On Moving Abroad: What I Wish I Knew the First Time

Moving to a new city, especially abroad, can be overwhelming and terrifying. It’s hard to know what to expect, being completely green and naïve to the new environment. Not only are you starting a new job but rebuilding a social life, trying to navigate in a new area, and assimilate as seamlessly as possible.

Prior to coming to Hong Kong two years ago, I did little research about the country. With little thought, I quickly took a job in a massive international city. I was coming in hot and coming in blind. For the first go round, I experienced the ups and downs of being an expat; a whirlwind of emotions and classic moments. At times, I think it’s fantastic to dive straight into an experience, however, there are a few things I wish I knew the first time around.


Assimilation takes time.

The transition stage is tricky, bringing forth a whiplash of feelings. The stages of culture shock will happen; it is absolutely inevitable. You first feel high on life, excited to take on a new city then suddenly irritated with your new home. I wish I could have mentally prepared the first time around, giving myself soothing antidotal affirmations. However, the hard times will pass. It just takes time.

 Life will be different.

The world you knew back at home will soon be fading into the distance literally and figuratively. Little did I know how different it was going to be on every aspect of my life. Some changes were absolutely welcomed. Living back a tropical beach? Yes! Some changes took time getting used to: transportation, I used to constantly find myself saying, “Well back at home…” for just about everything. Yet, that’s the thing. I chose to leave home and I needed to be living in the present, embracing the differences.

 It’s more than just a city.

I’ll admit it; I’m an impulse mover. I’ll choose an area to move and not really know much about it. Prior to moving here the first time, I had no idea how versatile and diverse Hong Kong is. I heard about its great shopping, however, it goes beyond that. The food, arts and entertainment, cultural sites, and the natural surroundings were a pleasant surprise. Even when I left, there was so much I missed out on. Lesson learned, investigate every nook and cranny of your current home. You might be pleasantly surprised too.

 Preparedness is key.

Research, ask questions, and know what you’re getting into. The first two times I moved to a foreign country, I took the job immediately without doing much investigating. Not the wisest decision. It’s important to do your due diligence so you live in a place that makes you feel comfortable, obtain a job that is legit, and are confident about the transition.


Some days I let the city get the best of me, forgetting to enjoy the ride. In hindsight, I had (and have) a pretty amazing life here. I just forgot to take a moment to breathe and appreciate my circumstances. It’s important to find balance and gratitude within the chaos.

 Find flexibility with work.

No HR, loose ethics, and differences in work culture. These are the joys of working abroad. Coming in, I had trouble adjusting to the new routine and long hours. Schools are much different overseas than in the U.S. I had a lot to get use to, and had to learn to pick my battles. Furthermore, choose a job that speaks to you! There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a company with for a year where you disagree with terms on the contract or even have a bad feeling bad. Trust your gut.

 Don’t be afraid to get lost.

The first few weeks I moved to Hong Kong, I was terrified to roam too far. However, that’s the beauty when moving somewhere new. Throughout the year, I also found myself falling back into old comforts and weekly habits of going to the same places. Variety is the spice of life my friends. I missed out on so many wonderful restaurants and meet up groups. Step out of the norm and bring a little adventure to your life.