You can go from being completely happy in your new home to a blubbering mess because one tiny thing didn’t quite work out. Be prepared to experience the full spectrum of human emotion when you move abroad. From the initial excitement before you go to the nervousness when you first arrive, the frustration at trying to figure out a new system, to the elated feeling when something works out. It’ll happen.

The good thing is, you’ll learn how to cope better with your emotions, and let some things go.

You’ll be called many things

When people call me brave for moving abroad I don’t really understand. I just see it as going after something I wanted, which shouldn’t be brave, it should just be life.

The other option is being called crazy. Voluntarily deciding to upend my entire life and attempt to make a new one across the world? I may not dispute that one.

things to know before you move abroad

You might not find yourself, but you will learn about yourself

I don’t subscribe to the idea of moving abroad to find yourself. Where does that mean you were before? You’re already there, but you might just need to learn a little more about yourself. You’ll learn that you’re not the same person to everyone you meet, and there are different sides of your personality that emerge in different situations.

You’ll also learn how you personally cope with different situations, and if you don’t like it, you’ll be able to work on changing it. When you’re always in the comfort zone, it’s harder for you to grow, and moving abroad is one of the ultimate tests!

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
– Miriam Adeney

Have you lived abroad? Do you agree, or do you wish there were other things you knew before you moved?

Sonja x

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things you should know before you move abroad


29 thoughts on “You Should Know These Things Before You Move Abroad

  1. Brianna says:

    This is so accurate! I’m a little different in that I moved abroad with my family when I was in High school. But these point still apply! I think it may have been even more impactful since I was still fairly young (14) and it was my first time ever leaving the country.

    • Kathleen says:

      I’m really want to move abroad. myself and my husband have good trade jobs. I have a daughter at 15 ,and my son is 2 ,wee are homley ppl but have worked long and hard for years and want to take a new chapter in life but still youthful as I’m 33 and my husband is 38 and wee would welcome ppls view or opinions would be appreciated as wee are at a bit of a loss off wot country’s are best and wot wee could get for our money etc)) any suggestions would be appreciated wee are a normal family looking for something not at a major budget

      • Migrating Miss says:

        Hi Kathleen! It’s really going to depend on what passports you have and where you live, as you’ll be limited by visas. I would start by looking at countries would accept you in order to work and then narrowing down the ones that would work for you. For example, if you’re from the UK many people consider Canada or Australia.

  2. Annika says:

    I’m afraid of moving abroad because I will surely miss my family, friends and my cute little feline cat named Albie. Anyhow, I wish you well!

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Hi Annika! There’s no getting around missing family and friends (and pets!), but I think it’s worth it even if only for a little while. Just to experience something totally different, and prove to yourself you can do it! Thank you 🙂

  3. Leslie says:

    I really enjoyed and totally identified with this. After 12 years of living abroad I have tonnes of fun doing it my way. Not the Canadian way or the Ugandan way – a really rad hybrid way!

  4. Tracy says:

    I wish this was around before I moved abroad – I’ve had to figure it all out the hard way! My expat time is coming to an end (for now) and I’m returning home at the end of this month. It’s hard to leave one life behind and pick up another – even if it’s one you already know. I can relate to all of this. (And the stuff – how did I get so much stuff? Again?)

    • Migrating Miss says:

      It took me a long time to figure some of this out for myself! Leaving one home and setting up in another, even if it is your original home, is always hard I think. Sometimes even harder when it is a return home because both you and the place may have changed! Best of luck!

      I honestly don’t know where the stuff comes from. I swear every time I buy something I make sure I’ll need it, because otherwise I’ll probably have to get rid of it when I move again, and somehow I still accumulate way too much!

  5. Jessica C says:

    Thank you for painting a real picture! People hear that you are moving abroad but seem to think it’s one big vacation. They tend to forget about the “little things” like immigration, finances, relationships, etc like you mentioned. As if everything is sunshine and rainbows. I get comments on “I wish I could live in your shoes for a day!” and I think “I’m guessing the day that is sunny and I’m on a boat in a canal and not the day I’m biking in hail to try and get to the store before it closes at an insane 6pm” 😛 There are always pros and cons and I think you did a great job of painting a very accurate picture.

    • Migrating Miss says:

      You’re most welcome! There is a lot of romanticising moving abroad, and it is a fantastic experience so I can see why. I just like to be able to show some of the other side of things too, things you might not have thought about before making the move! Glad it resonated with you :).

  6. Anna says:

    This was such a great read… I haven’t moved abroad but am considering it. There were a lot of things in here that I hadn’t even thought about, like being the weird foreigner! I guess I’m lucky in that I’d be transferring through work if I did go, so a lot of the admin would be taken care of. It’ll be the emotional side that I struggle with most! Would you ever consider moving back now?

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Thanks Anna! From when I first moved abroad to what I know now is so different! Not necessarily a bad thing to start out with rose tinted glasses, but also it can make it easier if you know a little more beforehand so you understand what you’re feeling! It is definitely an emotional rollercoaster, but I’ll always found it levels out in the end and it’s worth all the ups and downs. Because there are emotional highs as well as the lows! I probably won’t be moving back anytime soon, now that I’m getting married overseas, but maybe!!

  7. Gordon says:

    I have a different perspective. From experience, I can tell you that if you’re not an easy-going, laid-back type who’s comfortable going with the flow, moving abroad is probably not for you. I’m a nervous, anxious type, and I never should have done it. It left me with an essential head tremor (from anxiety) that took years to get rid of. But if you can go with the flow easily, then by all means explore the expat life.

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Hi Gordon,

      I’m so sorry that you didn’t have a great experience moving abroad and it’s affected you so much. I really hope you can still be proud of yourself for taking a chance. It is a huge step and it can be very overwhelming. I do know some people whose anxiety has been helped by such a chance, but I completely understand that might not be the case for everyone x.

  8. Paulina says:

    I totally agree with thi spost! I moved to another continent, different climat, everything different all alone and Im only 20 now. I havent gone back home yet but Im affraid that when I do go home I wont want to come back, on the other hand I want to go back for a visit to appreciate this new home more. I am concidering moving abroad somewhere else as well after my studies but then I will miss even more people.
    I must say though, moving is great you learn so much about yourself and others, I dont know how I would have chosen had I known what it is like, but all in all it was a good decision.

    And the thing with relationships is that I feel like I neglect a lot of friendships that mean a lot to me, but there is only so much I can do on one day.

    • Migrating Miss says:

      I’d highly recommend another move abroad if you can! They’re always different and I really believe in taking the opportunities while and when you can. It is a weird thing though to never feel quite at home again! You learn so much though, about yourself and other people. It is hard to keep in contact sometimes, but with all the different ways at least try to drop a message whenever you can 😀

    • Zunaid Andre says:

      Don’t be afraid.Just be certain about keeping your emotion in check(I don’t know how that will work for you though).I am typical aquarius and I had moved from South Africa to U.S and never felt at home even after 8yrs.I kept on to The Netherlands where I feel at ease but I still feel like I belong somewhere which I just don’t know yet.Be mindful that it is never going to be easy but it is doable and for truth!,where you born will always be you home.The expression Home is where you make it is not true atleast for me.I don’t care how good you make it in a foreign country.Something within you will always guilt-trip you to remind you you do not belong there.But try and visit your home and just don’t expect things tp be the same because you won’t be same either.Good luck.

  9. Jodie Jones says:

    I wish I read this before I moved abroad. I moved from London to China and sadly I could not cope and came back having only stayed a few months. At first I found myself feeling so incredibly grateful towards the life in London which I was so accustomed to and clearly took for granted. But recently I have been feeling very regretful about my quick decision to come back. I knew I was learning and growing as soon as I got on the plane but I just found everything so overwhelming from climate to finding housing and settling in and then trying to carry out everyday life like working and socialising. Like you mention in your post also, it’s not all how it looks in the film’s, you are going to need to just get on with everyday life whilst also dealing with this huge rollercoaster of emotions everyday. It’s incredibly hard and I am in awe of those who just go with it and eventually make it work. I would really love to try it again.y dream is to travel, to see more of the world, learn new languages and about different cultures. Im a teacher so there are many opportunities out there. I am determined to try again one day and put all the knowledge I now have to use. Can I ask how you decided where to move to? Or did it just happen? China was not personal preference it was just an opportunity that arose. I am now doing a lot of thinking and research to see where might be more suited to me and my needs but if you have any tips with regards to choosing a destination I’d really appreciate it!


    • Migrating Miss says:

      For me the places I moved to were either where I wanted to go or where I could get work. For example, I moved to the UK without a job because I wanted to live here and travel Europe, and then I moved to Spain partly because it meant I could stay in Europe but also partly because I wanted to learn Spanish and I had a job offer for teaching English. At university I moved to Canada for a study abroad, not because I really wanted to but because the opportunity arose and I took advantage of it, so it really can be many different ways! Maybe next time you move (if that is still what you want to do!) then you could try and pick somewhere that you are really interested in going. Although sometimes that means you have higher expectations too!! It’s definitely difficult, but like you say, worth sticking out for all the rewards.

  10. evelyn says:

    I didn’t know what I should expect before I decide to travel another country. Back then I was so exhausted and hated where I belong. So I decided to move to New Zealand. Your home country. The country was nice place to live. I actually quite jealous people who live there. So peaceful and caring and quiet. I never felt the similar feeling even in my own place in Korea. I felt lots of pain and loneliness. Now I got back Korea, still It feels painful. What I did to myself. I had no plan, no body to accommodate me when I was there. It was so painful experience I didn’t even realized. This time, I want to plan wisely, I want to protect myself from ignorance and less planned journey. I will plan, protect myself from what I should expect. Life is not easy over here, I want to live better life. Thanks for your sharing.

    • Sonja - Migrating Miss says:

      Thanks for sharing Evelyn. Moving abroad, and in fact, moving home after, can both be really hard things to do! I hope you can give yourself some small goals and things to do to help you to cope and find a life you enjoy in Korea!

  11. Siobhan says:

    Yes i can understand all of those things! I lived abroad for a year of my uni life and now that I am graduating, I am moving back there at the end of this year.

    I am trying to get everything ready for then. Like which suitcases will I take? I cant take the ones my family uses for their holidays. Whats going to happen with my phone plan? It gets renewed in a few months, maybe my step dad can use it? But he says he doesn’t want it. There is all these kind of things I am worried about. Then I have to organise how I am going to vote. My home country requires every citizen over 18 to vote. I will have to register with the consulate i think?

    • Sonja - Migrating Miss says:

      It’s definitely complicated working through everything but you’ll get there! Make a list and try and tick them off one at a time and don’t leave it all until last minute (guilty haha). I’m not sure about voting, do they still make you if you’re not currently a resident? Best to ask them I guess! Have an amazing time!

  12. MIchelle says:

    Im faced with a huge decision to move abroad. Im from South Africa and i want to go to China or Dubai to teach English. Ive done the applying and i fear the Yes response. Im only 25 years old but im a teacher who is a breadwinner. I support my family so basically i want to leave for financial reasons. To earn more abroad and help establish my family so we can be more secure. My dilemma is im a permanent worker in my country so if i leave the Department of Education will never take me back after I return (its a rarity). My heart wants to do this. But I dont want this decision to turn out to be an epic fail. Please advise me.

    • Sonja - Migrating Miss says:

      Hi Michelle, It sounds like a tough decision! I can’t really advise you because it sounds like a very personal decision. Having said that, it sounds like its what you really want to do and if you’ve worked out the advantages and disadvantages and can see a way through to make it work and it’s what you really want, then that might be your answer.

    • Fikah says:

      hubby and i plan to migrate to Australia. We have 3 kids. 9,5 & 2 years old.
      I have never thought of moving to another country as i truly treasure my relationship w my family and friends here. I have a good job. We are middle income, therefore we do feel stretch sometime. But living comfortably.
      But living in Singapore… rushing everyday. Kids education are very stressful. Our job require us to spend more time at work rather then family and a norm to work overtime and during weekends. 😔
      We want more time for our kids. But to leave everyone and everything…it make me hard to leave. I’m too use to the lifestyle here. But rather tired of it.
      How should decide to go or not? Its not only bout me and my spouse. Its bout us…all 5 of us.

      • Sonja - Migrating Miss says:

        No move is permanent! You could also give yourself a timeline and say you’ll try it for a year or two. I would start with researching what sort of visas and jobs you might be able to get and compare that to your current situation, and go from there!

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