Moving abroad is usually either a personal or a forced decision: it can be you want to move to the country you always loved or you need to move in search of better work opportunities. In any case, moving abroad, especially if on your own, is a daunting task. Just the amount of things that need to be checked, thought about, planned and then done is no second to any other personal undertaking.
Whatever are your reasons to move abroad, I want to answer my “whys”, hoping they can be useful to anybody thinking of or in the middle of the move. I’m going to ignore the usual “making new friends” or “get new experiences” as obvious and vastly discussed elsewhere. Besides, they are so dependent on your attitude, social skills and environment that it is pointless to take them for granted for anybody moving abroad.
Why moving abroad
I’m not going to consider the forced move, obviously. If your job, or lack thereof, require you to move abroad, you either drop it or do it. There’s no middle ground here. Then a next article, about the “how” of moving abroad, is for you. For everybody else, follow me.
A few years ago I was in a middle life crisis. Earlier than some, in my early 30s, but truly in a rut: no job, very few if any opportunities around, lost a few friends due to life, my dad had recently passed away and that was the last hit I needed to understand I had to move on. Change something. There was not much I could do in my hometown, Naples, anymore. The neapolitan society was not exactly to my liking. Nor anything that kept me there. I was also single, which made everything much easier. Most of my relatives lived elsewhere in Italy and I thought for a moment about asking for their help in assuaging the difficulties in going to live on my own for a longer period of time than earlier done. But I discarded the idea, for a very specific reason: I wanted to be self-reliant.
Moving abroad will make you self-reliant
Whereas living with anybody close to you will inevitably make you share the burden of the house, as cleaning, reordering, paying bills, cooking and so on, with the other person, with a ratio that usually is felt as far from perfect from all the involved parts, living alone means you got to do everything. That dust on the floor won’t disappear on its own, nor the dishes will get any cleaner with the passing of the hours (or days, or weeks…). If you don’t have money for the bills well, you better have them or you’ll have to ask your parents for it. Understandably, not a route you can follow in the long run.
You’ll learn to work harder, to focus more on what you need right now instead of hypothetical dreams, and to rely on yourself. You’ll learn, if you haven’t earlier, a vast array of simple or medium skills like brewing your own coffee, cooking pasta al dente, sewing a button, ironing your shirts (or, for those with hipster tendencies, ditching them altogether), learning a new language and various tasks that when living with parents were easily left to them but now you have to learn the skill or pay somebody else to do it for you. With the scant amount of money most of young adults have these days, the choice is easy.
Paperwork, taxes, planning a meeting, buying the last ingredient for your cake: nobody is going to do it for you when away from your family and friends. Until you make new friends abroad, you got to do everything alone (and depending on how are your friends, perhaps even after you’re not alone anymore). Postponing anything won’t make anything disappear, just piling up as a scratch on the back of your mind that inevitably will pop up again later.
These aspects can be scary, and sure they were for me. But in a matter of weeks you’ll learn to rely on yourself for everything and plan better your daily life. That is an invaluable skill for your professional career also, other than making you immensely proud of knowing whatever happens to your loved ones, you can rely on yourself with absolute certainty. Sounds trite but do believe in yourself and you will become a perfectly functional adult in a matter of months.
You will learn. A lot
It goes without saying that you are going to learn about a new culture, the one of the country you’re moving to, its food, its people, its arts, its customs and so on. That’s obvious.
What is less obvious is that by moving abroad you are going to face differences in lifestyle, customs and ideas that will inevitably either match or clash with yours. Then it’s a matter of being intelligent enough to try to understand the origin of the differences and adapt to them, or ignore them. The latter leads to dissatisfaction with the place you’ve chosen to live. Don’t be that kind of person, be open to listen and learn from the locals. You’ll need an open mind to appreciate what they can teach you and this is another invaluable skills for your life. Then the learning process can start.
Personally here in Poland I’ve learnt a lot to be more flexible with the hours of dining and lunching (Poles eat practically whenever they feel like) and a great deal on how to deal with cold winters (I had none back in south Italy). These concepts can be applied anywhere else there’s a different culture and it’s cold, not just in Poland, of course.
Every place will obviously teach you different aspects of life. Be ready to welcome what you can learn, challenge your beliefs (downgrading them to “past habits” if needed) and adapt. Adapt is the key.
You’ll become adaptable
Speaking of which, if you are used to a particular food, a specific gym, are subscribed to a given media service and so on, you’ll have be ready to change all that.
In the new country you may not be able to find the food you are used to eat, or only a similar one is available. Perhaps the gym has a different etiquette than back home or it downright sucks. Movies on Netflix or songs on Spotify may not be available where you are moving. It’s another world, sort of.
Therefore, adaptability is truly key. If you are the kind of person that is methodical and relies on the same habits, same patterns, to live comfortably, you are going to have an hard time after you move abroad. No country is 100% identical to another and the difference may be in the precise point you so loved of home and can’t think of change. I’ve had to ditch a lot of favourite dishes of mine because the quality of ingredients to make them in Poland is either subpar or it is extremely expensive. I discovered that the gyms I went back home were better kept than most in Poland, namely on the hygiene side. A bunch of songs in my playlists on Spotify became unavailable the moment I switched to a Polish account.
So it is life. I could have screamed “no way!” and packed back home but then I would have missed a whole lot of positives of living in Poland for a few recipes, songs and for not being able to close an eye at the dirty floors of the gym. That would have been stupid of me.
I urge you then to take the good of the new country, compromise on the negatives and become adaptable. This way you’ll be able to live anywhere else too just by making some tweaks to your daily habits. Moving abroad will teach you this adaptability, another wonderful skill to have in life.
Change is beyond the corner
Whether you will live abroad for a few weeks or longer, whether you’ll go with an open mind or not, you’ll face so many new challenges and differences that you won’t be able to not change. You will. A little or a lot that depends on where you go and with what spirit you moved.
Most of the change will be for the better though. Self reliance, a tons of different experiences, knowing another culture, realizing the different people that compose our world, all this will add to the baggage of influences that makes you yourself and change it. In a term, you’ll become enriched by what you will see, think, do and talk to. If anything, that is reason enough to move abroad.
Moving abroad to survive
A touchy paragraph. Perhaps you have been living in a bigoted area; or one with lack of career’s perspectives; or you have severe issues with family or relatives. Whatever it may be, you may be living in a society you don’t exactly like or that is stifling you, even menacing you (think about wars and political/religious persecutions). If any of this sounds familiar or in any way the place you live is depressing, menacing or uninspiring to you, then moving abroad may be not suggested but necessary to survive, to make your spirit thrive and not slowly blow out.
This is the biggest “why” to move abroad.
Realizing you got to move isn’t as easy as it may seems though. It took me decades to realize I was having issues with my family large enough that weren’t solvable. Years to comprehend why I never felt I fitted in my hometown, and that was due to a close-mindedness of its people that I found abhorrent. Add to that the lack of job opportunities and overall limited range of choice for a career, I had to move abroad. But I realized it only way later in life, as it took me most of my youth to do so. My fault, clearly.
Nowadays I am finally fine, living in a country much more open minded than Italy, with way more opportunities of a career, without having to deal with burden coming from my family. Today all is much better.
Don’t make my same mistake therefore. Moving abroad these days isn’t as hard as it was for the previous generations and if any of the aspects of the life you’re currently living isn’t satisfactory, to say the least, ponder whether it is due to the place you live or not. If the former, and you are not blocked by job, family or close friends, do think about a move abroad.