The impulse to leave your own country arises for several reasons. But, surprisingly, most of those who want to live abroad rely on external factors or examples of other experiences of living in another country when making the decision. Find out why living abroad isn't for everyone. And avoid frustrations.
Living abroad is not for everyone: the reason
Know thyself. The phrase is from Socrates, Plato's master Greek philosopher. But it didn't even have to come from such a famous author: if written on the back of a truck, it would have the same depth. Since I live outside my home country, it is common to be asked the classic question “how do I live abroad?”. I usually return with another question: “what is your motivation for moving from your country of origin?”.
Most use presents a list. Among the motivations, here are the most heard:
- Scape violence;
- I can't stand the government anymore;
- My country is a mess:
- There is too much corruption where I live;
- I want to live in a more civilized place (sic);
- People from my country are rude;
- My country is hopeless;
- I met a foreigner and fell in love;
- I want a better future for my children.
And so on…
Rarely – or almost never – do I hear someone give a truly personal and non-transferable reason. The reasons are usually linked to external factors and this is the main reason why living abroad is not for everyone. Of course: economic crises, wars, political instability or civil rights curtailed by dictatorships always drive people to exodus around the world.
But here we are only considering those who do not go through any extreme critical situation. I speak of those who make the decision on their own – or in agreement with the family. So, living abroad is for those who know how to behave in changing situations. And whoever didn't realize this, please go back five houses.
5 questions before moving abroad
But how do you know if living abroad is for you? In the case of moving by will, the first tip for anyone thinking of living far from their home country is to draw their immigrant journey. The idea is to make a kind of personal diary, which can start with answers to the following 5 questions:
- 1.Why do you want to move?
Any reason for a change other than a predisposition to completely transform the current life must be considered secondary. Because the reason may be one, but nothing will be like before. That's right. That's the good news is: it can be much better.
- 2.Where are you going to move?
Ask yourself what your affinity with the desired country is. From cultural traits, such as food and lifestyle, to immigration policy. And, of course, the language can be an extremely demotivating factor for those who start a new life away from where they grow up. So, going to a country where you speak a language known at least at an intermediate level helps a lot.
choose country to live abroad
- 3.When to move abroad?
Of course, all this will depend on a number of issues. Period of the school year, when you are going to study, can be a parameter. But even the season can be a deciding factor. Leaving a tropical country to face a winter in the northern hemisphere, for example, can make adaptation difficult.
- 4.How to move to another country?
Here personal conditions need to be evaluated. Everything will depend on how much money you have, how long you intend to stay, whether you want to go temporarily or permanently. And then it's worth asking for help.
Leave a friend or someone in the family with power of attorney, see if you can keep objects in the house of parents, siblings, etc., see if it is worth renting the house or leaving it in the care of someone you trust. Trying to organize what is left behind as much as possible helps to face the novelties to be faced in the new life.
- 5.What do I plan to do in the other country?
This aspect is super important. Do a lot of research, listen to stories and draw up a roadmap of possibilities. Also try to understand the country's laws regarding the work of foreigners. If you have a regulated profession, find out if you will need to validate your diploma in the country where you intend to live.
Comparing the new country with your country of origin
It seems needless to say, but it is often in the obvious that the immigrant's journey goes awry. For example, everyone seems to know that living abroad is not tourism. However, there are those who resent the first obstacles and then enter a delusional process of deifying where they are coming from.
I've seen many behaviors like this from expats living abroad. I recognize that it's inevitable to make comparisons, after all, we can't just delete our references the same way we backspace the keyboard. But this behavior only reinforces the idea that living abroad is not for everyone.
But I believe that nothing need be fatalistic. A person attached to the country can start by breaking the habit of seeing life in the rearview mirror. Why, once in a foreign land, it is recommended to plant both feet in the chosen country. Because this thing of one foot there and the other here only serves to strain the emotional groin muscle.
Living abroad is like getting married
When we decide to move to another country, it's similar to when we decide to get into a romantic relationship. It is a decision in which we engage full of expectations, there is no way around it.
However, when it comes to a relationship with a human being, we are aware – or at least it would be nice to have – that life together is far from being a paradise. In the case of those who board to other stops in order to plant the flag, it should be no different.
The good news is, just as there is a divorce, there is a possibility of moving back or going somewhere else. It didn't work out, didn't you like it, was the emotional burden of living abroad harder than expected? Don't be damned. Believe me: coming back is often braver than leaving.
Is living abroad for everyone?
Anyone who had a mother has certainly heard "you're not everyone", when he tried to convince her to let him do something using the argument "but everyone does". So, I'll tell you in spoilers why living abroad isn't for everyone: for the simple fact that no one is everyone.
But why the hell do so many people get along so well and others have such a hard time adjusting when they decide to live abroad? It really depends on what you mean by "getting along". I'll let you in on a little secret: don't judge by appearances. Reality does not always correspond to the truth.
Above all, don't judge someone's happiness by their portraits on social media. Because they are each other's lit stage. And we shouldn't judge our backstage, often so messy, by other people's stages.
I do not discourage anyone from listening to the experiences of those who already live or have lived abroad. I just suggest making a filter. My father used to say: when you hear advice, put it in the drawer. It might come in handy at some point, or you'll throw it away for lack of use.
To join or not to join “your community” abroad?
Another very interesting myth of what I call the “immigrant's journey” is the maxim that those who live abroad have to connect to the local community and avoid immigrants from their own country. Wow, how I heard things like “stay away from the Brazilians and make friends with the French”. They just forgot to give me the manual...
Because, let's face it, this advice is loaded with prejudice and, believe me, very misaligned with reality. It only takes a minute of reflection to see this. Ask yourself: how are friendships born? Look around you and analyze: who are your friends today? How did they come into your life? What links allowed the continuity of your relationships?
Notice without fear of making mistakes that there is no difference. Therefore, your connections with local people will be like anywhere on the planet: they will be based on affinities and coexistence. And they will reflect the life you will lead.
When I hear advice like “be careful not to limit yourself to the people from your community abroad” my throat scratches not to let it out loud and clear: ignore it!
I consider the height of contradiction for someone with the idea of becoming an immigrant to arrive precisely rejecting… immigrants. Look: I'm not saying to consider every person from your country as a potential friend. Far from it. But then being “disgusted” by your fellow countryman is a little too much.
Passport does not define character
As a good carioca that I am, I use the verse of a samba plot to try to defuse any attempt of Manicheism: the hand that makes the bomb, makes the samba. So, Brazilian, Chinese, Congolese, Albanian and French are all people. With all that is sublime and petty instilled in the human condition.
From my experience, I can say that I was open to everyone. And that brought me from a bad character Brazilian who pulled the rug out from under me in a company, to Brazilians who reached out to me with, for example, my first “registered” job in France.
It's just life, friends and friends. There is no 100% effective protective shield against disappointments in living with humans. Unless the dream of living abroad is to live on an uninhabited mountain and become a hermit. The positive side is that there are fine, elegant and sincere people of all nationalities. And character has no passport.
The luggage that never gets lost
When living abroad, we discovered two basic things: your country is not as bad as we imagined and the world outside is not as affectionate as we expected. Thus, living abroad can be a steal for those who expect a lot from what comes from abroad.
After all, the most important trip before packing your bags and backpack will always be inside ourselves.
Sounds like a tavern philosophy? No problems. Socrates should certainly have some wine with his friends while reflecting on ingenious ideas, such as the one on self-knowledge, with which I opened this column.
He carries the phrase along with his passport and always remembers it. Because if there is one certainty in the decision to move to another country, it is that we bring ourselves in our luggage. And this one, my loves, is very difficult to miss…
The experience of every person abroad is unique, which is why we have gathered in the book “The dream of living in Europe” several stories of those who decided to start over in the Old Continent. This way, you understand better why living abroad is not for everyone.