Choosing the Path Less Taken: The Continual Stressors of Life Abroad

Friday, 6 April 2018
From the outside, moving to a new country seems exciting, thrilling, and something only those with money can afford to do. Relocating to a new country is exciting but also incredibly terrifying. The move may seem like the most stressful part of living abroad; however, some stressors are frequently present while living abroad. There are numerous reasons why one may move abroad. After many discussions with other immigrants, I've found 5 themes frequently arose:

1. Won't You Miss Your Family/Friends?
Excuse my French but no sh*t Sherlock. Of course, when you move to a foreign country, you're going to miss your friends and family. This is a given. It is continuously there no matter how long you've been away. You miss birthdays, holidays, births, weddings, the whole enchilada. Some people will understand this and continue to support you. Other people though find the separation to be a bit too much. 

I've had this happen with both friends and family. When returning home, I'm not choosing certain people over others. If I could, I'd visit everyone each time I'm back. Unfortunately, money and time tend to stop this. Losing people from your life because you chose to live abroad is never an easy thing to cope with. 

2. Immigration...The Stomach Ulcer of Departments
Oh lord, I swear once my immigration status is complete I will write an entire post about it. But as I'm sure nobody wants to read a 68-page manifesto on my frustrations with immigration today. Unless you're travelling on a straightforward visa such as a Tourist Visa or Work and Holiday Visa, immigration will become the bane of your existence. 

On almost a daily basis, one of my friends who is dealing with immigration has a breakdown. Now I can only speak for immigration in Australia but it stressful and continually changing. You think I'm joking, but almost every fortnight there's some sort of change to the website. Just the thought of checking the site fills me with anxiety. But if you adequately prepare, have some awesome friends, and cry into a tub of ice cream occasionally, you will be ok. 

3. Lack of Support System...You're Crashing and Burning on Your Own
Most people I've spoken to migrated to Australia solo. They did not know anyone, they're family was back in their home country, and they were on their own. I took the safer route, moving to Australia instead of England because there were people I knew in Melbourne. I figured worst comes to worst, I had at least one person I knew. 

I understand many people, regardless of where they live, do not have the luxury of close friends or family. It's kind of sh*t having to go through life on your own. But for those who do have an excellent support network, imagine a crisis where you need them immediately. The only problem, it's a minimum 15-hour flight plus travel time to get there. You run into financial hardships, high chance you're going to have a dangerous situation. You break up with the individual you moved countries for, you're crying solo into a tub of $15 Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream whilst listening to Sarah McLachlan instead of crying with your bestie. 

Even if you have an incredible support system in your new country, you're often overwhelmed with anxiety about being too much of a burden. Are people inviting you to holiday dinners because they want to or because they feel obligated? If something bad did happen, would anyone actually help you out? What if they think you're too much of a burden? Yay anxiety! 

4. The Constant Justification of Your Decision
Many will not understand why you chose to move to a foreign country. Whether this is out of envy, lack of understanding or just plain rudeness, facing these individuals is never a pleasant experience. I've personally heard, "what are you running away from?" or "you'll just fail and come home in a couple months". I've had friends be told they were stupid for moving across the world for the person they loved. I've heard stories of people entirely ending friendships because they didn't agree with the person moving. 

First off, it's not your dang decisions. Immigrants do not have to justify anything to you. If they're sharing tales of their move with you, you're probably important to them. So pull your head out of your butt and be friggin supportive. Moving to a new country is hard and scary. Each immigrant has their own reasons for moving. Deal with it. 

Secondly, please stop using the "your relationship is just going to fail, and then you'll be stuck in a foreign country alone" reasoning as to why a person shouldn't move. If it's ok for people to move cross country for love or end up on their fifth marriage, why can't someone move across the world for love? Statistically, you've got a 50/50 it'll work out but if that person is happy, who friggin cares! 

5. Potential Loss of Identity and Assimilation
When you move to a new country, you're constantly torn between staying true to your roots and assimilating to your new home. Where you were born shapes the person you've become, but if you cling too hard to the past, you'll find yourself sad, isolated, and wanting to move back asap. Where is the happy medium between old and new?

Fortunately, there are quite a few similarities between the US and Australia. Assimilation wasn't personally that difficult. But I've had conversations with friends from other countries who did assimilation difficult. It wasn't that they didn't want to adapt to Australian culture, it was simply overwhelming. They felt they were completely losing their identity. Not the most fun thing one can experience. 

Moving to a different country is a personal choice that does come with many challenges. Just because someone does not 100% fit the image of the country does not mean they're not attempting to assimilate. If one of your friends is an immigrant, try and understand things from their point of view. Give them pointers on how to adapt to life in their new country. Be supportive of their journey and their process. 

And until next time...
Stay Curious

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  1. Holy cr*p, I feel like I wrote this post! I was shaking my head and mumbling mmmhmmmmm the entire time reading it. As an expat, it's refreshing to see other people that 'get it' on such a similar level. Thanks for this!

  2. Picking up and moving to a whole new country does sound like something "fun" and something that only those who have lots of money do. Thanks for giving a real look at the behind the scenes! My husband especially has wanted to move to Alaska for SO long, and we haven't mostly because of the reasons you listed above.

  3. Wow! Some of these I would've guessed moving abroad, but it seems like it's not all rainbows and butterflies!

  4. I am sorry you and many have had to deal and continue to deal with all these unwarranted opinions from other people on why you live abroad. Any move let alone abroad can have many concerns and requires so much planning that the last thing you need is to justify the why’s.

  5. Thanks for your insight! I'm relocating to the UK from NZ in a few months and while I know a couple of people there and I'm going with hubby, I'm still pretty terrified!

  6. omg immigration is the most terrible department no matter the country! i've been working on my residence for the USA for 3 years and still hustling with it.

  7. This was a great read, I felt a lot of these (but to a lesser extent) when I studied abroad. I also dreamed of moving back to Asia where I'd studied abroad but I didn't end up doing so but I can only imagine what a pain in the butt immigration would be to deal with. I'm have permanent resident status in Asia and I already feel like the paperwork is a pain and I can only imagine how bad getting citizenship would be for visas. Thank you for sharing your experiences, it's great to know others feel similarly.

  8. Moving to another country is always a stressful time. However, if things work out it can be a once in a lifetime experience as well. I moved to Germany for four years to study and while I was surrounded by like-minded individuals I would face immigration issues every time I would return from holidays and of course adapting to the local culture and language on top of that. Still, a great time of my life.

  9. It's so interesting to read about other people's experiences, my best friend moved from the UK to Australia a few years back and everything was quite straightforward, until she decided she wanted to stay past the two year mark as she was very settled and living with her boyfriend. The amount of time and money it cost them to get all of the paperwork in order was insane - then unfortunately they split up just a few months later. I would be terrified to do so myself, but well done for being so brave! xoxo

    Shan //

  10. Totally agree with so much of this post, fantastic insights and an excellent read. I will be moving again soon and it has made me think about some of these things again.