After spending 3 years of my life living away from my home country, I feel like this topic (struggles of living abroad) is important and needs to be covered. In about a month from now I will celebrate 10 years since being back from my student life in Germany. Three months of that time I spent working in a hostel in Berlin. So how does it feel to leave everything behind and start a life at new place?
There is a number of struggles anyone moving abroad has to face. Most obvious ones – language barrier, rules and regulations of the new country, customs, lots of new people, strangers. Even though it might look like an adventure, you will inevitably feel homesick, miss your family and friends and the life you are used to. Let’s look at some of those struggles in more detail.
No matter how much you prepare yourself for the struggles of living abroad, language barrier will most probably get in your way. It’s not enough to just speak perfect English – in Germany, majority of the population doesn’t speak it at all. You might get lucky in a big city, but no chance in a place like I used to live (really small town). My German was far from perfect, so I struggled to understand what people were saying and it was therefore hard to make new friends.
On the positive note, the situation made me study the language and develop myself at much faster pace than I did at home. I had no other choice but to make it work. It was actually easy, as I was isolated from my native language. I started listening to the local radio, watching local TV and tried to get as much practice as I could. The progress I made was stunning!
Rules and regulations
Germany is all about rules. There seems to be a rule for anything. Above all, of course, is their punctuality. You simply cannot be late. Accuracy is also among the most important rules. Getting used to running against time may require a lot of effort. Luckily, for me, it was piece of cake as I already had those habits from back home.
If you were to move to Spain, you would probably see a different picture. The famous “manana” attitude – life there is much more laid back. People don’t hurry anywhere and it might take days for a serviceman to arrive.
Getting used to local food may become another struggle, especially if you are moving to another continent. European food is mostly rather similar, unless we are comparing North and South of Europe. In case of Germany, the food was very similar to what I was used to. Nevertheless, it was really exciting to explore some local specialties, brought by numerous immigrants (like döner kebab).
If food is a issue, cooking at home may be a good option to avoid any health issues. In some countries it is also much cheaper and healthier option, compared to eating out.
In terms of customer service, Germany can hardly be beaten by any country. I would say, I was spoiled during my time there. Also, people seemed to be more friendly and satisfied with their jobs. At my home country, customer service jobs are among the lowest paid jobs and you will hardly see a smile or hear nice words.
So, when moving abroad from Germnay or USA, one should lower their expectations. Otherwise you might get a taste of some unpleasant struggles of living abroad.
This is actually harder than you might think. The situation, when you can’t have your friends and family around makes you vulnerable. If the society you are now living in is cold and unfriendly, it might take a lot of time before you meet some locals to hang out with. In case of Germany this was a big struggle, because Germans tend to hang out with other Germans. Language barrier is also an issue sometimes.
The best way to meet new people there is to get a student job, join some sport clubs or do some after class activities. Once you get past the first barrier and have actually something in common, they may let you in and open up. Another way to “survive” in such conditions is to make friends with other foreigners. You are all in the same boat after all. For me, this last option worked out the best!
Have you ever lived abroad? Did you have any issues as described above? Please share with me, I’d love to hear about them! 🙂