The decision to move abroad is undeniably an exciting one, a new chapter of life that is quite unlike anything you have ever experienced before. It’s also becoming a more common choice, with the rate of people leaving the UK rising steadily over the past decade; as https://britishexpats.com/news/latest-news/expats-world-hands/ shows, it’s now thought that nearly 5 million Brits have chosen to base themselves outside of the UK. As the idea of moving abroad becomes more commonplace, more and more people find themselves contemplating whether it might be the right choice for them.
Determining whether or not moving abroad is a good option is entirely subjective, and there’s no blog post that can make the decision for you. However, it can be helpful to know the common errors people make when contemplating this decision; if you can avoid these, then should you decide to make the big move, you can be confident of getting started on the right foot.
Mistake: Lack of research
We’ve all had those moments when travelling: we sit watching the ocean or admiring the scenery, blissful thoughts wandering through our mind, and it occurs to us… if I moved here, this is what my life would be like all the time. The desire to prolong a holiday, capture the feelings of wonderment for a little longer, is the inspiration behind many moves abroad – but it can also be deceptive.
A holiday is a holiday. It’s inherently transitional; you arrive, you engage with your destination, you make memories, and then you go home. When you live somewhere, the experience is entirely different, and there’s every chance a once-beloved holiday destination can become a truly unpleasant place to reside in.
The only way to combat this is through research. Look online for guides, preferably from other expats, as to what to expect when living in your preferred destination. It’s also helpful if you can actually visit the area with a specific desire to see the underside, away from the tourist lights, to get a real sense of what the place is actually like. The chances are you’ll fall even more in love with the area as a result, but it’s always important to remove your tourist-tinted glasses before making a full-time move.
Mistake: Failing to prepare for a language barrier
The most common countries for Brits to move to are all Anglophone: the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and so on. There’s a good reason for this: most people understand that language barriers can make residing in a country incredibly difficult, so it’s best to opt for countries where English is already the norm.
However, Anglophone countries also offer a relatively similar way of life to what we’re accustomed to in the UK – which, for some, defeats the purpose of actually living abroad. As a result, they want to move to countries where life is incredibly different; with Spain, and Asian countries such as Indonesia and China, also popular choices.
The downside of these countries is, of course, the fact that they aren’t strictly English-speaking. It’s often assumed that you can get by without learning the language at all, which is somewhat understandable: English is, as https://englishlive.ef.com/blog/english-in-the-real-world/english-became-global-language/ discusses, the lingua franca of the world. However, it’s next to impossible to move to a country where English is at best a second language without learning at least some of the dominant language.
The simple truth is that not learning a country’s language, first and foremost, makes your life harder. If you want to move to Indonesia, then the property listings on https://www.rumah.com/rumah-disewa/di-area-jakarta-pusat-idjk02 could definitely be of interest… but you’ll struggle to read them without learning some of the local language; issues such as this will constantly present themselves, complicating matters almost exponentially. Secondly, it could be argued that you’re somewhat missing out on the full immersive experience if you don’t learn the language of your new country. As a result, it’s best to ensure you have at least a basic understanding of the dominant language of your chosen country before you make the move.
Mistake: Expecting things to be much the same as at home
It’s fair to assume that anyone who moves to another country knows that their life will be different; even in the Anglophone countries, where the cultures are fairly similar, there are strikingly different ways of doing things that you will encounter.
However, it’s fair to say that most expats will, at some point, be surprised at how numerous these differences are. They may even cover areas you’d never expected, so you’ll constantly find yourself having to re-centre yourself and adapt.
In truth, there’s no particular way to guard against this; living abroad means continually updating your internal register of “how things are done”, making adjustments and improvements as they become apparent. However, what you can do is ensure you know this is going to be necessary. By grounding it into your mind that everything will not be as you’re accustomed to, there’s no risk of surprises or culture shock; you can be pleasantly surprised when things are what you assumed they’d be, but open and ready to adjust when you encounter a difference.
Mistake: Thinking you know how you’ll cope
So much of moving abroad is shocking, disorientating, and at times difficult to cope with – worth it, almost certainly, but undeniably challenging at times too.
Many people who move abroad know enough to expect that it’ll be tough, but it’s all-too-easy for optimism and excitement to cloud your judgement and convince you that it’ll all be fine. For some people, that might be the case, but this is far from guaranteed. When you choose to move abroad, you have to be ready for the fact that it might not be what you imagined, and you may struggle in areas you thought you’d adjust to like a duck to water. Everything is a surprise; expect the unexpected; and be open about the chance that it might not work out.
The above is not meant to dissuade anyone from moving abroad; instead, it’s to present a realistic insight into what the experience is actually like. It’s only by being aware of these errors, and doing all you can to prevent them from happening to you, that you can come close to being prepared for the life-changing experience of moving abroad.