10 life lessons you learn from living overseas
1. You can enjoy doing things alone
This is rarely done at home because we are always spending our free time catching up with family and friends, often leaving us with not much time to enjoy our own company. However when you move overseas you often don’t know many people, leaving you to do a lot of things by yourself including shopping, exploring or eating out.
The more you do it, the more you realise how peaceful it can be, resulting in never missing out on an event or opportunity because people weren’t free to join you.
2. You are able to naturally take responsibility for yourself.
If you’re in a foreign country where no one speaks your native tongue, making stupid mistakes like you do at home can be very inconvenient and take a long time to rectify. You can’t freely call upon mum and dad; you have to fix the problem yourself.
This may seem daunting, but when you’re faced with no other option it becomes natural to be diligent and prepared to avoid this. After all, who else is going to remind you to bring your passport to the airport or buy toilet paper?
3. You begin to understand how broad the term ‘cultural difference’ is.
Things that you imagine to be normal and routine in your culture at home are laughed at or not understood by others and vise versa. This leaves you with inevitably a large understanding of just how diverse cultures can be in the strangest and least expected ways. For example, I was ridiculed by my Dutch classmates for having heated up leftovers for lunch, as they eat almost exclusively cold sandwich lunches.
4. You can make your own fun.
Not being surrounded by friends from home, you learn that if you’re going to have a good time you often have to be proactive and make the fun yourself. This means rather than sitting at home waiting for friends to invite you out, you should be looking at what events and festivals are on and make the calls yourself. This makes a huge difference in your social life, as no matter where in the world you are, even if alone, you know you can find something to do.
5. You should have faith in people.
This sounds cynical, but whenever you’re at your home you notice how little strangers interact or help another out. This may seem normal, but if you’ve lived overseas you learn to embrace the stranger, have faith in other people and you will often be rewarded with a new friend. Of course this doesn’t mean throw your safety precautions out the window, but if you’re always paranoid you will miss out on some incredible opportunities to make friends, some of which you could have for years alongside amazing memories.
In my experiences I’ve probably made about 150 friends which stemmed from a random conversation on the train, at the hostel or at a bar, not to mention all the great nights out that began this way. One of my most memorable stories of befriending a stranger was starting up a conversation with a sweet Norwegian guy on a bus in Norway. We became fast friends and he invited me to stay with him and his girlfriend for the weekend in the small village Voss which he lived. While I was there he helped me organise white water rafting and paragliding and it was one of the best weekends of my trip, all because I said hello on the bus!
6. You don’t really need that much stuff.
When you move overseas you are limited to 20kg, which people even often struggle to stick to just for a vacation. Once you’ve settled in, you realise that you don’t really need the 37 pairs of shoes in your cupboard back at home, or the 19 nail polishes in your bathroom. Living overseas and having to buy any necessities yourself really shows you how little you need to operate day to day, and what is a luxury rather than a necessity.
7. You unintentionally become much more educated.
When living abroad, you naturally absorb a lot of history, news and languages from the country you are in and its neighbours. This can be quite insightful, especially given it is unlikely you will learn this much detail about one country in school.
You will learn things about political systems, international relations and traditional foods and holidays without even trying. Even if you don’t manage to learn a language fluently, you are bound to pick up an array of polite conversation starters from most of the places you visit, and we all know knowledge is power.
8. You can adapt to any situation you are put in.
If you’ve moved to a foreign country this often involves differences in language, currency, culture, people and social norms. This might seem intimidating, however if you approach it with an open mind you are usually so overcome with excitement that you disregard any uncomfortable experiences as ‘part of the adjustment’.
Also, you learn that you cannot compare cultures; they are all different and you must just take a place for what it is. Once you’ve adapted, you realise just how much your life has changed and how it really wasn’t that hard to get used to.
9. You should ask for help if you need.
I never used to be one to ask for directions or help in a store, however this definitely changed fast being overseas. At home, it is often easy to answer your own questions or fix a problem just by looking around and reading some information. However, in a foreign country where the information is in another language, this is not so easy.
To avoid being in a constant state of confusion, you quickly learn how to effectively ask for help to anyone that can. Being a foreigner, people are generally very happy to help and then the problem is solved!
10. You appreciate the comforts of home.
Living overseas is a life changing and incredible experience, however there are always things you miss from home. Whether it be the big TV with Foxtel in your room, a pantry that’s always full, or a family pet, you learn to be more appreciative of the great and comfortable things in your life at home.