Thinking of living abroad ?
Well let me share my experience and feelings after living abroad seven years – one year in Scotland, one year in America and almost five years in England, where I currently live.
I realised I wanted to experience the real traveling at university where I have been given the chance to do my bachelor degree in Scotland. This was my first experience abroad and it really opened my appetite for traveling completely. I would say living abroad changed my life as it made me understand what real traveling is and the benefits of living abroad. I was there with friends from university so I wasn’t on my own. Same thing when I went to America to finish my master degree which was one of the best year of my life – living the American dream as a student, exactly like in the movies!
Whilst studying there, I’ve managed to travel within America to visit New York, Orlando, Miami, Boston, Montreal in Canada and we even did a little road trip during spring break to see San Diego, Phoenix, LA and Las Vegas – it was amazing to say the least.
I came back to France from the US with my degree in 2012 and with a real need to go back living abroad and find a job somewhere in Europe, which I did. I found a job in Manchester where I lived for two years then found another job near Liverpool where I am now.
When I moved to England 5 years ago
When I moved to Manchester; this time it was not for studying so I was all alone . I remember arriving in Manchester for the first time with my big suitcase, it was raining badly, I was trying to find the hotel I was stating in and I thought to myself “Sabrina, what the hell are you doing”. It was a Wednesday and I was starting my new job on the following Monday so I had to find an accommodation within 5 days. Lucky enough I found a house share on the same Wednesday. If you go live somewhere on your own, I definitely recommend living in a house share to start with as it is a great way to meet new people at the beginning and not feeling too lonely. I will never forget my housemates Ryan and Lyssa, they really made this experience a blast and they are probably the reason why I have stayed in Manchester the first year as things didn’t go to plan.
With all these years living abroad for studying and working, I felt the need and almost an obligation to an extent, to share why it’s great to go on a adventure and live somewhere else, even if it’s just for 6 months or a year .
Ok, this may sound a bit too psychological. By being away from home, not in your comfort zone and having to face various challenges, you will learn much more about yourself and your capacity to react to day-to-day life. I’ve learned so much about myself the last few years. For example, I have realized that it’s also cool to do things on your own. When I was living at home, I would always be with someone, family or friends. I never really took the time to spend time with just “me”. I am the type of person who likes company. It’s just nicer to share a meal, a walk or any cool stuff with someone. But I’ve learn to also do it on my own and appreciate my own company and it’s been great – I sound big headed now!
You will also realise how much love you feel towards your family and other things you maybe didn’t realise before which leads me to my next point.
2. You will appreciate family quality time ten times more
Until I moved abroad, I would always go off and do stuff with my mates. I’ve always been a family person but I wouldn’t feel guilty if I am going with my friends and come back home late. Well, since I’ve left, I value quality family time much more. I now stay all day with mum and dad watching movies , going shopping or go for a walk. I just love it and they do too. The time we spend together is quality . We know we don’t see each other often so we make the most out of it. It gives you a different perspective on who is important in your life and who is always there for you. I am grateful for my parents’ love and support. I owe them so much for believing in me and letting me go living so far from home at a young age.
3. You will have a different perspective on life
It’s so strange as every time I go back home in the alps, it’s like discovering it for the first time. I’m amazed by everything . I mean I lived there for 20 years and although I knew it was beautiful, I never made such a big deal. Well, okay the fact that I live in the alps does make a difference but I now also appreciate other things in my country which seemed normal at the time. Like the amazing food ( not neglecting the other countries’ food but let’s be honest, we have great stuff) , the beautiful scenery in the alps or even other places such as the south of France and Paris. Now I appreciate my country’s heritage ten times more and also recognize our down side. Check my post France to England, from A to Z to know more about that.
4. You will know who really matters in your life.
I’ve touched on that before when I talked about my parents who supported me with my traveling.
Well it’s the same with friends, you will realise who actually cares for you and still want to be in your life although you’re far away. As you get older, it’s difficult to maintain friendships and everyone has their own priority. I get it but I personally think great friends stick together no matter what. I am so glad that my friends from France are still such a big part of my life and our relationship has gone stronger. We go travel together, they come to see me here in England and I go see them where they are in France. Again it’s the same principle. Because you don’t see them all the time the quality of the time spent together is fantastic.
5. You will lose friends but make new ones and great ones
I also “lost” friends and it’s normal, it happens even if you live in the same place. You just take a different path in life. I’m thirty now, I refuse to chase people. Life is too short ladies and gentlemen.
Living abroad means you also make new friends and they are most likely to be on the same boat than you. As soon as I moved to the UK, I went to meet up groups. I really recommend this website if you move somewhere new. That’s how I made great friends that I hang out with all the times. Some have become best friends; it’s not the longevity of your friendship that matters that’s the intensity and loyalty.
6. You will become more cultured and self-aware
Living in a new country means you are immersed in a new culture and you have to fit in and adapt to the country’s habits. It’s amazing how much you learn about others and your capacity to adapt. Okay, I’ve still not adapted to the fish and chips tradition but I’ve discovered so many things since I moved to England. Obviously, I’ve improved my English and I learn new words everyday! I love learning new saying and I’m lucky that my colleagues are very patient with me as I have to make them repeat and spell sometimes haha. But that’s the beauty of it. It’s an exchange, I would tell them what it means in French and we would laugh as sometimes translations can be funny. I find languages fascinating. For example, we also say “it’s not my cup of tea” in French. Is it not crazy that we have the same sayings?
Living aboard is definitely beneficial for you as a person as you just learn different things you probably wouldn’t in your own country. You get the chance to be more aware of the politics, the society’s issues, the trends, you discover new celebrities, new traditions … I still have so much to learn as I do feel left out on some conversations sometimes. It’s like if you’re in France and someone mentions “le petit bonhomme en mousse” . Only french people will understand that one !
7. Your travel bug will grow
I may live in a different country but my desire to travel the world has never been that high. Living abroad means you know how important it is to learn about the country you live in. When I travel, I love going where the population lives, where they eat, where they go out and socialize. Going far away to stay in a place that looks just like what I have back home is not really rewarding.
I do like to have the nice relaxing type of break every now and then but I like to explore too.
Challenges of living abroad
Although there are loads of benefits from living abroad, I also have to share the few difficulties because it’s important to be aware.
I would also say these difficulties are part of the experience. They make you stronger and more independent.
- Being away from the family can be tough if you’re family orientated like I am. Sometimes, after a tough day, all I want is to go to my parents’, have dinner with them and complain about my day but I can’t do that. Skype is definitely what makes it work though. I speak to my parents every day. Yes everyday, even if it’s just 5 minutes it’s important to check on them.
- You miss out on key events such as your friend’s birthday or family parties. A few times I have called my mum and they were all having a nice barbecue in the summer. I was stuck inside on my own as it was raining, I did feel a bit sad . But not time for that, I kicked myself, called a friend and went for dinner in beautiful Liverpool !
- Living in a different country, with a different culture and language that is not yours can be difficult. You will find some people who are very nice to you as they love the fact you’re a foreigner . They put themselves in your shoes but other people are just mean. If it happens you don’t understand them, they will make you feel a bit uncomfortable. It can be hard especially if it is at the beginning of your trip when you’re still trying to find your feet. Don’t worry, it doesn’t happen often. When it does, it’s usually “stupid” people so I feel sorry for them. It might sound harsh but I will never understand people who are just mean for the sake of it …
- It can also be difficult if you happen to be unwell. If you live abroad there is not mummy to look after you. It’s just you. That’s why it’s important to make good friends. You can be there for them in tough times as they can be there for you too.
- Reciprocally, it can be very tough if your loved ones back home are ill. I would say this has been the biggest challenge for me. My mum got very ill and I was in America. You feel very guilty for not being there but fortunately she got better. I went to see her during Christmas break. You can’t plan this type of things unfortunately. That’s why it’s important to keep in touch daily and have great quality time when possible.
Like I said, these are few difficulties and I’m sure other expats would have more to share. I know we all agree that living abroad is the best decision you can make. You will challenge yourself, push your boundaries and discover yourself and others on another level.
Hope you enjoyed this article and I can’t wait to read your experience too.
Chiccie Chérie x