One of the worst things that I did for myself before moving abroad was failing to mentally prepare myself for it. It has definitely been catching up with me. Stress has a way of silently creeping up on you in the form of terrible sleep, anxiety, and a general lack of motivation for anything followed by its partner fatigue. Also, I can’t shut my mind off so here I am furiously typing at 1 AM because my brain won’t shut up. These are just a few of the hardest parts of living in another country for me personally.
The hardest parts of living in another country
I had known for months that I was going to move to another country prior to the actual moment. Somehow I managed to minimize the enormity of it in my own mind though. I knew I had friends and family in England. I also knew it was an English speaking country. I’ve been there for months on end before. Why would there be a huge adjustment period?
Oh, how naive I was. None of this is untrue; I have friends and family in England and they all speak English. There are always going to be situations and circumstances that leave me feeling overwhelmed and lonely though no matter how hard I push myself or how often I surround myself with others.
Communication barriers still exist despite the fact that Americans and British both speak English. The intonation, accents, and lingo are very hard to understand at times because of how different they are from location to location in Britain. You could literally drive twenty miles in the UK and the whole town will have a new accent. In the midwest, you could drive 700 miles before you’d hear a very slight difference. British humor is also hard to get to grips with. There are cultural jokes and references I will never understand because I wasn’t born and raised British. I often feel like an outsider as a result of all of these things.
The slow transition of “technicalities”
The small things that take an adjustment period longer than a week really get to me. It has been a struggle unfortunately to open up a bank account in the UK. It also took me a month and a half to find a job which was at times very, very lonely. (Luckily I’m pretty introverted, so I didn’t mind spending a majority of that time alone or gallivanting store to store by my lonesome). It sounds silly, but I’ve also been adjusting to public transportation and not being able to drive anywhere I want to go. Taking a trip to the store used to require me hopping into my car plus a five minute drive. Now I have to look at bus times, train times, etc. etc. etc. to revolve my life around. Not to mention the walk it takes to get to the transit. Annoying is an understatement, no matter how impressed I am with the functionality of British public transport.
I wasn’t mentally prepared
Did I mention the stress and anxiety? I wish I had known how much mental, emotional, and perhaps even physical effort (I walk a lot now…) it would take to move abroad and establish a new life for myself. Not only that, but I moved abroad to be with my husband with whom I had been apart from for great lengths of time. I assumed everything would fall right into place and it has for the most part aside from those lingering technicalities.
I still wish I had known to mentally prepare myself for the courage and strength it was going to take. Oh well, we live and we learn. This is a really great post by Christie Chu on Taking Route that shows you a few mental strategies for how exactly you can mentally prepare for moving abroad. I wish I had found this post earlier. It would have really calmed my nerves and is worth the read.
I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again – instant coffee is mediocre at best. Nobody does coffee quite like Americans. And that’s okay. I’ll live. Costa coffee is decent and French press is pretty authentic, but nothing will ever out do Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. There’s also something so therapeutic about driving to Dunkin’ Donuts at 11 in the morning with the windows rolled down and the sun shining and Birkenstocks on my feet.
One day we will meet again, Dunkin’.