I recently wrote a post about how living abroad changes you, and in the future I would like to devote posts to looking at challenges with living abroad and the pros and cons of moving abroad. However, in this post I want to discuss things that living abroad teaches you. Having reflected on writing this post, many could be applied to a huge life changing event, and ours just happened to be moving abroad. However, I also believe that some of them are as a result of the steep learning curve we have been on since moving abroad to Sweden. I would like to share with you what living abroad teaches you from our experience.
15 Things That Living Abroad Teaches You:
- Resourcefulness: This becomes second nature. As with any move there are always hiccups, problems, and teething issues with settling in. These are magnified and multiplied when making an international move, but you don’t necessarily know where to turn to resolve them. You soon become very good at finding solutions.
- When you get knocked back or down, you get back up again: If you stay lying wallowing in self pity when the going gets tough, it is not going to help you out of the problem, and there are very few people around you who are going to sort it for you. Don’t get me wrong, I have shed some tears over issues since moving to Sweden, but then I’ve had to have a firm word with myself, pull myself together, and begin solving whatever was the issue. Then when you can look back, you realise that experience just made you tougher and more confident.
- Humility & Humbleness: The kindness and willingness of other people to help you is just truly humbling. They go out of their way to be kind. They accept you into their own community without judgement and a whole heap of kindness.
- Broaden your horizons: It opens your eyes to a different way of living, a different ethos of going about your daily lives, and you learn about a whole new culture. There are plenty of other ways to be living your life, and being in a different environment shows you that in no uncertain terms.
- How big and vast the world is: There is something about moving away from your original country and all the comfort and safety that offers, that makes you realise how much more there is out there. Starting over in a new country highlights just how insignificant we are, how insignificant our own problems are sometimes, and teaches you that petty daily issues we think are important are perhaps not so important after all.
- Teaches you what is important in your own life: During the move your life is stripped right back. It is packed into boxes (if you move with your belongings), and you’ll see it sometime in the future. During that time it becomes very clear what your priorities are in life without the clutter of “things” around you. Then as you settle into this new lifestyle and way of living, you learn more about what is important. You have made yourself so vulnerable by stepping so far out of your comfort zone, that you now hang onto your priorities and loved people to get you through.
- You learn very clearly who is important in your life: Family may or may not play a big role in your life, so I prefer to say that you start to build your own little tribe of who is important in your life. It can include your family if you’re close to them, but you soon come to realise there are others on your own wavelength that play an incredibly vital role as well. Old friendships may get lost by the wayside….no one’s fault, it’s just that life moves on and long distance friendships take a lot of commitment. Those willing to make that commitment with you are naturally part of your new tribe. Then you open yourself to new friendships that nourish you and they become part of your tribe. You learn that relationships in life must be reciprocal to be important. When you step so far out of your comfort zone it highlights that some relationships are just too one sided, and become unsustainable and therefore undesirable. Living abroad can be a big challenge and it brings into focus which relationships are good and which are not. Your tribe is your own homemade family of people who all care for each other.
- Courage in your beliefs & convictions: Moving abroad to Sweden was a joint idea between Dadda and I. It was a joint dream. Not everyone agrees with you or has a positive response, but the move gives you courage to believe in those convictions as they will be more likely to succeed!! No one else is on this ride with you, and if you do not believe in it, the chances are you will be on a quick return flight back to the country you left. You are your own person, you need to live your own life.
- Everyone’s dreams are different & of varying sizes: And that is more than OK. The important thing is you are living yours, and you acknowledge that others’ dreams are just as important as yours.
- People are amazing!: Living abroad teaches us to have more trust and faith in people. More belief in humanity. Our little island has shown us the really good side of human nature and we have learnt to become more trusting of people, rather than being wary of strangers until proven otherwise.
- Not to dwell on others’ opinions of you: You will meet a lot of opinions about your move abroad, positive and negative. You will also meet a lot of opinions of how you go about everything. Living abroad teaches you to become a little bit tougher, listening to others, but not dwelling on those opinions so much. You do not really have the brain capacity to deal with them, it is your life not theirs, and it is your dream to move abroad that you are living not their’s.
- Be yourself: You will change beyond a doubt, you will learn and grow, but in order to get the most from this experience you need to be yourself.
- Be kind to yourself & others: Smile, be patient, and withhold judgements. Be kind to others and they will be more than willing to help you. Be kind to yourself, you are going through a major life event. Living abroad teaches you not to pile extra pressure onto yourself.
- You learn there is no “perfect life”: You learn there are lots of different people living their own lives their own way, and you feel it is easier to let go of the image of a “perfect life” that the media portrays to us. You see more varied people, living more varied lifestyles, and lots of other important factors that are important in our lives.
- The ability to ask for help: I am VERY independent and before moving I saw asking for help as a weakness in my ability to cope. I could have done with learning this lesson a lot earlier on in the life of our twin boys and I may have shed less tears and felt less of a failure! However, living abroad teaches you that you can’t know how to do everything or where to find the answers to problems. You need to reach out to the local community and in turn you will find the most amazing people and collect more members for your tribe 🙂
In discussing what living abroad teaches you, I touched on being kind to yourself. This is more than likely to be a bumpy ride emotionally, and expat grief is something you may experience. Be kind to yourself when this occurs, do not feel a failure, you are learning to adapt and change with your move. You can find more information about our international move and experiences in some of my earlier posts. Whether this is raising children in Sweden, tips for your arrival in Sweden, or moving abroad with children. You can also see how we were getting on two years after our arrival, which was the last time I wrote a major update.