Moving Abroad: Initial Thoughts and Observations

Study_Abroad-300x121As I have said time and time again, both on the blog and elsewhere, making the decision to move abroad and to relocate myself in Madrid was one of the best decisions I think I have ever made. It set my life on an entirely new trajectory that I would have never been able to reach otherwise. But with that said, there are a few caveats to relocating yourself across the globe and anyone looking to do so needs to seriously consider a number of important questions before making the journey. Today I want to go over some of these considerations to help anyone thinking of moving make the right decision.

The first and most important question that you need to ask yourself is, “Are you the type of person to move abroad?” Moving abroad is not a decision you make lightly. There are some serious shifts in culture and lifestyle that you need to take into consideration and you need to evaluate whether or not you are the kind of person who is okay with these kinds of changes. For example, moving abroad can be very uncertain. You will find yourself in an entirely new city, country, region, and getting in touch with a network of friends and activities can be difficult at first. If you are the person who values stability over the uncertainty of change, maybe moving abroad isn’t the right choice for you.

A second question that you need to ask yourself is, “Are you willing to invest the time and effort into moving abroad?” Beyond the obviously time involved in physically packing up your belongings and moving, there actually is quite a lot of effort involved in relocating yourself abroad. For instance, while many countries across the globe speak English as a secondary language, it is not the native tongue to many places around the world. In moving to a new country, you will need to also learn the language—or at least enough of it to pass through everyday interaction with people and your coworkers. I’m not saying that you will need to become the Hemingway of that language, but you will need to learn the basics of it and be able to communicate fluently.

The same thing goes for the culture in your new region. This was probably one of the biggest shocks when I moved to Madrid, the incredible culture shock from living in America. While some of my Spanish friends understood me being an American, as they had lived briefly in America, not all countries are so willing to understand where you come from. You will want to make sure you aren’t violating any cultural taboos while you express your Americanism in public. For example, in America everyone wears tennis shoes all the time. In Spain and many other European countries, people wear dress shoes even when going around casually. Now it isn’t considered taboo to wear tennis shoes in public or while going to the movies, but you can bet that you’ll be singled out as the only American around for doing so!

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