There are 8 things you should know about living abroad in case you are thinking about moving to another country.
As you might know I moved to the UK 3 years ago, but I am originally from Portugal.
Moving to another country wasn’t something I’ve always wanted to do until or that I even considered until I was on my mid 20’s, when I started traveling more often.
I think the first time I travelled to a different country (that wasn’t Spain) I was already 22 or 23 years old, and thankfully I haven’t stopped since.
After I had visited a few countries I started to realise how much there is to explore in the world, how interesting it is to have a conversation with someone from a different country, and how much I enjoyed being outside of my comfort zone.
When I was 25 years old, me and my boyfriend went to visit a Portuguese friend who had moved to London and for the first time I looked at being in a different country from a different perspective. I had the opportunity to see (even if for a really short period of time) how it was like to actually live in another country.
At 26 years old I started working as a recruiter for a multilanguage customer service company, so my day to day was to interview people from different nationalities who wanted to move to Portugal. Speaking with these people and seeing them everyday only made my wish to have the same experience even bigger.
So at age 27 I finally convinced my boyfriend to move to London. It wasn’t easy to convince him but even thought we were scared, we did it. And after 3 years I believe I’m now in a position to share a few of the things I’ve learned:
It’s the best and most difficult thing I’ve ever done
Moving to another country was difficult in the beginning and it still is today. But by this I don’t mean that I regret my decision or that I’m unhappy at all. Moving to a another country still is the best decision I ever made and it makes me happy everyday, but everyday is a challenge.
It is difficult to be away from your friends and family, outside of your comfort zone all the time, having to speak another language everyday (even if you are fluent), having to consider cultural differences (they always exist even if you are still in Europe), having to deal with different procedures, different habits, different everything.
Even though I can say I have adapted fairly quickly, there is still something everyday that it’s new or that I struggle with.
Having said this, the feeling of overcoming these struggles, that I’m becoming emotionally stronger, more open minded and that I’m learning something everyday, it’s the best feeling ever!
You feel like you can do anything
Now that I’ve been through the scary but exciting process of moving another country and adapting, and now that I have had my moments of happiness and sadness, I begin to believe I am strong enough to do so much more. I’ve become more adventurous, less afraid and I have learned to risk more.
This might seem like a cliché but it’s the truth, I feel like the world is my oyster. If my husband was up for it I would be moving to another country again tomorrow, I would pack my bags and go. Not because the salaries are higher or the health system is better but because I want to see more, experience more and live more.
Some people will never understand
It doesn’t matter how many times you explain the feeling I just described, some people will never understand how you can be happy after moving to another country. They will always see the decision of leaving their country as a last resource or something you only do if you can’t make it in your own country.
These people will think you don’t love your country, that you don’t love your family, that you are running away or that you are selfish.
Others will think you are bragging or being a snob when you speak of your experiences in this new country, how things are better for you there or how things are going well.
You will then realise that some people just have a different way of thinking and you will learn with whom you want share these experiences and with whom you don’t.
You will never be the same
I believe we are the result of the people we’ve meet and the experiences we’ve had, and I’m sure that even if I returned to Portugal tomorrow I would never be the same person I was before I moved to London. This whole experience of moving to another country made me more confident, more adaptable and more aware.
There are so many different people in London with different ways of living their lives, that I now know that being different is ok, that I don’t have to live my life like everyone else, that I can be myself, do my own thing, and I am more capable of ignoring negative criticism.
I’ve also become interested in things that I wasn’t before and started appreciating things I didn’t think I would.
I have also learned who my real friends are, as I’m still very close to them even thought we are in different countries. I also started appreciating my family more, as the small things you take for granted you don’t have anymore, like spending their birthdays with them or the Sunday family lunches.
People’s lives go on
This is a strange one, as obviously people’s lives go on even if you moved to another country. But I always get amazed of how my friend’s child has grown, or of the fact that store is no longer open and how everything looks different.
I know this is more than normal but subconsciously, every time I go back I have the feeling everything is going to be exactly the same as I last saw it, and it’s not. So whenever I’m back in London after have visited Portugal, I can’t help to feel a bit sad that I’m missing all of it.
You begin to feel like you have two homes
This is a good thing, but it gets confusing! Whenever I’m in London getting ready to spend a few days in Portugal, I can’t wait to “go home” and see everyone, go to the beach, eat at my favourite restaurants, etc… But once I’m there, even though I’m enjoying every second, I can’t help but to miss my house, my cats, my local supermarket, my routine, etc.
So when people ask me if I miss Portugal, the answer is always “yes, so much”, but if people ask me where I prefer to be, my answer is London, because it is my home now.
Higher salaries don’t mean you will get rich
Maybe this is not exactly something I have learned, because to be honest I never thought I would come to the UK and be rich just because the salaries are higher. I was always aware that the cost of living is also much higher.
Even though we are lucky enough to have a “better life” since we moved, we still have to budget, we still have to be careful not to spend to much, we are still not rich!!
And I feel like I have to stress this because what I have learned is that people will think you get rich when you move to a country with “higher salaries”.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard comments implying that we have so much money now, that we are immigrants so we are rich, and how “cheap” we are for not buying more expensive things since we “have the money for it”.
I guess this idea of immigrants becoming rich comes from many years ago when so many people were moving to another country looking for better lives. They would then would go back to Portugal to build huge houses, buy expensive cars and buy dinners to friends and family, just to show of money that they probably didn’t have.
Anyway, I don’t think that was ever true, you might move to another country to have a “better life”, and you might get it, but that doesn’t mean you will get rich.
It’s a storm of emotions
It’s fun, it’s challenging. It’s sometimes sad, sometimes hard. You enjoy it but you miss home. You start appreciating some people more and get disappointed in others. You become stronger, wiser, but you still feel confused at times.
Living in a different country is definitely a rollercoaster of emotions but I love it. Moving to another country was and still is the best decision I have ever made!
I don’t know if I will live abroad forever. Maybe I will go back to Portugal, maybe I will live in another country in between. Who knows?
I’m happy where I am at the moment and I just want to enjoy it.
I really hope you can share your thoughts about all of this. Let me know if you have also moved to another country and feel the same or something completely different. And if you haven’t, would you consider moving to another country?
Thanks for reading!