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3 Things No One Told You About Moving Abroad

expat life expat mums expat parenting expat parenting abroad Apr 26, 2021

Hubby and I have been married for 14 years this July, and I often joke that we are this couple because we have moved countries so often. We have literally had a fresh start every 2 years. And we have only had each other to rely on throughout that time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying our marriage is perfect - those who know me really well, know my limitations… and don’t get me started on hubby’s!?! LOL!

All jokes aside, moving can be super challenging. But it can also be so rewarding. Which is why today I want to share with you the 3 things that no one told you about moving abroad.

Firstly, distance is hard. There are days when you don't even think about your friends and family on distant shores, but then there are moments when you will be wracked with sadness and loss. I find that it’s not even the big things that hit the hardest, it’s the little moments that you miss out on regularly that are the toughest to endure.

When you’re moving abroad, you know and understand that there will be physical distance. You can look at the map and see it. You get on the plane and you know how many hours it will take to get there. But no one tells you how hard that distance can impact on your emotional well being. As much as you think you’ve prepared for it, it still bites you in the bum (when you least expect it).

Moving to Auckland, I am literally one direct flight away from my parents, less than 4 hours. I have never lived so close to them. Yet I have never felt so far away. COVID and closed borders has made this past year one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to endure. 

You can keep connection though, it is possible. I FaceTime my parents every day, sometimes only for a minute or two “I’m just walking to pick the girls up, is everything OK there?” There are some days these calls can be an hour or more. My mum and I share my Kindle account, this means that we always have books to talk about, and we can see how far the other has got in a particular book. I also send gifts on a regular basis, from groceries to a bottle of wine, photo gifts to samples of the girls artwork. 

Support is hard to find. You have left your family and friends and your normal support network behind. You are on your own. Finding support when you move abroad can be really challenging. Knowing who you can turn to when you’re having a bad day, who can step in if something comes up and you can’t get to school. This is not easy to find. But trust me, when you do, you are immediate family for each other. Your friends become your family. 

“There is not a word yet, for old friends who’ve just met” 

Jim Henson

This quote really does sum up the friendships you make when you’re living abroad. Because support is hard to find, you skip a whole lot of normal get to know you details and you get straight into the true nitty gritty of life. I remember Laurie coming to visit me in the hospital when I had Madam S, I had literally met her only two weeks prior, yet she became one of my rocks in Delhi. 

What’s important when you move abroad is to be open to these friendships. Drop the judgement you might normally attach. Allow yourself to get carried away by the immediacy of the friendship. This is your sisterhood. These are the people that you need and want to have around you during your life abroad.

You will change. It’s an old saying, moving abroad changes who you are. You kind of know it in the back of your mind, but at the same time, you can’t see any physical difference in yourself. 

No one tells you how challenging it can be. When you come back, for holidays or eventually perhaps repatriation, you are a different person. But your friends and family still want you to be the same old person. 

It’s like you’ve been on an amazing holiday, they want to see a few photos but then that’s all they want to know. They’re really not interested, or don’t understand, how different you are. You don’t look different. You don’t sound different. There’s no gauge for the change you’ve experienced in yourself. 

I think this is why our conversations and connections often default to others who have also lived or are living abroad, or perhaps even experienced significant time travelling. We seem to have an underlying understanding of each other. We get how tough it can be, but we also know the silver linings that you will experience and so we can share that. 

It doesn’t mean that you don’t connect and share with your friends and family. You just have to adjust your expectations of them and connect where they are at.

What is one thing you feel no one told you about moving abroad? Please share in the comments.

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