What They Won’t Tell You About Moving Abroad
You got the job, the plane ticket is purchased, and you are on your way to starting your new life as an expat. This is such an exciting time for you! Props to you for stepping outside of the ordinary and taking a chance on the unknown. I had my heart on moving abroad for a long time and finally took the leap of faith in 2013, jet setting off to Hong Kong. I did a little bit of research before I went, however, I did not want the Internet to shape my perspective on my new home. The second time around, I did a little bit more research before moving to Korea. However, there is no amount of prepping and reading that will prepare you for the new life you are about to begin. From the best of my experiences, I am going to give it to you straight. Here is the raw truth.
Expect the unexpected..every . single. day
Upon arriving in Hong Kong, I had this grandeur image in my mind of the apartment I was getting set up in. Within an hours time of getting into the city, I was dropped off at Man Ching Mansions..a closet sized flat in the middle of the red light district. Oh dear God, what have I gotten myself into. I thought for sure I was getting old into the sex trade. Rest assured, it was only my temporary apartment. My permanent apartment was pretty spectacular after all.
In Korea, my coworkers and I were the unfortunate souls to be caught in a faulty elevator, falling 4 floors, and almost having a premature heart attack. Moral of the story, every day something strange, humorous, or downright terrifying is going to happen to you.
You will get lost…a lot
I’m pretty sure my Google maps punked me on daily basis in Hong Kong. Perhaps it was just as confused as I was…It might be frustrating but embrace getting lost. You might end up finding your new favorite restaurant or foot massage spa. It really is the only way to get to know a new place.
Simple tasks at home are a thousand times more difficult
Opening a bank account, getting a national I.D., or even grocery shopping will be painful. When I went to open a bank account in HK they wanted endless documents, I.D, and my firstborn child. I have been spoiled by American standards and speedy customer service and learned quickly that’s just how things will go now.
You will have to learn to go with the flow and be flexible
At least for a while you will probably experience some sort of frustration regarding your job, the language barrier, or even the culture. You’re in a new environment so there are some things you’re just going to have to get used to..like having drunk Korean men yelling outside your apartment every night. It’s the culture, man!
Public transportation is your new best friend
I hate to admit it but my first week in HK; I was terrified to ride the MTR. It took me a while to muster the courage to attempt it alone. Now? I can master any public transit in the world, bring it! If only the U.S would get with the program.
You will have to find new comforts
Depending on where you go, you will most likely say bye to your favorite comfort foods. Bye bye to that relaxing bathtub. Bye bye to your personal space. I promise though, you will eventually find something you enjoy from home and it will feel like you won the lottery! There’s also iherb.com that will ship delicious food to almost anywhere. This was my saving grace in Korea.
Be open minded
New culture, new place, new boundaries. At times you are going to be full on out of your comfort zone. Sure, I’d LOVE to try your specialty bug dish. Of course, you can pet my hair. It’s the name of the game.
Your idea of work ethic will change
After working 6 days a week in HK, I will NEVER take my weekends for granted again. As much as I enjoyed my kiddos, I’m pretty sure that teaching job took off years of my life.
You will live minimally
I literally purged my whole life before I moved away, my home, car, and half my clothes. It felt amazing! Some of you will life minimally. Some of you will finally have enough money to buy whatever you want. Just remember, you have to ship all those new shoes and trinkets from the night market to your next destination.
Prepare to walk more
You will walk EVERYWHERE! Just from walking, I lost 10 lbs!
You will experience things you had never dreamed about doing
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to do half the things I have done living and traveling abroad. Hanging out on a yacht for the day. [CHECK] Riding an elephant. [CHECK] Having a drink at the world’s highest bar. [CHECK] Eating authentic ramen in Japan. [CHECK] The list is endless. The life as an expat is wild, exciting, and filled with daily opportunities and adventures.
You will change as a person
You will learn more about yourself during your time away. Your perspectives and views on life may even shift.
You will finally feel like people can relate to you
Ever since I took my first plane ride to Costa Rica, the wanderlust kicked in hardcore. The thought of moving to a far off land was always in the back of my mind. Most of my closest confidants just did not get it. “Why can’t you find a job here?” they’d say. BECAUSE! I want to see all, experience all, and get a taste of the world. Once going away, I was surrounded by people who were just like me; unconventional free spirits with an undeniable thirst to explore.
You will learn how to barter, hustle, and stand up for yourself
You will learn the art of talking down the price of items at the street market, cab fares, and not getting taken advantage of. Your boss might even try to swindle you, not paying back your flight reimbursement or trying to cut your paycheck in half. From my time abroad, I learned my worth and the art of saying #byefelicia.
You may not have the support from friends and family, even losing touch with people you would not expect
It’s true. Some people cannot relate or handle the fact that you want to leave. Once you’re out of sight, you are often out of mind.
You will meet some incredible people, including many new friends for life
I have gathered many new friends from around the globe, each who all hold a special place in my heart. Without many of them, I don’t know how I would have survived.