Life After Working Abroad: Nothing Is the Same

The story usually goes something like this: You finally get to go for lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. You meet. You kiss. You take a seat. You order. And then those three words come out of his/her mouth: “What’s new?” And unless something big is happening in your life, you’ll say something like: “Not much,” or “No news. Good news.” But whom are you kidding? No news is no news. Period.

You just have to come to grips with the fact that nothing much is going on. And maybe you are just fine where you are, which is pretty cool. But if it’s not fine, it’s not the end. Quite the contrary. ‘Cause this could be the beginning of your life change. And by a life change, I mean something more radical than simply changing jobs or moving house. I mean something more like moving to another country. An all-in-one change.

Moving to another country will add a totally different dimension to “what’s new.” As everything will be new. Everything will be different. Yourself included.

But how different is different? Please define.


1) You will no longer speak one language.

Unless you are moving to an English-speaking country, chances are you’ll be learning how to speak the language of your destination like a local. Minus the accent. You may have already learned quite well Italian, French or Spanish. But there’s nothing like the real thing. Like living and working in Milan or like having to talk with local authorities in French.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself thinking in your second language. Even if this means thinking in British-English. Oh, blooming ‘eck, it’s a lorry, not a truck!

2) You will leave as X and come back as Y.

If not anything else, working abroad is a transformational experience. There will be so many things you will learn about yourself when moving abroad. Learning how to deal with everything on your own, x-miles away from home helps you grow a “can do” attitude. You will be forced to become self-dependent and self-confident. And on top of that, you will learn how to love spending time alone with yourself. No, the grass is not always greener on the other side, but will that keep you from giving it a try?

3) You’ll find out that the world goes round in more ways than one

When you travel you just skim along a country’s surface. You know nothing about it unless you live there for at least six months. Six months is a good amount of time to understand a country’s cultural scripts, but also start questioning your own beliefs. You will meet local people who don’t necessarily think and act like you do. This can feel awkward at first. In time, you’ll realize that there is no such thing as right or wrong. There are just different ways of looking at the same thing. And suddenly (your) world will take on a whole new meaning.

4) What you hate the most will become what you love the most.

Living abroad makes you develop a taste for things you hated before. I know you are most likely to believe that eating raw meat comes with risk. Or even perhaps that it’s gross. But spending some serious time living in France can make you fall for steak tartare. (Rawness at it’s best!) And the same goes for your style. Have you ever imagined yourself wearing red moccasin shoes? Yes, I know the answer to this question is a big fat: NO WAY! Yet your taste will evolve in surprising ways. When in Rome, (you will want to) do as the Romans do. Red moccasin it is!

5) You’ll have a neon flashing resume.

Working abroad experience helps you stand out from a growing pile of CVs. People who have worked abroad are viewed as adaptable, open-minded and patient with good communication and problem-solving skills. All of which are important in today’s workplace. What’s more having mastered another language than your native one gives you an edge over the others. Foreign languages and hands-on understanding of cultural and business differences could open doors that would otherwise be locked. So work abroad and then slide to unlock.

6) You’ll grow an attitude of gratitude.

Once you get past the pains of the adjustment period, you’ll learn to live with a positive attitude. You’ll be thankful for what you have. Well, I guess what they say is true: Sometimes you have to be far away to appreciate your family, friends and even the grumpy weather back home. Buying this and that will no longer be your thing. Not only because you can’t squeeze everything into your suitcase, but also because you would rather “invest” in experiences. Not things. And that’s a good thing.

Living and working abroad is like a domino. Once you knock down the first (hop-on-a-plane) domino, there is no stopping the rest from falling in succession. Just the thought of it makes your blood run cold. I am not saying it is an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy decision. But it can be life-changing in so many ways. For your information, there is no such thing as good timing to work abroad. However, there are some signs you should not ignore.

When everything is said and done, it all boils down to one thing: you can do it.

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