Revised August 10, 2019
The Scary Leap to Live Abroad
“Living Abroad” can sound more scary and intimidating than it actually is. However, making the decision to live abroad shouldn’t be taken lightly. When you do decide to move abroad, you may feel excitement mixed and apprehension. While moving across town involves lots of work, the stresses of packing and possibly selling a home, car, and other belongings before moving to another country can be even more exhausting!
Don’t forget to think about after your move abroad!
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in moving plans that arrival plans are given a back burner. All the sudden, you are thrust into this completely unfamiliar environment and unsure what to do first. It can be overwhelming. It’s easy to entertain the “I made a horrible mistake” thought when jet lagged and alone!
Hopefully, you will find these steps helpful to aid you in a smooth transition for your new season of life living abroad. Also, try to stay focused on why you decided to move. Amid all the thoughts that might be racing through your mind, remember, it will take time to adjust.
1. Remember, your are living abroad and not traveling abroad! Make your new house a home!
This will look different for everyone. You may be the type of person who likes pictures and cute decorations on the wall. Or, you may like everything to look more minimal and modern. Whatever your style, it’s best to attempt that if possible. If you choose to not unpack and make your living area a home—you may just feel like you are on a long vacation. Living out of a suitcase is only fun for so long, right?! (Well, unless you are the backpacker type.)
2. Take a visit to your new grocery store.
If you have brought your own special snacks, they will eventually run out. You will want to know if you can find them in your new location or not. This may sound silly if you have never lived far from home before, but trust me! There are days when you just want your “go to” snack food. Where we live, there is a nice grocery store quite far from us. It sells imported food from all over the world. It’s been a lifesaver for us when we just want familiar food that reminds us of our other home.
3. Now that you are living abroad, explore your new neighborhood and city!
The quicker you become familiar with your new area, the more at home you will feel. Are you planning on taking public transportation? Start to familiarize yourself with how to get around. If you’re the more adventurous type, try going somewhere and finding your way back home. Maybe you are a more cautious person and just need to stay close and walk around your area.
4. Buy kitchen appliances that you use often.
For us, we were buying iced lattes out all the time. It’s so hot here and iced coffee drinks are sold on every street corner. While we loved having a cold drink to sip on when we were out, we didn’t realize how comforting the smell of coffee brewing could be. When we bought a french press and made coffee in our home for the first time (after months of being here), I could have cried with how much that familiar smell made our house feel more like home. It is possible for your house to feel like home even while living abroad!
5. Start learning the language.
Depending on where your new home is, English may be well known. You may think there is no point to learn the local language if this is the case. I would suggest trying to learn basic phrases anyway. Showing the locals that you are willing to learn their language and culture goes a long way! Plus, it may help you not be overcharged for transportation and market purchases. When we speak Thai, people realize we aren’t tourists and they are much more willing to help us and give us lower prices.
6. Figure out what people in the area do for entertainment.
Trust me, everything may seem new and exciting now, but when the newness wears off, you will want to know what people do when they have free time. Are there parks, coffee shops, museums, etc.. to explore? Because it is extremely hot here, most people hang out at the mall. Sometimes it’s so nice to just go to a movie, be in air conditioning and hear English! (Although in America I’m one of those people that avoid the mall like the plague!)
7. Limit time spent on social media.
Depending on what generation you are, this might sound crazy. However, if you are continually turning to social media when you are feeling homesick, it may make it worse when you see what all your friends and family are doing without you. Giving yourself some distance at first may be hard, but will help you to adjust sooner. Depending on how long you plan on living abroad and away from everyone, this may help you succeed in your plans and not give up. The first year was the hardest for me but each year gets easier as we put down more roots here.
I hope these suggestions help you! Let me know in the comments below if you have other tips that have helped you!