I got a lot of advice, good and bad, about moving abroad, and when a friend who is moving from the U.S. to Australia asked me about the pros and cons of moving to another continent, it got me thinking about the things I had no idea about before I moved. So here is a list of things I wish I’d known before hopping on that one way flight from Logan airport to Manchester.
- You’ll eat things you thought you never would (and like it sometimes!). I’m looking at you instant coffee. I’m ashamed to say I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve also tried fish for breakfast, reindeer and fries in mayo. And I’ve gotten to like a little black currant in well… Everything.
- You’ll try to guess how long it will take someone to comment on the fact that you’re not “from here”. Usually it’s as soon as I start to talk. Or I say elevator instead of lift. Oops.
- Trips to the grocery store can be a source of heartbreak and homesickness. No Kraft macaroni and cheese or refried beans?? I can’t even make myself comfort food to feel better. And sometimes you’ll buy that £8 box of Oreos in the imported food aisle because dammit you are homesick!
- Everyone else doesn’t always know best. You’ll get a lot of advice, solicited and unsolicited. People will tell you how to do everything from choosing a mobile provider to selecting your home. It can be overwhelming but do your own research too. What works for them may not necessarily work for you.
- Get memberships as soon as possible. If I had known that the English Heritage membership also gave free admission to Welsh and Scottish sites after a year, I would have definitely joined earlier to maximize the benefit. I also use National Trust car parks on a regular basis, so joining that made sense as well. So as long as you think you’ll use them enough to pay for the membership, join early.
- Sometimes it feels like you have no control over your life. How long you can stay and when you must leave are often in the control of the government, a job or a partners position. Things can be bureaucratic or last minute. The agency in charge of your visa doesn’t care about your plans, or whether 6 weeks is enough time to plan a move home…or un plan one. The future can feel very unsure and if you are a planner ( I am) this is extremely frustrating, but you learn to live with it.
- It goes by way too fast. Ok, maybe everyone did tell me that. It’s true though, between the learning curve, the travel and adventures, before you know it you’re 6 months or a year in. So enjoy every minute!
What do you wish someone had told you about expat life?