Moving to a foreign country- it can be a daunting process. Between getting out of your comfort zone and still feeling at ease, it feels just like baring your legs in winter while wearing a duvet-like coat. It’s a fine balance.
I moved to England nearly 6 years ago. Before that I was living in the United States for one year and prior to that I studied in mainland France after moving there from Reunion Island at 18. I think I can say I have done my fair share of starting over in the past few years. And while living in a foreign country feels natural now, it definitely has its challenges (and I’m not just talking about trying to fit everything in 2 suitcases every time). My friend who also moved to a foreign country & I were reflecting about the good and the bad and what it takes to successfully make your own life in a new place… so I thought I would write about it here and make it a mini series. Today’s subject is all about attitude.
The key thing if you are considering moving abroad (and if you are an expat yourself I hope that you agree with this) is to be open-minded and adaptable. Here’s the “secret”: you are moving to a country where people already have their family and friends so they have no obligation to make an effort to come and find you. This is the harsh truth and yes reading this I realise it might sound as bleak as the London sky in mid November. But if you don’t make an effort with people and by making an effort I mean getting out of your comfort zone (more than you would if you were back home) to be friendly and positive, then it is going to be harder to find your social circle. Now, I am not saying you need to pretend to be someone else and put on a persona. This is not Rupaul’s drag race you don’t need to put on a show (although I’m sure everyone loves a good dead drop). But when people ask you if you want to come out, saying yes instead of no because you want to chill at home can make a difference. And sometimes you even have to be the person asking others if they want to go for that coffee or lunch, purely because you’re the one who need friends, not them.
Now I’m not saying this to stop anyone wanting to take a chance because at the end of the day there is no better way to learn about yourself or others than living in a foreign country (more to come on this in later posts) and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
But I speak from experience and like everything a little effort (Gasp!) goes a long way when it comes to trying to make a life of your own abroad. I moved to England to study for my Masters so quite quickly I met foreign students from my class. The brilliant thing about meeting fellow foreigners is that you feel less isolated as they understand what it’s like to be homesick and I made great memories and friendship. Unfortunately as most foreign students they all went back home at the end of the school year whereas I was determined to find a job in London. During this time I was also living with English people in the dorms. I remember wondering if I should get my own place before moving to England as in France it is very common to live on your own even at a young age. But making the decision to live in the shared university flats definitely was the right choice. Living with English people meant I suddenly had a whole insight into what English people talk about, what they watch, what they listen to, what they like to do in the weekends. It was a lesson in culture that I never got in school when I was learning English. They taught me about the Great British Bake off, Coronation Street, roast dinners, Primark, Guy Fawkes night & the most important of all… Boots because there is no more bonding moment than picking your shade of foundation together, am I right?
Going from university to the work life was a lot trickier. I was going from internships to internships not being able to actually connect with people as I wasn’t in one place long enough. Even when I got my permanent job I spent a few months feeling a bit lonely as I had no one to sit with at lunch or go for Friday drinks with ( I know hand me the box of tissue ). At that point it was easier to be lazy and withdraw myself which only make things worse as no one wants to hang out with a moody person. So I had to have a talk with myself and kick myself in the butt. I realized if I wasn’t going to help myself how could I expect people to help me. I asked people if they wanted to go for lunch, I said yes to parties where I only knew one person and I made a conscious choice to be more sociable and talk to new people. Quickly after, I met two of my best UK friends through work, and they took me in to meet their friends, expanding the social circle I find myself in today. I am very conscious that luck played a part in this, and I am forever grateful for it but I definitely believe that the right or wrong kind of attitude can change your experience completely.
There you have it, a little reflection on one of the reasons you might have a good or bad experience abroad: attitude. To be truly honest I’m partly writing this as a reminder to myself because I don’t want to be complacent and stop making efforts with people just because I now have friends to go to prêt à manger with ( put the boxes of tissues away). Also whilst I value quality of friends over quantity, I will always believe that we should give people the time of day. You never know, they might end up bringing you happiness and laughs without you suspecting it. So if you’re thinking of moving abroad or you already live there and feel a bit lonely don’t beat yourself up. Just remind yourself of what you’re capable of and of all the good things you can bring to the table. And if you need a confidence boost, just put on a cosy red puffer coat, I promise it helps.
Till next time,
Boots: M&S block heel ankle boots