It is not easy to move abroad and leave behind the comfort of your home. You will have all kinds of fears, worries, and uncertainties running through your head! I have been there and done that – several times!
My Moving-Abroad Journey
When it comes to moving abroad, I considered myself lucky.
The first time I moved abroad was in 2010. I was 22 years old – young and adventurous. I went to Dubai, UAE. I was lucky because I had a safety net – my cousins. I knew I’d have food to eat, house to stay, and money to spend on. However, my visa was expiring, and I still couldn’t find a decent job with at least a higher salary. Long story short, I was able to find one.
The second time I moved overseas was to Doha, Qatar. Again, I had a safety net. I had a job where the company provided me an accommodation, transportation to go to work, and welcome gift and money. It was the best first job of my life. I was on top of the moon!
The third time I moved abroad was to the United States. This time I have a family, and my husband and I decided that it is better for us to go back ‘home’. Well… For him, the US is his home. We bought a big house with a garden in Georgia. Again, I had a safety net – my husband. He thought of the big stuff, and I worried about the kids.
Wait, that is not the end! Due to my husband’s job, we had to move again. For the fourth time, we moved to Alaska. I don’t see this as our last move. For sure we will move back to Georgia eventually or maybe find another retirement house by the beach.
Even if I had safety nets, I know the fear of being in a foreign country with no family and friends. You always worry about tomorrow. If you are alone, it would be easier to just pack up and go. For me, we already have two little kids, and it is not easy to uproot everything just in case it didn’t work out. We had to plan everything carefully – house, food, job, car, school, insurance, etc. It is a lot to take in.
Believe me, my stress level was to the roof. I was constantly pestering my husband with lots of questions even he doesn’t know the answers. I had lots of uncertainties and worries. I had migraines from thinking too much. I may not have various experiences, but here are my two cents on how to overcome them.
Common Fears of Moving Abroad and Tips to Overcome Them:
1. Starting Over
If your current place of employment is giving you a promotion or an opportunity to work abroad, or you are moving as part of an exchange program, then you are lucky. However, if you are moving abroad to start a new life, then you are brave! You have guts! There are risks, and you know it! Starting over in a new country is an experiment, and you learn and grow from all the decisions you make.
Advice: Acknowledge your fear. Set goals. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario so nothing much can surprise you. Don’t be scared to fall.
Job prospects: Update your resume. Create a professional profile on LinkedIn and other similar websites. Join professional networking groups where you can network with people who are in the same field as you are.
Be flexible. You may not find your dream job or even the kind of employment that you have been doing, immediately. Therefore, take up whatever is on hand.
Once you’re over that bridge (bought your ticket, boarded the plane, landed in your new destination), you’ll find things will flow a lot easier and smoother for you.
Look at the brighter side. Starting over is like turning a new leaf. You get to have a new house with a clean garage! You have a new neighborhood, new friends, a new environment, new job. The toxicity level is low. You can get away from all the things that are dragging you down. You feel fresh. It’s like a breath of fresh air.
2. Fear of Failure
Sometimes our pride is big. We don’t want to go home as a failure or let anybody know that we failed. And then they would tell us, “I told you so!”. Sometimes, just sometimes, things do not work out as you would have liked them to.
However, wherever you are, you experience failures. This is normal. It is a learning experience. It’s just that when you are overseas, things are more difficult. You don’t have a safety net. You are stuck, with nowhere to go to but home. You start doubting yourself. Then you start having uncertainties.
Advice: Be kind to yourself. Give yourself some time to adjust. Make new friends, explore your local area, and improve your knowledge of the country.
If you do have to return, since there is no other choice, tell yourself that it has been a nice experience while it lasted. Comfort yourself that you have become a much stronger personality, wherein you have grown both, personally and professionally.
Read also: How To Deal With Reverse Culture Shock
Who doesn’t worry about money? Even with a stable job, money still concerns us. After paying taxes, bills, loans and credits, only a few bucks are left. So this is a part of life, but it shouldn’t control your life. You shouldn’t be obsessed with it.
Advice: Remember, the expenses connected with completing official paperwork, moving house, hunting for employment, taking up residence, etc are going to create a big dent in your financial resources. Plan ahead financially. Do research on the cost of living. Create a budget. You must have sufficient funds to tide you over for at least the first two months.
Read also: 20 Simple Ways to Save Money For Travel
4. Feeling Homesick
Yes, you are definitely going to feel homesick! When I was in Doha, I have never felt so alone in my entire life. I missed my mom so much – and that has never happened before. I kept on traveling to the Philippines every month (!!!) just to see my family. On top of that, I am an introvert! I am shy, and making friends is not my field. I’d rather watch movies than talk to people (lol).
I have seen homesickness in other people especially single mothers. They couldn’t take being far away from their children, they eventually went back to their home country.
Advice: Thanks to technology, we can now talk to our families and friends. We can even see them through video calls or conference calls. There is Facebook Messenger, Skype, Whatsapp, FaceTime, etc. The time differences can be challenging. Yet, it does help. You feel a little bit closer to them.
When you are homesick, do not isolate yourself. You will feel more depressed. And when you are depressed, you think of unnecessary stuff and decide rashly. Just don’t.
Surround yourself with the right people or community. Look for your church. Find a hobby or go to the gym. Explore your city. You can read more on how to deal with homesickness as expats.
5. The Actual Move
You probably only have two suitcases and a hand-carry on your first move, and then figure out from there. Buy the rest of your things, furniture, etc in your new city. But once you decided to move again, you wonder how you are going to transfer your entire household beyond your local borders!
Nine years in Doha, we did not realize we have accumulated a lot of things. I have sent 4 big boxes weighing 100 kg to the Philippines. I have made three trips to Atlanta carrying all our documents, folders, albums, frames, and big airplane models because I know they are heavy. We have sold all our furniture. I have donated several bags of clothes to charities and embassies.
Guess what? We still have a mountain of items. In Qatar, we have no choice but to call a moving company because that’s the policy. They wrapped and packed everything. They provided bubble wraps, papers, tapes, and boxes. They dismantled what needed to be dismantled. We had over 1, 000 kg and 42 boxes. It was a crazy move. Take note it also takes time to leave the country, to get to the destination, and for them to release the boxes to you.
Our cargo from Doha, Qatar; over 1,000 kg.
Maybe in another country, you can do it on your own especially if you don’t have a lot of items. It is much cheaper that way. But we always recommend the professionals. Of course, it comes with a price.
Advice: Hire professional movers. Bring only the essential. Donate or sell or throw what you don’t need. You can even put the big items in a storage room if needed for when you come back. If they are valuable items like jewelry, you can ask your parents or siblings to keep them for you while you are abroad.
After that experience, we become a minimalist! We know that we will not stay longer in Alaska, so we are careful about what we buy here. We don’t want another 1,000 kg of cargo on our next move. We didn’t buy a lot of furniture. Every time my kids outgrow their clothes, I donate or sell them right away. Our house is so bare now.
The media has influenced our image of some countries when it comes to safety. Let us not generalize and stereotype. Every country has its safety issues. Take safety measures as you would do when you are at home.
Advice: Know the country’s law and rules. Watch current events. Always be aware of your embassy’s announcements or safety alerts. Know the local emergency numbers. Develop some street smartness. Keep your common sense on high alert. Take all the necessary precautions.
Read also: Tips For Solo Female Travelers in Morocco
7. Confronting Cultural Differences
Since people in different countries are different, you are bound to experience some culture shock. Regardless, do not permit yourself to be intimidated, despite being in foreign territory.
Do remember that what might seem normal for your home country, may seem unacceptable or offensive for another country. Therefore, be acquainted with social norms, local customs, legalities, etc.
Language: Familiarize yourself with the local language, specifically words linked to greetings, asking for directions, and so on. Remember how far body language goes. Pointing and gesturing goes a long way. No one expects you to master the language completely!
Download Pleco, Google Translate, and Baidu Translate on your phone. For more complex questions, or for reading menus, these each can be really helpful in different ways. For example, Google Translate’s reverse translate function is especially helpful for double-checking if your original sentence made sense when translated. Do not stress too much about the language and try to have fun.
Food: In your first few weeks in your new city, scope out western restaurants and try them all. It may not be exactly the same as home, but trust me it helps! Then head to a Carrefour, Ole!, BLT, Walmart, Metro, or other western supermarkets for specialty food items (that includes cereal, cheese, and beer).
Comfort foods aside, definitely make sure to try new foods as you travel. Food is an invaluable part of the culture and cultural understanding.
Becoming an expat is exciting, but it can also be pretty intimidating. Don’t let fear own you. Manage your fears and enjoy your new life!
Have you moved abroad? If not, is there something holding you back?
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