Hi everyone, how are you?
Let’s talk about living abroad today. Everyone knows that you will miss your holidays with your family, having your friends around, eating your favorite childhood foods from your favorite grocery stores. But I thought I’d dig a little deeper than that.
What is amazing about living abroad
I am aware that living abroad for two years is an immense privilege so I take it for what it is: A gift. Usually, when you get a gift (unless you seriously lack of education) you say “thank you”, right? So what is there to be thankful for being an expat and living abroad?
- Besides the obvious (cliché but true) stuff like that it widens your horizon, that it forces you to learn new things and be brave (make new friends, strive to master the nuances in a new language) what strikes me as the most important of all is this:
- The confidence you gain with yourself when you go to this new place and start all over again from zero on and the knowledge that you can rely on yourself to build a life again. That is quite a reassuring and good feeling, right? It really is a new beginning, full of curiosity and excitement. You have to figure out how basic things work in your new country (from public transportation, applying for a job, how to be good at small talk, shop at grocery stores or how to post letters, the list is endless).
- A thought I also like is that the mere act of living in another country, in another language, fundamentally changes you. It forces you to rediscover your own personality as you are in a new environment where you have to reposition yourself in (as opposed to your home country where it is pretty clear where you belong, who you are). For example, I feel more comfortable talking to strangers now (not in a bad way, don’t you worry) but in a more being open-minded towards people I don’t know way (it is just considered friendly behavior here and my Swiss shyness seems just dumb). I am already picturing myself back in Zurich talking to people on the streets just because I feel like I want to tell them something and they go like “who dat crazy lady?” (yes, I’ve referenced myself as a a lady, haha).
Being part of an expat* community
Of course we try and meet as many locals as we can. I try doing that by volunteering, where I get in touch with lots of Americans, which I sincerely enjoy. As an expat, however, there seems to be this magnetic power to get together with other expats. And we are no exception. So far, we got to meet lot (LOTS) of expats here. It is definitely a hub for people coming together from all over the planet.
I met lovely and super interesting people from Romania, Finland, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Iran, China, Israel, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Turkey, Haiti or Germany to name a few. Even though we couldn’t have more different backgrounds and home countries, there is one thing that unites us: The experience of leaving and starting a new life in a new country. And believe me that is enough to create a link.
Having major FOMO becomes a constant
Besides all of the lovely things starting a life in a new country entails, there is still one question always nagging you in the back of your mind that is “What am I missing at home?”. I think that we manage to keep up to date with everything going on at home pretty well, still one of my biggest fears is going home and finding out that I have missed too many things. Because, let’s be honest: Life goes on without us. I guess there is nothing you can do than trying to stay connected.
Visiting home is wonderful and strange at the same time
As much as I love visiting home I find it is strange at the same time. Except for family and friends (which are obviously great) basic stuff like our apartment or jobs aren’t there anymore. We live a life of a guest in our own home country if feels like.
Anyway, I like how this American experience has shaped me so far, I also love that I get to connect with so many different people at volunteering. This is definitely something I would like to keep up when I get back home to Switzerland (after eating mountains of cervelats and bread first).
BTW: We went to a Swiss Soirée** a couple of days ago (yes, that is what you do when you are a Swiss person living abroad) and you know what? IT WAS AMAZING. It’s crazy how food can catapult you home INSTANTLY even though it’s more than 6000 km away (unfortunately, they didn’t have cervelats at the soirée but they had Salsiz and Bündnerfleisch, WIN!).
*Disclaimer: Even though I am not particularly fond of the word “expat” as I don’t see how I am really different from a “regular” immigrant, I’ll still use it.
**I had a fancy alcoholic drink with a little white cross in it (see photo above) and it tasted FABULOUS.