Living abroad has been an incredible journey for me. It has taught me more about myself than anything else has. Yes, that is quite a statement. Yet, I say it confidently. Not only because of my own experience. But because of the stories, I’ve heard from hundreds of other expats.
Living abroad teaches you many valuable life lessons. Today, I picked 11 lessons other expats and I have learned from living abroad. Hopefully (if you haven’t already), these incredible life lessons will inspire you to embark on a living-abroad journey yourself one day. So without further ado, living abroad teaches you that:
1. You will learn what you really want
When there is a blank space in front of you, the opportunities are endless. And that’s exactly the case when you move abroad and have to start from scratch. You are in charge of what you want. You might want different things and, for example, explore a whole new career path. Moving and living abroad gives you an amazing opportunity to find out what you truly want and what kind of life you want to live.
2. There is no such thing as a perfect plan
When you move abroad, this is a lesson you’ll learn very quickly. Trying to create a perfect plan, idolize a new destination, or looking for the right time are things that will distract you from an incredible journey. Let things be as they are. Plan, but don’t over-plan. Accept that things sometimes don’t work out. When it comes to moving abroad, let your expectations go and enjoy the journey.
3. You can trust yourself to make the right decisions
The moment you tell people that you are moving abroad, they (with their best interest for you in mind) will share their doubts and concerns. It’s overwhelming and can make you doubt yourself. Don’t! Trust your instincts. In the end, you are the only one to decide what feels right for you. Listen to yourself instead of others. Soon, you’ll learn to trust yourself to make decisions that are right for you at that moment.
4. You are capable of more than you think
Moving to another country takes courage. It pushes you to deal with a lot of things that you’ve never experienced before. You don’t have a lot to fall back on, so you have to be proactive to make it work. You’ll discover a bag of tricks you never knew you had. Knowing you can handle a lot more than you think is a real confidence booster in your personal life and career. Many expats I’ve talked to either made a career switch or started their own company during or after living abroad. Coincidence? I think not.
5. Being uncomfortable helps you grow
When you’re moving abroad, your life is turned upside down. Everything, from your house to your job and everything in between, is new and different. It can be a shock to the system, adapting to all the new things.
A completely new living environment pushes you out of your comfort zone. And that’s where the magic happens. Adjusting to a new life and a new culture means you’ll have to learn and adapt quickly. Being uncomfortable will help you grow. Before you know it, you’re comfortable with something that previously made you uncomfortable. So embrace and enjoy it!
6. There is more than one way to do things
Every country has its own laws, rules, culture, and traditions, and things will be different from what you are used to. Being exposed to all these new things is a real eye-opener. It teaches you that there are different ways to look at a subject. That there are different solutions to solve similar problems. Having these new perspectives will expand your own ability to solve problems. Whether it is thinking more pragmatically, or creatively your ability to look at topics differently will be something you will cherish in your personal and professional life.
7. A sense of belonging doesn’t have to come from home
One of the most beautiful things about living abroad is meeting new people from different backgrounds and cultures. Often, you’ll make friends quickly, and these relationships become very strong and intimate. More often than not, you hear fellow global citizens describe their friends they met abroad as family. Creating a sense of belonging, therefore, doesn’t have to come from your home. You can find it in other places, with other people, and create your own little community that feels safe and comfortable.
8. You can grow, together
When my partner and I announced our move abroad, people were quick to come with their response: “That can either make or break your relationship.” However, it can be seen as a bit of a negative response (you’ll get used to it, trust me :-)), it is true. I’ve met people whose relationship didn’t survive the stress and changes that come with moving abroad. However, I know a lot more people whose relationship only got better and stronger. They allowed each other to adjust to the changes, supported each other, and grew together. Keep an open dialogue and make sure you are there for each other and you too can grow together.
9. You’ll become a more open-minded person
Experiencing different cultures, habits, traditions, and foods is one of many reasons why moving abroad is so fulfilling. To truly immerse yourself in a country and become part of it is very special. Being exposed to different people, cultures, and perspectives teaches you a lot. You’ll see the world differently and become a broader person. A person that is more understanding and open-minded towards others. If that isn’t something we should all aspire to, I don’t know what is!
10. Nothing has to be forever
As there is no perfect plan, there is also not a perfect time or duration for your living abroad adventure. Realize that it doesn’t have to be forever. It can last as long (or short) as you want. Enjoy the sense of freedom, and don’t set any expectations for yourself (or your family!). For me, it has made me think less in months or years and more in terms of “now” and “future.” Sometimes keeping it vague is better than putting yourself on a (made-up) time constraint. In the end, nothing has to be forever – do what feels right, right now.
11. And finally, living abroad teaches you that you can make friends anywhere
Whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, making friends in a new country can be challenging for everyone – I mean, where to start! Thankfully, almost everywhere, you’ll find people with whom you will have a connection. Living abroad teaches you to be more outgoing and open. So even though it sometimes takes a lot of energy, say yes to meeting new people, having a cup of coffee with your colleague, and start making friends!
So, there you have it. Eleven amazing life lessons that I, and many others, have learned from their living abroad experience. And these lessons are just the most common ones. Every experience and person is different. But I can assure you, living abroad teaches you a thing or two.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of studies done on this topic, but I recently came across this study that proves that living abroad can be an incredible journey for you! So, now you have 11 great reasons and a scientific study to back up your decision to move abroad! Yeah, let’s go!
Start your moving abroad adventure with the help of the Let’s Move Abroad Book.
Or continue reading incredible and inspiring lessons and stories from fellow expats: here.