Just over two years ago, I decided to squeeze my life into a suitcase and move from New Zealand to Germany. This new chapter of my life forced me to learn and unlearn a multitude of things and I discovered a new sense of humility and understanding in myself that was unexpected. To this day, I continue to discover exciting things and am met with new challenges – it’s a tough life, but it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have, I promise. Here are just a few of the things that happen when you decide to pack up and move to a different country:
1. You learn to say goodbye. You quickly realize that many of the people in your life are simply passing through and you instinctively hold back in most situations in order to lessen the blow of missing someone. You become an expert in finding the balance between bonding and letting go- a perpetual battle between nostalgia and practicality.
2. You learn how to ask for help. When you live abroad, the simplest of tasks can quickly become nightmares. Processing paperwork, knowing which bus to catch, where the closest pharmacy might be, etc. There are always moments of distress when dealing with the unfamiliar, but you learn to become patient and ask for help. Asking for help is not only inevitable, but also essential.
3. Nostalgia will hit when you least expect it. Whether it’s a song, a smell or a taste, the smallest thing can set off a wave of overwhelming homesickness. You miss the little things you never thought you’d miss and it’s a bummer.
4. Friendships intensify. Moving away and putting a large body of water between yourself and your loved ones is nothing short of difficult. You will quickly learn who goes out of their way to stay in touch – some will distance themselves and others will become closer. It’s essentially a sentimental version of going through your closet and deciding what to keep and what needs to go to the donation bin.
5. Exciting things will happen without you – friends will get married, some will have children, your bestfriend might get that job they’ve always dreamed of. You’ll miss out on a lot and only catch glimpses of it on social media. The longer you stay away, the longer the list of things you’ll miss and you’ll eventually get used to that painful tug in your chest when you see your friends and family reach another milestone without you. It can be a really hard thing to accept and there’s no guaranteed silver lining, but it’s all part of the package when you make the decision to take the road less travelled.
6. You see home in a new light. When you describe to people from another country where you live, you’ll often be met with fascination and interest. This outside perspective can give you a whole new appreciation for the things back home you used to take for granted. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and, sometimes, strangely more patriotic (rugby world cup, am I right?).
7. You’ll start doing as the locals do. Whether you choose to fight it or not, you’ll eventually catch yourself doing things just as the locals do. Adapting to your new surroundings goes beyond understanding the local lingo. Eventually you’ll pick up the mannerisms of the locals, you’ll know the best places to get food, you’ll complain about the same things, etc. Even though you may never be the same as someone who grew up there, you’ll reach a point where you will look at yourself and realize that you’re not as different from the locals as you thought you were.
8. Skype will become your lifeline. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if it were not for Skype. There’s no better remedy for homesickness than sitting down and having hour-long chats with your family and friends back home. It helps you reconnect and balance yourself out again. When you move away to a different country, it’s far too easy to feel disconnected to who you are and the people you care about, so you’ve got to make sure to nurture those meaningful relationships and check in on your loved ones once in a while. Trust me, it’ll make you feel a million times better.