Life overseas is a different experience for different people. It’s never the same. Most of the time, we think of the good things to expect: the freedom, the culture, and friends among others things. This is only half the reality of life abroad however. Those with the experience have a better picture. What they don’t often say is the hardship, bureaucracy, loneliness and language barriers that await you.
Still, living abroad is one of the best experiences you can ever have. You get to travel and see so much and in the process, learn a lot. It is the best lesson how wonderful life is as a gift. It is also one of the best opportunities to experience the interconnectedness of humanity, the serendipity and synchronicity of life. With these undisputed, the following are secrets others will not tell you.
It May be a lot Tougher Than You Think
Think about it, that you are in a new country, a new city, far from home, with no job, no friends, no apartment, no idea how anything works and a bank balance that’s slowly moving towards the negative and or a credit card that is almost exhausted – how much ‘easier’ can it get? It would be obvious if you had someone to help but do you throw in the towel? No, you fight for your space.
Bureaucracy is a Nightmare – It’s Crazy
There are those things you do with much ease in your country/city since you know where everything is, how to get them and who to contact. Try opening a bank account overseas and you will have an idea what I’m talking about. Other things likely to take you days, weeks or months and of course long queues include getting a work permit, a visa extension, lease signed or electricity.
It is Not a Walk in the Park to Blend In
You would imagine that all it takes is communicate well with the locals to become and be treated like them, but that’s far from the truth. It is never easy to be and feel like the native, especially if you’re not fluent in their language. You may never understand cultural activities. So many other things would be happening, but you may never really know. That is when you feel like missing home.
Lesson that you are part of a community
Need a shoulder to cry on? Need a partner to drink with? Need a group of people who’ll instantly become the best friends you ever had? You need to find yourself some expats. It may be great to have a few local friends as well so as to make the blending (integration) with new people and their culture a lot easier.
The realization how annoying newbies are
As an expat, you immediately and subconsciously elevate yourself to something above the humble tourist. It’s not long before you’re walking the city streets you’ve claimed as your own for nigh on two weeks now, complaining about all of the blow-ins ruining the atmosphere, and how it’d be so much better if all the tourists just went back to where they came. Well, this was you not too long ago.
Coming back Home is Bittersweet
This too will happen to you. At some point you will be back home to a grand reception, with all these amazing stories of life overseas, all of these hilarious anecdotes, all of these heart-rending tales of hardship, these tear-jerking moments of sadness, these uplifting stories of success, these grand ideas of how you can change your country and make it better like where you’ve come from.
The problem, however, is that soon you will realize that no one back home really cares about all that experience. The truth is, and this is why sometimes it’s better to tone down your talk, people at home have their own set of concerns; racism, ethnic in-fights, social injustices, bad leadership, or should-be improved infrastructure that’s long overdue among others that often deny them sleep.
Perhaps you have noticed that most of these are challenges of living abroad. Yes, it’s true. That is because people rarely talk about them when they return from abroad. You can, however, make your experience less troublesome by doing some if not all of the following: getting your personal must-haves ready, making contact with locals and expats, exploring and mastering the transport systems.