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14 Things Only People Who Have Worked Overseas Can Understand

14 Things Only People Who Have Worked Overseas Can Understand

Some two and a half years ago, I decided to make a bold decision and follow my partner to the far away land of art, cheese, and fine wine — France. He had just landed a five-year work contract there. While a long-distance relationship did take place at first, eventually I decided to sort out all the loose ends at home, pack up my entire life into two suitcases, and move to another country for an indefinite period of time.

While I did have my fair share of the “expat blues,” cultural faux pas, and difficulties with navigating the paperwork, in the long-run, moving overseas and starting a job abroad proved to be a tremendously positive life experience.

As an expat, you are likely to encounter numerous misconceptions and false assumptions about your lifestyle that people back at home make. Additionally, you are likely to deal with a number of odd questions from the new acquaintances you’ll soon meet in your newly adopted homeland. If you have ever worked or lived overseas, I’m pretty sure you can relate to the following 15 things!

1. We do not automatically become fluent in another language

A lot of people assume that changing your geographic location serves as a super-booster to your language learning skills. The truth is, it doesn’t. You don’t wake up on the next day after your arrival, go to the grocery store, and start casual chit-chatting with a cashier. Even if you have spent months studying the language back at home, you won’t magically become fluent from day one. Language adoption takes time and has a number of factors that play into a person’s level of fluency. In fact, asking us why we are fluent already most likely will make us feel embarrassed, as we haven’t yet reached our desired level of proficiency.

2. We are not “lucky” or “blessed”

It may seem that we are now living in a better country with amazing job prospects and sun 365 days per year judging by our Instagram or Facebook feed, but that’s not 100% true. In fact, finding a job and sorting out all the moving stuff and paperwork requires anything but luck. It’s more like hard work, persistence, and tremendous dedication to making things work that plays a major part.

Anyone can choose to work and play where we are now. For some reason, most people decide not to make the leap of faith and put effort into the potential prospects elsewhere (and there are always opportunities available for those who seek them).

It’s not that we were “lucky” or “blessed” to get that opportunity and you didn’t. It’s just the fact that we played hard to get it and you’ve chosen not to.

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3. We do miss our friends and lose contacts

The friendships you establish abroad as an adult cannot be compared to those nurtured for years at home. When you first move, you are likely to miss all the little things — like being part of the annoying gossip at the water cooler in your old office, not to mention more strong bonds like you had with your college mates and childhood friends.

While working aboard, you will inevitably miss friends’ weddings, will have to decline invitations to college anniversary meetups, and miss out on other social gatherings you would have gladly attended.

While scrolling my Facebook feed, I still feel really sad when I see yet another close friend getting married, or my old gang having great times together on a night out, without me. Sadly, the price you have to pay for your decision is losing some important social ties and missing out on important events like your nephew’s graduation or your BFF’s son’s christening.

4. We have bad days too

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    Another shocker — moving abroad does not automatically solve all your life problems. It’s not all sunshine and unicorns.

    Some days, we lash out aggressively on social media about the officials losing our carefully gathered, 40-page-long personal dossier, or the incorrect spelling on our credit card — and then being asking to pay on top for the issuing of a new card. Or not knowing where the nearest grocery store is and walking five blocks in the wrong direction in search for food for breakfast.

    When you write back with things like: “Oh, don’t be so dramatic. You are living in France/on the beach/in the most beautiful place on Earth. It can’t be that bad,” you are not winning our affections.

    Yes, the weather might be better and my new place might be gorgeous. Or perhaps the cost of living is cheaper, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to deal with the same routine and problems that you face at home.

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    5. We don’t make instant connections with the locals

    Making friends as an adult expat in a non-English speaking country isn’t as easy as you may think. You don’t just walk into a bar and make everyone instantly attracted to you by speaking a few local words with your foreign accent.

    Yes, you have the new coworkers who may eventually invite you out for beers in a month, or three, or a year (depending on the host country’s social culture). In fact, you are likely to act odd (and foreign) enough to scare off some potential buddies by breaking the informal cultural rules like trying to hug someone instead of doing cheek kisses (faire la bise) in France. Also, don’t assume everyone hates you or is acting rude because they don’t smile back, like in Russia, for instance.

    Making local friends abroad isn’t as easy as one might think. Most often, new transplants tend to mingle with other expats mostly — and there’s nothing bad about that.

    6. We feel extremely lonely at times

    Yes, living abroad can be marvelous. And yes, it can get extremely lonely on some days too. Sometimes, we think that no one back at home understands our true woes and life challenges. However, a lot of other people travel long term and work abroad. Maybe they are not facing the same problems as you, but they know exactly how you feel. Try connecting with other expats through Facebook groups or expat forums to help you beat the initial blues.

    7. We know that routines can become huge challenges

    Remember your first trip to the local grocery store? For me, that was a total disaster. I had my usual shopping list in mind, yet when I arrived to the store things went slightly amiss. I couldn’t find a lot of the usual brands I buy, and if I did, those things cost a small fortune. I had zero idea of how the local brands would actually taste and simply had to guess. Also, I had no idea what some goods were called in French, thus could neither locate them on the shelves, nor ask an assistant to guide me to the right direction. My trips to the supermarket would take two hours instead of the usual 30 minutes — even for minor shopping.

    Next, figuring out things around your neighborhood will take time too. Where’s the closest corner store, where I can grab some forgotten items from my shopping list? And the pharmacy? And the bakery? What are the working hours? Do they close for lunch? And don’t get me started on figuring out the go-to coffee/lunch/shopping locations in a new city.

    If I could give one piece of advice to my past self, it would be to do your home base research in advance! Post questions in expat groups, browse Foursquare or Yelp or any local alternative if you don’t want to spend two hours running around the neighborhood in search of tea on the day you arrive.

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    8. We can get ill too, and that’s 100 times worse than at home

    Getting seriously ill sucks, but when you are ill abroad, multiply the “sucks” factor by ten. You need to have a good command of language if you want to visit the doctor (in the case that you already have your health insurance stuff figured out). You can’t get a lot of drugs without a prescription abroad, and even if you do, you still need to explain what’s your problem and you may not be able to ask for your usual drugs as they can go under a different brand name. If you need to stay at home, there’s no one to look after you or bring you comforting soup. When you are ill abroad, all you can feel is tremendous self-pity. Don’t make it worse by writing something like: “How did you manage to get a cold in such a warm place?!”

    9. We hate when our loved ones get sick or in trouble at home

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      You know what being desperate is? It’s when your loved one is in trouble and you are miles away with no chance of being next to them in the next few months.

      Sometimes, your phone rings during an odd hour and you know it’s going to be nothing good. It’s happened to me. It’s happened to some of my good expat friends. And when you hear the news is bad, the worst thing is that you can do nothing about it. Just wait and see how it goes without your direct involvement.

      10. We learn to value the simplest things most

      If you ask us how life is going abroad, we probably won’t start telling you about visiting fancy restaurants or having epic adventures. With equal excitement, we’ll talk about how we got into a pleasant chat with an elderly lady and could understand 98% of what she said. Or how we’ve gotten our first piece of praise for speaking so fluently. Or about our first dinner invitation to a local’s home.

      Living abroad makes us value the little things a lot. The most lavish things are not always as enjoyable or as memorable as the cheap, simple things we’ve experienced.

      11. We don’t really like our birthdays

      Usually, your special day ends with the last phone call you get from home and after you’ve browsed through all your greetings on social media. After that, you just get dressed and act as if it’s yet another ordinary day in your life. You may throw a small party with some of your new friends, but it’s going to be nothing compared to the good-old feasts you used to have with your loved ones back at home.

      12. We don’t know when we’ll come home next

      We miss you like crazy too, but too often we simply can’t tell you if we will be coming home for holidays this season. Sometimes, our working/living permits require us to stay in the country for at least a year. Sometimes, we spend our vacation days too lavishly and run out of them well before Christmas. Sometimes, we have important things on our plates and simply can’t leave for even a few days. Add up the flight costs and additional travel expenses, and traveling home becomes quite a challenge for us.

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      13. We may not plan to move back home

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        Another question that often baffles me is: “When are you moving back home?”

        Do you really think that I invested so much time and effort into working my way here and packing my life into a suitcase just to move back in year? Highly unlikely.

        I might decide to come back home someday, but for now, my life is here. And I’m trying to make it work. Please, support me rather than acting like it’s “just a phase.”

        14. We will change

        Living and working abroad shapes your personality a lot. You become more mature, independent, and open-minded. You quickly adopt new rules, social cues, and cultural norms, and may even end up having reverse culture shock when you come back home.

        Usually, you return home as a better person than the one you left as. You now have a bunch of amazing experiences and cool stories to share, and a vast network of personal connections with people from all around the globe — whose couches you are welcome to crash on at any time!

        If you ever get the chance to live or work abroad, grab it!

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        photo credit: Pinterest

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        Elena Prokopets

        Elena is a passionate blogger who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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        Last Updated on July 12, 2021

        100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier

        100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier

        Want to learn some quick and easy life hacks that are easy to do, low cost and saves you time?

        By tweaking little things in your daily life, it can make your life much more convenient!

        Here’re 100 of the most practical life hacks so you can just pick up any of them right away!

        83 tie a small piece of bright colored fabric

          84 write random letter

            85 use a rubberband

              86 dorm smell bad

                87 lean your phone on your sunglassess

                  89 how to waterproof your shoes

                    90 take a picture of the name card

                      91 iron inside out

                        92 old newspaper

                          93 tumble try shoes

                            keep a card like this

                              SONY DSC

                                94 soap bar

                                  95 make a hole

                                    96 drop the battery

                                      97 use a coozie

                                        98 when taking a picture

                                          use a clean dust pan

                                            try a pants hanger

                                              use your cellphone light

                                                use a spring from an old pen

                                                  quick and easy iphone speaker

                                                    user binder clips

                                                      wrap a wet paper towel around your beverage

                                                        put pancake mix in a ketchup bottle

                                                          clean out an old lotion bottle for your beach

                                                            use a muffin tin to serve condiments at a bbq

                                                              doritos are great for kindling

                                                                use nail polish to identify different keys

                                                                  use a hanging shoe rack to store cleaning supplies

                                                                    freeze grapes to chill white wine without

                                                                      use paper clips to organize your cables

                                                                        almost finished your jar of nutella

                                                                          sick of having a box full of tangled

                                                                            unroll the rim to increase the capacity

                                                                              cut open toilet paper rolls and use as a cuff

                                                                                remove the stem from strawberries

                                                                                  turn an old bottle into a simple little cord holder

                                                                                    for iced coffee and iced cappuccino, use frozen coffee cubes

                                                                                      how to fold a fitted bed sheet

                                                                                        tired of snoozing past your alarm

                                                                                          place a rubber band around an open paint can to wipe your brush on

                                                                                            ut a wooden spoon across a boiling pot

                                                                                              use bread clips to save flip-flops

                                                                                                take pictures of friends holding items

                                                                                                  how i always know which headphone is the left one

                                                                                                    put a stocking over the end of a vacuum

                                                                                                      How to make sure you drink enough water

                                                                                                        user a can opener to open blister

                                                                                                          good sandwich guide

                                                                                                            turn your muffin pans upside down

                                                                                                              50 pounds of groceries and living on the 5th floor

                                                                                                                the right way to make a blt

                                                                                                                  add one teaspoon of baking soda

                                                                                                                    38

                                                                                                                      hair straighteners equals to collar irons

                                                                                                                        stack your clothes vertically to see them all

                                                                                                                          the right way to make cookies in the summer

                                                                                                                            how to clean a blender

                                                                                                                              the right way to eat a popsicle

                                                                                                                                use bread clips to label and organize power cords

                                                                                                                                  to get the built up residue off of your shower head

                                                                                                                                    user a hair clip to orgainize long wires

                                                                                                                                      a frozen saturated sponge in a bag

                                                                                                                                        rub stuck zipper teeth with a graphite pencil

                                                                                                                                          use a soda pop tab

                                                                                                                                            50

                                                                                                                                              51 How to multiply large numbers in your head.

                                                                                                                                                52 How to open a bottle if you dont have a corkscrew.

                                                                                                                                                  rub a walnut on damaged wooden furniture

                                                                                                                                                    kids fall out of bed

                                                                                                                                                      use toothpaste to clear up hazy car

                                                                                                                                                        58

                                                                                                                                                          59 keep pizza out while driving home

                                                                                                                                                            60 put your straw through the tab to keep it from rising

                                                                                                                                                              hold oreos with a fork so your fingers

                                                                                                                                                                Never lose your remotes again

                                                                                                                                                                  hiding your emergency money

                                                                                                                                                                    use a bread tab to hold your spot on a roll

                                                                                                                                                                      if you are at a hotel and run out of chargers

                                                                                                                                                                        keep a square of cardboard in a ziplock bag

                                                                                                                                                                          If you need to pee or smoke at a bar

                                                                                                                                                                            drill holes in the bottom of your garbage

                                                                                                                                                                              use an accented letter as your passcode

                                                                                                                                                                                use a squeeze ketchup bottle top with your shopvac

                                                                                                                                                                                  do something unusual when locking the door

                                                                                                                                                                                    when heating leftovers space out a circle in the middle

                                                                                                                                                                                      dont burn yourself in those hard to reach candles

                                                                                                                                                                                        put a small amount of water in a glass when you microwave your pizza

                                                                                                                                                                                          75 use a piece of paper to organize

                                                                                                                                                                                            use half a pool noodle

                                                                                                                                                                                              pencil case to store cables

                                                                                                                                                                                                78 clothespin to hold nail

                                                                                                                                                                                                  79 make blts

                                                                                                                                                                                                    80 take a picture of your fridge

                                                                                                                                                                                                      81 fill plastic water bottles

                                                                                                                                                                                                        82 right ways to eat chips

                                                                                                                                                                                                          99 if your plug keeps failing

                                                                                                                                                                                                            100 put the banana on the wire

                                                                                                                                                                                                              88 before you throw away a post it

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Source: Reddit LifeProTips

                                                                                                                                                                                                                There you go, 100 awesome life hacks that you can try right now to make your life a lot easier!

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                30 Brilliant Camping Hacks I Wish I Knew Earlier

                                                                                                                                                                                                                20 Popular Life Hacks From the Internet Debunked (or Verified)

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