After living in the UK all my life, I took an exciting opportunity to live and work in Mumbai for a year, and then subsequently Johannesburg and next stop Budapest. I have been amazed at what living in another country has taught me. I feel like I have learnt more in the past 4 years, whilst I have been living abroad, than I did in all the years prior to that. Here are some of the things I have learned.
1) To be more open minded
You start to become fascinated with why people are as they are and behave as they do. When you are living abroad, it becomes easier not to judge people, but instead learn more about them and embrace the differences. You learn there are a variety of ways of doing things, that your way is not always the best and that other people can teach you a lot from their experiences.
2) To have patience
Living in a new country can test your patience. Getting what should be simple tasks completed, can often be extremely complicated and frustrating. You can encounter language barriers, process issues, cultural challenges and many different ways of getting things done. If you are working in another country, the ways of operating can be worlds apart from your home country, so you get used to every day challenges that test your patience.
3) How to make friends as an adult
When you move to a new country, you need to make a new group of friends, if you want to have a social life. If you have an established group of friends in your home country, you may not be experienced in making new friends as an adult. This becomes easier the more you do it. You can join groups and forums where you meet people also looking to form a social network. You can get introduced to friends of friends, and build up new contacts that way, and you can also meet people at parties or social events that you strike up a conversation with and swap numbers.
4) The value of diversity
Living as an expat means you will interact with people from different countries, with different languages, cultures, backgrounds and views on life. This can be hugely enriching and you can learn so much from spending time with a diverse group of people both personally and professionally.
5) To be more spontaneous
The lifestyle when living abroad often facilitates spontaneity. You will probably find there are more opportunities to try new things. New food, new music, new places, new people, new cultures and traditions, new languages,. You get used to experiencing new things all the time. You can also become more comfortable to saying yes to do something the same day rather than planning a week in advance.
6) To be brave
To set up your whole life in a brand new country, starting again from the beginning, takes bravery. There may be times when you really feel like you haven’t got the confidence, but you just have to put on a good pretense and this soon becomes real. You get comfortable with getting things wrong, learn from it and realise you are able to make a plan to figure out a solution to every issue you encounter.
7) To make your own opportunities
On many occasions, living abroad can be a temporary arrangement. Often you might not know what lies ahead, after the period in the current country. You learn to live for today and enjoy your situation, and view the uncertainty of the next phase of your life as exciting, rather than worrying that you don’t have clarity on what might be coming next. Things don’t just get handed to you on a plate. You come to realise that your future is in your own hands, you make things happen yourself and you create your own opportunities for the future whilst enjoying today.
8) To keep a positive attitude
To survive in a new country, you need to have a positive attitude or you might find that all the challenges you come across, start to get on top of you. Sometimes being away from home can present difficulties that you need to keep a positive attitude towards, to ensure that you remain happy. You can learn to put a positive spin on situations even when they are quite challenging.
9) Trust in the kindness of others
You often find that you might need the help, support or advice from others when you are in a different country. It’s amazing to discover that how willing most people are to help you in these situations and how kind others can be to you, even complete strangers.
10) The relative importance of material possessions
Moving to a new country can be an excellent opportunity to declutter your life. You can review your possessions and decide to only take the things that are really necessary, and live with less material goods around you. Sometime the circumstances mean it is easier to travel light, and this can illustrate the benefits of living a more clutter free existence.
11) How to build deeper friendships
You tend to make strong friendships very quickly when you are living away from home. You are away from your family and you tend to rely on friends more than you might do if you were living at home. They become part of your extended family. This can give you deeper relationships where you get to know people very well over a short period of time. You are also able to acknowledge that these friendships may change once you have left the country, but become comfortable with that.
12) To follow your own happiness
Living away from home allows you to analyse what is important to you and what makes you happy. It can often also give you the freedom and self confidence to chose how you spend your time, making choices that make you happy.
Living abroad for a period of time can enrich your life so much, you can come away with such a diverse range of skills and experiences.
I’d love to hear from people living abroad, to understand what things you have learnt, in the comments below.