Monday, September 16, 2013

What to Expect when Moving Abroad

Have you taken a leap of faith and left everything to move abroad?

Part of what made this time magical was your determination to make things work in your new country. No matter what the costs were. No matter how uncomfortable or lonely it could be. Relive the growing pains of starting over somewhere in the world and laugh about the makeshift life you led as you first transitioned to your new home abroad. 

  • You have that nightmare story of your first month living abroad which you laugh and tell your friends about, even if back then all you wanted to do was cry and book a flight ticket back home.
  • You most likely ate in Mcdonalds during your first week abroad, where you moped a little because you didn’t know where else to find meat. Or fish.
  • You bought the cheapest, most basic cell phone for your local number, even if you owned an Iphone. Because you only used your Iphone when the WiFi was free. And also to take pictures of sunsets. Or your food.
  • You attempted to start your nth blog during your first month abroad, and concealed the identities of your new friends via the first letters of their names. Eventually you forgot about your blog and used brunch as your new avenue for emotional catharsis.
  • You realized that living with strangers was not too bad after all. And even if your flatmates did end up being a little creepy, you weren’t home most of the time anyway.
  • You actually enjoyed going to Ikea. You turned a bedsheet you bought into a makeshift curtain, used those colorful plastic plates and cups when friends came over, and bought a tacky carpet just because. In fact, you sometimes go to Ikea just for the sheer joy of eating their meatballs.
  • You didn’t own a television and watched everything from your laptop. In fact, you never even bothered reading a book during your first few months abroad, because your life was too exciting to escape from.
  • You learned how to budget by using meals as units in buying clothes (i.e., “that top from H&M is three meals…”).  
  • You only ate properly when your family was in town. Otherwise, sandwiches from 711 did the trick.
  • You hardly washed your bed sheets. No one knows why but you just didn’t.
  • You changed your name at one point or shortened it so locals can pronounce it easily. It’s like having an “English name” of sorts (if you taught ESL in Asia you’ll understand what I mean by this).
  • You had a friend who organized everything - from birthdays to hikes to Secret Santa. 
  • You also had a friend who knew about all the deals in town (“OMG 2-for-1 happy hour prices lets go NOW!”). More often than not, this friend was female. In fact, the reason you tried Yoga was because of her persistence in selling you the deal on Groupon.
  • You only went to a movie theatre for dates or because you could get discounted tickets if you went as a group (again, it’s all about the deals…).
  • You had a friend who hosted most of the house parties. He/she was the one who lived farthest away from civilization, but had the most complete kitchen (“OMG you have an oven!”) and the most spacious common area, so you didn’t mind.
  • You actually went to the museum for fun, even if you have never been to the one in your own country, except that time you had to go for your primary school field trip.
  • You wasted so much time on or, comparing flights and strategizing your layover trips. Hopefully, you weren’t the person who’s browser always screwed up the minute he/she was paying for tickets. 
  • You locked yourself out (or in) of your flat after going out and slept in your friends place after calling him/her in the wee hours of the morning.
  • You Ikea closet consisted primarily of pieces from H&M, Zara and Forever 21, which you can easily spot on the street, because those were the only places you could get “normal” and reasonably priced clothes from.
  • You suffered from a bad haircut that cost twice as much as what you got back home because of a language barrier with the hairdresser.
  • You organized a pest-control or mold-control operation with your flatmates - gloves and masks and all.
  • You fought about doing the dishes with your flatmates. And fought about how one of you did not replace the egg they took. The worst was when the fight was about one of them taking your ice cream without asking permission.
  • Your weight fluctuated like crazy, and so did your feelings about dancing to house music (something you used to hate). 
  • You religiously Skyped at least once a week with people back home. It was your portal to the alternate universe you left behind, especially if you were in a long distance relationship.
  • You secretly liked one of your coworkers / co-exchange participants or they secretly liked you. Because just as your food palette adjusted to the local cuisine, so did your taste for what you found attractive.
  • Your definition of the perfect gift was a home cooked meal or a well-chosen book. But giving and receiving gift cards from Zara, H&M, or even Starbucks wasn’t too bad either.
  • And lastly, your definition of “luxury” changed while you first moved abroad. Luxury meant upgrading the bananas and apples in your fridge to pomegranates and cranberries. Or spoiling yourself with legit morning coffee. Or buying that sinful cheesecake slice for dessert. But regardless, you learned that best luxuries were usually the simplest of indulgences… it was always having chocolate lying around - for days when you missed home, for days when you said goodbye to another friend or fling, or for days when you just wanted to enjoy that perfect moment of sheer contentment in your own corner of the sky, living life to the fullest in your new home abroad. 

Nom nom nom at my previous workstation