Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

1a367e26667f79e02c528f2b19ee7164

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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

    8e61429c858e0a00cdd72045b5c83650

      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.

      Advertising

      13. We may not plan to move back home

      travel2

        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!

        photo credit: Pinterest

        More by this author

        Elena Prokopets

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

        7 Ways To Learn a New Language Faster (Backed by Science) 22 Amazing Pineapple Health Benefits (With Simple Pineapple Recipes) 15 Cool And Practical Apps For Couples 14 Things No One Tells You About Being in a Long-Distance Relationship 9 Tips to Prepare For Your First Multi Day Hike

        Trending in Lifestyle

        1 12 Stretching Exercises to Increase Your Flexibility 2 6 Best Fat Burning Exercises You Can Do at Home 3 Why Can’t I Lose Weight? 8 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Fit 4 Tasty and Healthy Weight Loss Snacks to Reach Your Goals Fast 5 How to Lose Belly Fat: One Effective Strategy to Get in Shape

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on November 18, 2020

        50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

        50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

        If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

        That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

        Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

        1. Believe It to See It

        Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

        2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

        While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

        3. Keep Looking for Solutions

        Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

        4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

        Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

        5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

        There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

        6. Always Ask Productive Questions

        It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

        7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

        Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

        8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

        Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

        Advertising

        9. Maximize Your Strengths

        Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

        10. Be in It to Win It

        Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

        11. Know That Success Attracts Success

        People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

        12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

        Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

        13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

        You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

        14. Be a One-Off Original

        Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

        15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

        Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

        16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

        Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

        17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

        Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

        18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

        We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

        19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

        Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

        Advertising

        20. Accept Challenge All the Time

        Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

        21. Make Your Own Luck

        In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

        22. Ignite Your Initiative

        While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

        23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

        Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

        24. Champion in Communication

        Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

        25. Plan Your Life Strategically

        Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

        26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

        To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

        27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

        While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

        28. Live by Core Values

        Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

        29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

        Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

        30. Don’t Get Carried Away

        Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

        Advertising

        31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

        Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

        32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

        Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

        33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

        Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

        34. Change Opens New Doors

        People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

        35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

        It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

        36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

        Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

        37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

        When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

        38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

        How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

        39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

        If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

        40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

        Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

        41. Swim Against the Tide

        Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

        Advertising

        42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

        More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

        43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

        Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

        44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

        While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

        45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

        Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

        46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

        Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

        47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

        While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

        48. Follow Through

        Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

        49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

        We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

        50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

        To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

        So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

        Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

        More About Success

        Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

        Read Next