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Bad Days Abroad - The Harsh Reality of Moving Abroad That No One Talks About

Imagine yourself living abroad in the place you've always wanted to go. It looks like a dream. Always happy, always exploring and sightseeing in this new, perfect, place. We see others living our dreams, living abroad in places we would love to see and it looks amazing. We see them strolling down the streets in Italy or Paris, wearing the most fashionable outfits, smiling and laughing with their new friends, or taking a weekend trip to the nearest big city to explore all the biggest tourist attractions. It looks like the perfect life.

However, as with most things in life, it's a lot different than how it looks. Living abroad isn't all blue skies and sunshine all the time. It comes with the hardships. Extreme hardships. When you imagine moving abroad, you also imagine all of your normal, day to day problems magically disappearing. You have nothing to worry about. In reality, these problems still exist, and even come with a few more obstacles - language barriers, unfriendly locals, and a whole new cultural framework you have to figure out.

After being in Japan for about one year, I've started getting more into normal life things, like finding a job, working, etc. I've found myself looking at others that have been living abroad, that are having so much fun without a care in the world. But, I was struggling. I was supposed to be living a dream, but why was it actually so difficult? I started feeling as though there was something wrong with me and my situation. Why was I having such a hard time, while everyone else in these situations seemed to breeze through and have so much fun?

I actually ended up doing research online about living abroad, and came across this blog, where they talk about how moving abroad isn't so easy. I started reading more, and they were discussing the exact problems I was feeling, even though I thought I was the only one. I stopped feeling so alone, and realized that what I was experiencing was completely normal.

I wished that I knew all of these things before I decided to move abroad, and it's important for others to learn more before making the leap of moving to a new place. To make sure you're prepared for the reality, and you can know you're not alone, that your feelings are normal. Moving abroad is difficult, but it also definitely has it's rewards, and it is fun and exciting, and you learn so much. But there are the good days and the bad days.



A new country, new language, new customs, new people that act differently. These are all givens that come with moving to a new place. We all know this before going to a different place. There's going to be a different culture. However, it's easy to forget how much culture really affects everything. A lot of our personality traits, the way we do things, the way we express ourselves, and our values all come down to culture.

When we're put in a new place with a completely different culture, different values, different ways of doing things, etc. it can be extremely overwhelming and upsetting. We're raised our whole lives believing things are one way, and then all of a sudden we see that it's not really that way. At least not for everyone. It can lead to a sort of identity crisis, as we try to figure out what we really think while we adjust to this new "normal" that's actually so different.

Moving to a new country, you'll find yourself constantly surrounded by and put in situations you would never feel comfortable in originally, and have to pretend that it's normal. These situations can leave you feeling really upset, confused, and even angry because it's difficult to figure it all out.

Before I moved to Japan, I had been there two times already. I thought I knew everything, and that there would be no new surprises. I was so wrong! Traveling somewhere as a tourist is so different than what real life is like.

One of the main things I found different was work life. Japan work life is extremely strict and stressful. Work is a top priority, and a work-life balance doesn't really matter to a lot of people, or companies. Seeing all these other people so serious and strict about working all the time made me feel really out of place, like I needed to stop messing around, grow up, and get busy. I've always been so laid back and chill, and only really been in relaxed working situations. I tried to adjust, and change myself into being productive all the time, always doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and being willing to give up my own time for others at all times. I felt like this is what I needed to do to fit in, and have a sense of worth. I was working, so I mattered. However, this is not my mindset at all. I've never been like that, and trying to change myself into this led me to feeling extremely burnt out and really sad. I eventually got to the angry stage as well, hating everything and just wanting to go home.

However, being able to take a step back and reflect, I'm able to notice how this culture shock can lead to a sort of identity crisis. It's difficult to figure out what you need to do to fit in to the new country, without changing yourself into someone you're not.

It's important to remember that adjusting takes time, and that the adjustment will happen eventually.



Being homesick is also a given to moving. You'll have to learn to live life in a new country away from friends and family, and get used to the fact that you can't just go home and visit often, due to expensive flights, and that you have a new life you have to keep up with now.

It's also difficult to find a whole new group of friends! Especially if you're in a country where you don't speak the language. There's completely different groups of people, and it can take a while to find your type of people. You're starting from level 0, so give yourself time, and don't get too upset when you try and fail at finding friends the first few times. Once you have tried and failed, it's easy to lose the motivation to get out there and meet new people. But do it!! Keeping yourself busy, and getting involved in the community around you is the best thing you can do. And luckily, there's so many different ways you can get yourself out there, like friend-meeting apps, language classes, etc.

So often it's easy to feel ready to give it all up and just run back home where everything feels safe and comfortable. In a new country you are out of your comfort zone 24/7, always experiencing and realizing new things, always feeling a little bit out of place. It can be really difficult and lead to extreme homesickness and just wanting to go back to the comfort zone. You’ll feel like you have no idea what’s going on 99% of the time, and you’ll have to get used to social, linguistic, and cultural isolation for a while, until you’re able to figure it out enough to get by. This is so hard. But through doing this you are growing in ways you never could, and becoming a stronger version of yourself. Give it some time, and eventually this new place can start to feel like home.



If you've read this and it didn't scare you off (hahaha oops, sorry it's been so dismal), and you feel ready to live in a new country, yay! That's good for you! It's going to be a life-changing experience like nothing else. There's many things you can do before you leave to help your adjustment go a little bit easier.

  • Research, Research, Research: literally everything. Find out what daily life is like in this country, and how people live. How do people get around? What kind of jobs are available for foreigners? Do many people speak English? What's fun to do on the weekends? Find groups on facebook of foreigners living in that country and see what they think. Research anything and everything.

  • Start making friends: Social media is an amazing way to meet people around the world. There's even apps created just for meeting people around the world. Get on it, start talking to people in the country you want to move to. Get to know them, start building the connections. It'll make it so much easier when you get there!

  • Study the language: start learning basic phrases and words so you can get around, get food, and meet new people. It'll make such a difference, and you'll feel so much better when you get there and can actually do things on your own!

  • Learn stress relieving strategies that work for you: start writing a journal, start working out, or meditating. Anything that helps you take care of yourself and feel better. This will help out when you're struggling on your own, it'll be good to have these strategies you can go to to help yourself out.

While moving to another country is so hard, it’s also so rewarding and you learn new things and become a new person. I definitely think everyone should move abroad at some point, but it's important and can be helpful to realize these difficult parts of your journey before you get there, so you feel more prepared, and less alone.


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