Are you ready for the polar plunge – international style?
I think a lot of us millennials aspire to live abroad – see the world, become cultured, and go on an intergalactic spiritual journey.
Some of us do it. We pack up our lives in two bags weighing as much as fifty big German Shepherds and move to a country we know zilch about. For everyone that wants to move abroad, you’re probably thinking “but how did you do it?” A couple of years ago, if I’d heard “you just do it” one more time, I would’ve sprouted ulcers because of how annoyed I was.
Now that I am living abroad, I’m 99.99% sure I would give the same answer if someone asked me that cursed question. About as sure as I am about Bill Nye the Science Guy being a good time. Which is always.
Moving abroad is the easy part.
All you have to do is make it a bigger priority than your next frozen yogurt fix.
If you’ve bought your ticket, well done and welcome to the exclusive group of people that does something about their travel dreams and aspirations.
Now, prep yourself for a conversation that’ll happen within t-2 hours of moving abroad.
Excuses McGee: Wow, I can’t believe you live in Korea! I wish I could travel like you.
You: Do it! There are so many programs out there. I’m an English teacher and all I needed was a Bachelor’s.
Excuses McGee: Yeah… but the food in Asia scares me.
You: Hmm… well how about working at an outback resort or fruit farm in Australia? I have a friend I can get you in touch with.
Excuses McGee: Yeah… but I just saved up enough for a down payment for an apartment and I’m moving in with my boyfriend next month.
You *shudder*: Why don’t you put that down payment towards travelling instead?
Excuses McGee: I don’t know… My boyfriend and my parents would be pretty upset if I just up and left. It’s just not the right time. I’m so jealous of you.
Okay well… no one likes a Carol Complainerson. Stop whining about how jealous you are if travelling isn’t a priority. You want to know how to move abroad? You pull a Nike and Just Do It. How easy is it to buy a crunch wrap supreme at Taco Bell? It’s that easy. Just do exactly that but buy a plane ticket instead. Done. Now you’re moving abroad.
People love to say they’re open-minded until they’re forced to be open-minded.
Moving abroad isn’t a vacation. At least not completely. Us expats aren’t sitting around drinking sangria on the beach and sleeping until 3pm everyday.
In reality, we’re:
Sitting in tiny, possibly dingy apartments Googling how to make cheese because it costs an arm, leg, and both my kidneys to buy one little bottle of grated Kraft parm.
Spending an hour watching YouTube videos on how to become a plumber because curing cancer is less daunting than talking to your Korean landlord for 10 minutes.
Dropping a fat dime on familiar comfort foods, when it’s really only about 20% similar. Like craving nachos so bad you deal with the whipped cream on top.
So from one expat to an aspiring expat, here’s a little checklist to see if you’re ready to move abroad.
Are you fully ready to give up your home life? I mean your family, pets, bed, hobbies, snow globe collection and even Chipotle.
Are you ready to fully immerse yourself into another country’s cultures, customs, language and shopping malls?
Are you ready to commit to learning the language? At least enough to be able to get by so you don’t end up in the middle of a rice field.
Are you ready for no Wi-Fi, phone, internet, or data for a month or so until all your government-related paperwork is done?
Are you ready to be patient, accept and learn from all the crazy changes happening around you?
Are you ready for all the culture shock, potential racism, and mind-numbing paperwork?
Are you ready to deal with cultural nuances you don’t understand like no personal space and brushing your teeth at work?
Are you ready for foods and ingredients being unavailable in the country you move to? Like avocados, good cheese, and normal priced beef.
Are you ready to give up your old home comforts and find comfort in new things? Even familiar things like McDonald’s are different (but with the added bonus of it being delivered straight to your door). Fries at 2am? Yes ma’am!
Are you ready to work through all these challenges while doing your job to the best of your ability?
Are you ready to face these challenges on your own until you find friends or an expat community you fit into?
Are you ready for a ton of memorable times and some of the greatest experiences ever known to mankind?
If you’re not ready to give up these comforts, think long and hard about living abroad. I’ve seen so many people move abroad and ditch within a few months because “it wasn’t what they expected”. It’s truly a life-changing experience that everyone should try but it’s also difficult and being prepared is important.
Do your research on the country in question. Living abroad is always a game of charades but at least it won’t be an isolating black hole of doom if you go in prepared.
So what do you think? Are you ready for the big plunge into the deep end? If you have any questions or things to add to the checklist, leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.