Six reasons you should live abroad for a while

Perth @ dawn

Living in another country changes you. If you’ve ever spent a reasonable amount of time abroad, say 6 months or more, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you might want to consider it. Here’s six reasons why.

Celebrate a big achievement

Moving abroad is a big thing. Depending on your starting point, a lot of work may be involved. You need to get your visa sorted. In the case of me and my wife, this was quite a lot of work. Australia has a lot of rules about applying for a visa and you need to have your case sorted. It means proving who you are, showing your level of education and even your English language skills, and reliably indicating that your professional experience is really up to par with the requirements. Basically, a lot of paperwork is involved.

We decided to take the plunge without using the services of a migration bureau (except for an initial assessment). This saved us a lot of money, but also meant we needed to do more things ourselves, since we had no one to guide us through the process. By meticulously going through all the details, we were able to work our way through the application process, one step at a time.

When we were finally able to apply for our visa, things moved really fast. All preparations so far had taken around eleven months, but getting the actual visa then took less then two months, which was quite a surprise. Soon after, we booked our tickets for Perth and flew out.

The emotions you feel when your visa is granted are almost indescribable, but it’s essentially a feeling of achievement. It’s the culmination of months and months of work and now you’ve made it. Well done, you can be proud of yourself!

Interact with different people

When you move to a different country, naturally you will meet people you’ve never met before. Whether it is at the supermarket, in the cinema, at work or at your social club, the people you will deal with are by definition different people than those ‘back home’ (there may be some exceptions). This means you will broaden your social circle greatly, and in a short time too.

It’s fun meeting new people.

Interact differently with people

This may look the same as my previous point, but it’s different altogether. A different country has a different culture. The way people interact with each other is part of the culture, and therefore differs from what you’re used to. You will have to learn how to do it “correctly”, otherwise you may be considered rude.

We Dutchmen sometimes pride ourselves in being outspoken and upfront, but this is not always (or everywhere) appreciated. You’ll have to try and find out how people talk to each other and adjust. After nine months in Australia, I’m still working on that! Go figure. Luckily, the Australian people are rather easy to get along with and some of them are quite outspoken themselves.

Change your perspective

It’s inescapable that changing the country you live in will change your perspective. First of all, you will look at your home country with a bird’s-eye view. Your daily experiences will be quite different, and you will only learn about events in your home country from (online) news or from friends and family. However, you won’t experience it, because you’re experiencing a completely different country. You will find that some things that used to matter, don’t matter so much anymore. Or that certain things are the same everywhere (like politics).

If you come from a small country like the Netherlands (my home country), you will learn that the world is quite a lot bigger. Naturally, you will know this already, but there is a big difference between knowing something and experiencing it. I now live in Western Australia, and the Netherlands would completely fit in the Southwestern-most corner of WA, divided from the rest of it by a line running from Bunbury to Albany. Look it up on a map, and you will see that the Netherlands are really tiny when compared to Australia (or even WA).

Whether you come from a big country, like the United States or China, or a small one like the Netherlands, you will experience the world is different than you thought, different than you were taught in school, and different than you’ve seen on the news. You will see the world with different eyes, free from the filter that is your country of birth.

Learn new skills

Living in another country will enhance your skill set. The most obvious skill is speaking the language of the country you will live in. Depending on where you’re coming from, this may be a big challenge (it would be if I’d moved to China), or not so much. I was lucky enough to move to an English-speaking country, given that I’ve studied the English language since I was about 10 years old. Still, you will learn new words and idioms along the way, because even the English language is highly variable. UK English, Australian English, US English, they’re all different.

In order to learn to speak the language, you need to put on your learning hat. It means that you’ll open your mind for new experiences and knowledge. It’s half the battle when learning something new, so it’s inevitable that you pick up some other new skills. In Australia, this might be putting on a successful barbecue, or learning how to surf, or even how to drive on the left side of the road.

Be a better person

All of the above will almost certainly humble you. Meeting new people, experiencing a different country, a completely different environment, it’s almost impossible not to grow from it! It will make you a better person, someone who has a better appreciation for the world, for other people and other circumstances. Your new experiences and skills will benefit you for the rest of your live, no matter where you’ll be next.

I had a chance to go abroad almost 12 years ago and I didn’t do it then. I think I wasn’t ready at that time, but it nagged me ever since. No longer, the nagging is gone for good.

I’d like to encourage you to think about it. There are many, many reasons that make such a move simply too hard. Fair enough, I say. But make sure you’ve thought it through. So you can never look back and think, gosh, I wish I’d lived abroad for a while.

Don’t fall victim to the nagging.