Wellbeing

5 Things That Happen When You Move Overseas

Australians are great at living overseas. We are everywhere. But for those of us yet to, how does it feel to live away from Australia? What changes should you expect from basing yourself internationally for more than a year? We look at the roller coaster range of emotions that come with living abroad long term.

Taking the leap of faith and moving overseas for work, travel, or a relationship is a once-in-a-lifetime-dream-come-true adventure that has the ability to push you to your limits and take you in directions that you may never have considered before. But with all those highs come some inevitable lows. In the chaos of packing up, changing your address, and selling your stuff online, here are five things you should know before you head off.

You will experience personal growth and it will be the best thing ever 

Exposure to new cultures, places and people, inevitably shift your perspective. Consistently challenging yourself in new environments means these changes are more likely to stick and the by-product of this is personal growth. Which means under no circumstances should you expect to stay the same person after living overseas for an extended period of time.

Being continuously forced outside your comfort zone means that your worldly perspective evolves and all of a sudden, without realising it, your favourite food and music has evolved, and you might even have new alliances with international sports teams.

Without personal growth we wouldn’t be inspired to move forward, discover new experiences and take the risks that ultimately keep life interesting. Living overseas long term forces you to embrace change and new challenges. In other words, the world is your classroom.

You may never feel at home or like you fit into one place 

Hollywood and trashy novels like to make us think that ‘home’ is a single attainable concept we can find in one place or person. But in reality, moving overseas recalibrates your understanding of the concept.

Feeling bound to a new place when you’ve lived away from your birthplace for a long period of time is natural. As are the ~feelings~ you have for the place you left behind. The longer that you live overseas the better you get at defining what home means to you and sitting comfortably in the knowledge that it doesn’t have to be tied to one single person or place.

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When you move to a new city you may feel out of sorts as you work out your new groove. You don’t know where everything is, you don’t have a favourite coffee place, everything feels foreign, and it takes some time to adapt to this new culture and way of life. And often, a funny thing happens – when you return to where you lived prior, to the place you once thought you completely fit in, it can suddenly feel alien.

It can be a shock to realise that in order to make a new home in a new city, you have to detach from your previous ones. It’s difficult to fully identify with what used to be, because living in a different place means your personal development is happening elsewhere. Many expats can feel like there isn’t one single place they really belong.

You may feel alone at times and that’s OK

During bouts of homesickness or periods of angst when you’re trying to settle in, it is important to remember that nothing is forever. Distract yourself from feeling blue and sinking into a depression by reminding yourself that there are plenty of people going through the same situation as you.

Go out there and meet them. How? Don’t try to find people, pursue your interests and then the right people will naturally follow. Browse through Meetup groups that sound like your cup of tea and you might luck out with making some new besties or at least meet some cool people to get a drink with afterwards. Remember, if you’re brave enough to move overseas, you are brave enough to make friends as an adult.

You have to get super good at keeping in touch… 

It is brilliant to have friends all around the world. It means free accommodation when you travel and a local showing you where to get the best beer wherever you go, along with your established friends you’ve had forever. Plus, friends of different cultures expand your world and make you a better person.

Strengthening and maintaining these kinds of relationships requires upkeep. You’ll have to get good at knowing different time zones – and realistically you’ll need to be the one scheduling time for Skype dates and Viber calls – because when you’re the one who moves away, the onus is on you to establish a new friendship routine with your existing mates. The worst thing you could do is be upset that your friends from home aren’t calling you.

…But you’ll still lose friends

Your mates back home won’t be disrupted by your move. You’ll be experiencing huge changes internally and externally, but their lives, routines and who they are continue unphased. You’re the one who has switched things up, so you’re the one that will be changing at a core level. Sure, you’ll have friends who are awesome and organised and will make the effort to stay in touch, but you will also definitely have friends who don’t. And if you don’t make the extra effort at the start, you can easily find yourself drifting. But the thing is, you might realise that for some people, you don’t want to make that effort. And that’s OK.

Moving abroad is an opportunity to reevaluate which friendships you want to maintain throughout your life.


Claire Dalgleish is a freelance writer and art curator who currently lives in Sydney. She woke up like this. You can read more on her blog art/writing/projects and follow her via @art.writing.projects.