The Reality of Living Overseas – Part 2

Eventually, a new country starts to feel like home.
But, the only way to really know if it’s for you,
is just to go for it…!!!!
Just say, “why not?” Life is beautiful…
Make choice to live your own life..
Live out your dreams before they turn into regrets…
Because, if you want it bad enough, you will make it work…

(~ARM)

Well, it has been officially one year that I’ve been living & moving abroad. And, I want to continue my writing on this topic (You can see Part 1 here), just to reflect from my own experience on living overseas. Like I said before, what about the realities of living abroad – do my dreams match the reality?

Yes, I love living in another country, soaking up all it has to offer. I constantly tell myself that these are the adventure that I’ll love telling my kids someday, that I won’t remember the downs nearly as much as I remember the ups.

However, as I always understand about life, there’s no such thing as “perfect ten” in real life, so still there is “but” somewhere along the line. I mean, that expat life isn’t glamorous as most people often thought it seem.

It’s Still Real Life, Not Vacation

I think, some people can fall into a trap thinking that, moving abroad is a piece of cake like “a long-term vacation”. Well, let me tell you honestly, you couldn’t be more wrong..!!! It’s a daily battle where you’ve been forced to adapt, and make things in new country become familiar.

You see, living overseas is nothing like vacationing there. 1-2 weeks of vacationing doesn’t provide a perspective on daily realities of living in foreign country. Vacations are a break from our daily life, they are NOT our everyday life. We still have to work, and we cannot spend money like on vacation. We need to watch our expenses, which limits us on all the activities like when going vacation.

The first 2 weeks after moving to a new place are, indeed, like being on vacation. There is so much excitement about being somewhere new and just seeing all the new places, people, and things. There is so much things to see and explore. Everything just looked shiny and new and wonderful.

But once “the honeymoon of being in a beautiful new place” has worn off, the reality of day to day life often sets in. Unforeseen difficulties and feelings of unfamiliarity creep in. I no longer know where to buy certain products, where to meet other people, where to go for walks or fun, etc. Familiarity is what makes somewhere feel like home and the absence of it, can be daunting.

It’s Not Like In Movie Neither

If you watching some movies that shown moving overseas is effortless & easy, well, the truth is, it ain’t. The movies rarely talk about the hard times, and they make it look so effortless when the reality is far from rainbows and unicorns.

Yes, its true that you will make friends and there will be people who will help you. However, there will also be times when you will have to do things on your own in situations where you may be the only foreigner. That’s part of the deal when you move to a new country.

I know, today generation (at least my generation) was raised on glamorized half-truths and idealized travel experiences. The truth is moving abroad is challenging, and you don’t always find what you are looking for.

From sorting out residency papers and visas, to negotiating rent and setting up a bank account, learning & trying to understand the local law that will ensure you “stay from troubles”, adapting the culture, etc, nothing is simple, easy or familiar while transitioning abroad.

But if it is, then all the challenges that go into moving abroad make the experience all the more rewarding and memorable. There is not a movie out there that can truly capture just how amazing it is to have that experience under your belt because, it’s one of those “you really have to be there” moments.

“What am I missing?” in My Home Country

The main truth, it’s not my home country that I miss, but the people that used to close with me. To start over of new life in a new country, to get on that plane, doesn’t come without a price. Although today technology such as Skype have served me a good way when I missed them, but still I cannot be in two places at once.

On certain nights I lay awake, and think of all the things I’m missing out on back home. I realize is that their life back at my home country has gone on without me. “What am I missing?” Holidays, birthdays, weddings — every event that I miss, suddenly becomes a tick mark on an endless ream of paper. Nowadays, I simply look back and realize that so much has happened in my absence, that so much has changed.

It’s undeniable that whatever life I left back home, I could never pick up all the pieces to. People that used to share their life with me have changed, they’ve moved, they’ve married, and perhaps they’ve become completely different people — and perhaps, so have I. And the longer I stay in my “new home”, the more profound those changes will become.

I find it harder and harder to start conversations with people who used to be some of my best friends, and in-jokes become increasingly foreign — I have become an outsider, kind of. As much as my country represent and fulfill different parts of me, as much as I feel truly at home in either one, I’m still “divided” in two.

When I live abroad, I realize that, no matter where I am, I’ll always be an expat. There will always be a part of me that is far away from its home and is lying dormant until it can breathe and live in full color back in the country where it belongs. There will be a feeling like I am a Stranger in a Strange Land when once, I come back home.

Self-Discovery

The good part for me, is mostly about self-discovery. People always talk about “finding yourself” or “going on a journey to self-discovery” as a reason for traveling, and as much as I think it’s way overplayed nowadays, I can understand why most of people said those things.

Because, living abroad and traveling change people indeed, for better or worse. As for me, moving abroad was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and it has helped shaped and continues to shape who I am today.

It has taught me many lessons, and has encouraged me to be independent, responsible, have respect, and above all, APPRECIATE the people and the world around me. Struggling to learn another language, to adapt to a different culture with a different set of rules and learning the difference between fiction and reality – those are the lessons that stay with me, that shape me, that change me. Yes, there will always be surprises, both good and bad. Well, that is part of the journey, after all.

But, although there’s so much romanticizing living abroad, that sometimes you forget that after awhile, life abroad is just life. You’ll have bills to pay, you’ll get in argument with co-workers, the insanely hot and humid summers, the humor from other people that I found “not funny at all”, etc. That being said, obviously I think living abroad for a good chunk of time can teach you a lot about the world and about yourself.

Yes, definitely worth all the shitty times.

Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply