Moving abroad is not just an experience but an education!
I grew up in Malta and always wanted to live and work abroad and started with a move to London back in 2001. Twenty years later I am now in Basel after 8 moves and living across Europe, Latin America, and Asia. I was always fond of travelling and experiencing new cultures and once I started, I became even more intrigued and energised about this whole experience.
The main thing I wish I had known from the start is the importance of living like a local rather than as an expat. From my first experiences, I quickly learned that in order to get the full benefit you need to integrate with the local community, learn the language, and embrace the local traditions. You need to put yourself in the right frame of mind and not think that you are “on holiday” in that country. This is a key shift that will help you to unlock the experience and you will quickly see that the locals will then start trusting you and showing you their place and traditions and inviting you to events, as they see that you appreciate it and that you are willing to immerse yourself in their life.
You also have to be prepared to accept that life might not be as predictable as it was back home when everything was already set and organised without having the need to even think about it. I have lived in various countries like Switzerland, Brasil, and China where the systems are very different and I had to be ready to ”start from scratch” in some aspects of daily life. Rather than seeing bureaucratic new processes as obstacles, for example, I learned to rather see them as an opportunity to learn more about the local systems which helped me in future applications and enquiries.
If I had to do it all over again I would not do much differently since I believe that this experience is very personal and one needs to learn from their own experience. I have never come across any text book that addresses this subject since every country and region is so different and everyone has his own personal situation and preferences that it will be impossible to cater to everyone.
I think the main learnings from such an experience is to always keep an open mind and not be judgmental. One needs to put aside the stereotypes and accept that these are just perceptions from past experiences that will now be changed and molded into your character if you accept to immerse yourself in the local life.
I believe that if you really put yourself in the right mindset, learn the language, integrate with the local community, and enjoy the experience, you will only want to do it over and over again. You will come to the realisation that all these moves are actually an education that you will not get from any school or textbook. It is an education that will stay with you forever and will help you in every aspect of your life and open you up to new possibilities that you might not have thought of in the past!