Learning a new language, leaving my career, having to calculate time differences and coordinate Skype calls…that’s what I signed up for when I moved to another country. I knew those things would change, and I tried my best to be prepared for those changes.
What I did not realize about moving to another country was just how much it would make me question things in my life. I will be honest: I have both under and over compromised when it comes to assimilating into a new country, and I can tell you; neither is the solution to your problems. In fact, doing either will most likely lead to more questions.
Am I compromising too much of myself to be here? That is the BIG question.
Am I letting these new cultures, traditions and expectations cut me off from my own heritage, my own culture and the way I usually do things?
Moving to another country (whether it be for love or just simply because you wanted to) is an adventure, to say the least. It will be exciting, exhilarating, and most likely a little scary at times.
And it’s definitely not as easy as most travel bloggers out there might have you believing.
When the idea to move to another country pops into your head, you slowly start to figure out what you should be prepared for; you know you will most likely have to deal with some sort of immigration process, filing taxes in two countries may be difficult, and finding health insurance is a must. Those are all practical things.
However, there are other, more personal barriers that you cannot possibly be prepared for; and those are what make you question everything.
Living as a Canadian in Belgium has been this huge source of anxiety for me in the past, because everything came with a big question mark. What do I think about my future child celebrating Christmas on December 6th? How do I feel about the amount of Catholic holidays in Belgium?
Political questions, practical questions, religious questions…even something as simple as what languages to learn seemed to be a giant, scary question. And it seemed like every answer to any of those questions could potentially change the way I lived my life; and that was absolutely terrifying.
The REAL test of moving to another country is finding a balance that makes you feel like you embody both cultures and both countries; because both places can be equally important to you.
Finding that balance between you as a person of your nationality and you as a resident of your new country can be really difficult – but it’s so important to think about.
I know it is absolutely not fair to myself, my partner or our relationship if I go through our life feeling like I have “given up” important family/cultural traditions to live here. Not to mention bringing those kinds of accusations into your relationship is just a recipe for disaster.
After a long discussion one night, we came up with a list of “to do’s” so I would never feel lost in the transition.
Make time to re-connect with people in your country. If you completely submerge yourself
in your new home, you are bound to feel overwhelmed.
Find people in similar situations and talk to them. There are most likely a lot of people who are in exactly the same situation as you. It’s a big world; use that to your advantage! I could not imagine my life without the “Expats in Belgium” group I am a part of (and there is even a “Canadians in Belgium” group!) and I get all the support I need there.
Be bold enough to make new friends in your new country. Being too closed off to new experiences and/or meeting new people is a sure-fire way to feel isolated, which will obviously make you question your choices to move there.
Actually learning about the new country traditions and where they came from. The more you understand, the more you will grow to love your new home.
Reminding yourself of your own heritage. You don’t have to lose where you have come from to be proud of where you are now.
Asking yourself “why am I even here?” Reminding yourself of the reason(s) you’ve chosen to call this new country a home every once and a while will definitely boost your confidence about being there.
Moving to a new country is so much more than booking your flight, signing your immigration papers and the adventures you will have there. Making the choice to live in another country teaches us to find a balance between where we have come from and where we are right now. And in today’s world; we need more people with that kind of respect for other countries.