05 April 2018
Are you thinking of moving overseas? When you chat with expats, their reasons for leaving the motherland fall in the same few categories: they’re chasing an opportunity, craving an adventure, or just trying to shake it up. For me, it was a mix. I felt so lucky to have grown up in Sydney, but after a few holidays to New York, the city had a hold on me. So I decided to make the move, and it’s been a whirlwind and a wild ride.
If you’re toying with the idea of heading overseas, buckle up! You know you’ll miss your friends, family and the food, so here are some of the things no one tells you about moving abroad.
Sure, you’ll spend the last few weeks at home running around, but that’s nothing compared to what’s waiting for you on the other side. Your visa aside, you’ll need a new phone number, bank account, debit card, ID (such as a Social Security Number), and, you know, a home with an internet connection. To move into your new digs, you’ll probably have to hand over everything but your unborn firstborn. And once you start working, you’ll be busy not only navigating a new office, but also insurance, tax, and so on. It never ends! My advice? Scan all of your important docs (like your passport) and pop them onto a USB for easy access. And know that the piles of paperwork will pass.
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve visited, living somewhere new is a different ballgame. And it’s exciting! When I moved to New York, I spent my days exploring, but it felt new: because I lived here now. I had a fresh perspective, and I loved figuring out my new ‘locals’ (coffee shop, bar, gym). You’ll go through this phase, too. Soon enough, you’ll pick up on the nuances of living in a new city/country, and feel the same frustrations as people who’ve been there for a while. When you find yourself complaining about the subways or tipping in the USA, that’s when you know you belong! When you’re annoyed, remind yourself of the perks of your new life. For me, it’s happy hours that last all night, Amazon Prime, and ‘summer Fridays,’ where everyone leaves work early to escape to the Hamptons.
Even if you’ve lived out of home for years and you’re #missindependent, heading overseas takes this to another level. You’re basically starting over, and you can bet your adopted home is going to test you. No one’s going to hold your hand, so you’ll quickly overcome obstacles, and that’s a skill you’ll have for life! If there’s a big time difference between your new and OG home, you’ll grow up even faster. For example, I often find that when I have a problem, by the time my mum calls, I’ve already solved it, so I just give her a recap.
Moving OS also teaches you to more flexible. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned, and you’ll learn that catching the curveball and letting it roll off your back is MUCH easier than getting upset/angry. You can’t control everything!
Putting yourself out there as an adult is tricky! But in my experience, everyone is so warm and welcoming – especially in a city like New York, where almost everyone is from somewhere else, and was in your position once. Think of moving overseas like moving to a new school: you may not know anyone, and there may be established cliques, but once you find your people, the bonding is fast and intense. You will have to put some effort in, though: go to expat meet-ups, join a sports team, and say yes to after-work drinks with colleagues. Just get out there! Before you know it, you’ll have friends you can count on.
At the same time, you’ll realise who your ‘lifers’ are back home. Maintaining a friendship from across the world is hard! It’s okay – natural, even – to drift a bit, but if you commit to keeping in touch, that gap between you and your bestie will feel a little smaller.
As soon as you open your mouth, people will want to know your story – so tell them! For some reason, the Aussie accent is gold, and your new friends will find your Aussie-isms endearing. You’ll come across Uber drivers who’ll make you repeat yourself until you catch onto them, and people who’ll ask you dumb questions (“Were you scared to go outside because of spiders?”) – and you can choose to mess with them, or enlighten them.
You’ll go nuts if you keep thinking about how much things cost in your home currency. “$5 for a green tea? That’s $7AUD for a cup of hot water…” Accept your new currency, and try to think in it. If you’re working, you’ll be getting paid in that currency, so everyone’s in the same boat, whether it’s complaining about how expensive things are, or cheering over a bargain buy.
You’ll figure out how to measure the world in new ways: inches, miles, degrees, pounds. To wrap my head around Fahrenheit, I changed my weather app – even though, in my humble opinion, Fahrenheit MAKES NO SENSE.
Your culture shock might be mild or next-level, but you’re bound to experience it. And you’ll learn that even if you speak the same words, sometimes, you aren’t speaking the same language. You’ll laugh over the cultural misunderstandings, or see them as lightbulb moments of how things work. For example, Americans don’t value sarcasm as much as Aussies do – so if you move here, you’ll keep it in check. And if someone replies “sure” to your birthday invite, it might as well be a roaring “YES!” – whereas in Oz, it’s less-than-enthusiastic. Oh, and in America, the average person gets 10 vacation days, and doesn’t take them all for fear it’ll be frowned upon! To an Aussie, that’s just crazy.
I moved over with two suitcases, and while I’ve bought a lot since I’ve been here, there have been times when I’ve desperately wanted to wear a party dress that’s sitting in a box somewhere in Sydney. But I got over it quickly. When you have to condense your life into luggage, you realise you own wayyy too much stuff. Decluttering feels so good.
Okay, you might have heard this one before (thanks, Eat Pray Love), but it’s true. Picking up and moving across the world is a rewarding experience that’ll change you for the better. It’ll help you to be more creative, curious, and confident. It’ll force you out of your comfort zone, and leave you with new skills, new friends, and a new perspective. It’ll make you appreciate your friends, family and the creature comforts of home so much more. Yes, you’ll feel nostalgic and overwhelmed at points, and it might not work out, and that’s okay! You tried, and that’s admirable. And if it does, it’s amazing to be able to call two places home.
Words by Katia Iervasi.
26 March 2020
24 March 2020