1. You have unconscious cultural biases.
You might think you’re less prone to cultural bias as a result of being well travelled and/or growing up in a multicultural city, but it’s not until you live abroad that your cultural biases are challenged. For example, do you automatically jump into the front or back of a taxi? Do you joke around with your boss? Do you use sarcasm frequently?
If your ‘normal’ behavior becomes ‘unusual’ when performed in a different country, your inherent biases may be exposed. It’s a great way to better understand yourself and your preferences.
2. Get used to being alone.
You’ll make plenty of new friends whilst living abroad, but they won’t fill up every moment of your life. It’s not like being at home when you get involved (willingly or otherwise) when your dog didn’t poop or your friend locked themselves out of their apartment.
You will no longer be in the loop of the humdrum routine back at home. This frees up your time and energy. You get downtime from the drama, but you mustn’t get melancholy when left to your own devices. Use the extra alone time to your advantage.
3. Your problems will follow you, wherever you go.
A change of scene is a temporary novelty. Moving overseas won’t ease your perennial restlessness. You’ll still get itchy feet and want to escape again. You’ll still dream of a better, happier life.
If you’re anxious or depressed, you’re still likely to feel that way after the novelty of moving disappears. A change of scene can help, but let’s not pretend it’s the whole solution.
You need to address your problems directly, probably whilst sitting still.
4. The dynamics of dating/romantic relationships will be different.
This relates to number 1 and its obvious but worth mentioning regardless.
There is truth to some cultural stereotypes, and there is ALWAYS another side to the story.
For example – White men in Asia have it easy. White women in Asia do not. Chivalry is out-dated in Australia but still exists in parts of Europe. Blah, blah, blah.
Dabbling in the dating world of another country is a sure way to discover what you want, need and don’t need (or want) in your romantic relationships. (For the record, it’s not okay to ask about the potential for girl-on-girl or 2-guys-1-girl action on a first date, even if you’re a white male in Asia.)
5. Learning the local language will open doors you never knew were closed or even existed.
Learning Mandarin in an English-speaking country like Singapore might seem like a lot of unnecessary effort, but wait until you learn words that don’t have correlations in English!
Not to mention the conversations you can overhear (and now understand) that you were previously not privy to. Job opportunities, friendship cliques, secret societies – you will be presented with more invitations to join in and participate if you know the lingo. Communication is key, after all.
6. Nothing can replace your mum.
Especially when you’re sick or feeling blue.
Sure, you can call or Skype home but it won’t feel the same as a consoling hug and often, without the face-to-face contact, she’s likely to misread the signs and say the wrong thing, thereby upsetting you further, and making the whole phone call seem rather pointless and ridiculous.
7. Technology hasn’t caught up yet.
Trouble-shooting your mum’s Ipad from overseas is near impossible. There is no free and easy way to remotely connect to an Ipad device to ‘see what she’s seeing’. And because I have no idea what “the computer is topsy-turvy” means, I can’t tell if there’s an actual problem or just a user-related issue. (It turns out my grandpa had accidentally flipped his taskbar vertically, so ‘topsy-turvy’ was in fact an accurate description of his screen problem).
Also, Skype doesn’t allow group chat on Ipads, so I can’t chat to my mum and sister at the same time. This is annoying and involves lots of re-telling of stories (since we all live in different countries).
8. Good friends are equivalent to receiving a salary bonus of $133K.
I read somewhere that surrounding yourself with good friends contributes about $133K towards your positive wellbeing. That’s more than any bonus I’ve ever received and it feels about right. Good people are hard to come by, so if you’ve already found them, don’t give them up. Make an effort and stay in touch – for the sake of your wellbeing.
9. You will miss some important weddings, birthdays and funerals.
People will die and get married without you. Even if they were once close to you, you won’t be asked to be a groomsman, bridesmaid or pallbearer because your presence can’t be guaranteed. Getting invited at all will be a bonus.
You might also miss an important funeral or last minute event, because the flight home took too long. Or you may not attend at all, simply because you cannot justify/afford the cost of getting home.
10. A life of adventure requires risk and sacrifice.
You’re going to drop the ball in some aspects of your life. Your jet-setting Facebook profile might be the envy of your friends, but you’re going to feel lost and question every life decision you make. You might have a midlife crisis EVERY year. You may feel like you’ll never ‘make it’ or even ‘get it’ – there’s a risk that the meaning and purpose of your life may always remain mysterious. So get used to it. Your lifespan is cosmically insignificant. Therefore being insignificant isn’t as significant as you think. Just try and spread happiness and not harm during your lifetime, wherever you live.