A little more than a year ago I was packing all my belongings into 2 suitcases and setting off to the biggest adventure of my life to that point – moving from Bucharest to Barcelona, Spain.
Being offered a good job to one of the biggest companies in my industry in my FAVOURITE city was more than a dream come true. It was a sign of the universe, it was that magical moment you wait for and when it arrives you know you have to grab it with both hands!
I knew I´d miss my family and friends and all that was dear to me, but I was living a dream so it felt easy to say ´goodbye´ and not set a return date.
1. You have no idea what you´re signing up for and that´s a great thing
Truth is you have no idea what´s expecting you out there.
Are you looking our and applying for jobs! Good choice! Looking into housing options! Fantastic! Learning the local language, trying to understand the taxing system and how transportation works? It will be of great use, no doubt!
However, life on the grounds can show you a completely different reality than the one we read online before venturing into the unknown and you must be prepared that not all your plans will fall into place.
Work wasn´t a piece of cake either. I had fallen into a rollercoaster of understanding a new business, new colleagues and a new system of hierarchy I was not used to and definitely didn´t expect. And according to The Telegraph´s article on ´A Happy life abroad´the different workplace culture is one of the toughest points to deal with when you move to another country.
But just like any other big change in life, are we ever really prepared or in full knowledge of what to expect? Or better said, would we still go for it should we knew what´s out there?
I asked myself this question a few goods months into the new experience – I was already settled with a place of my taste, I had found an amazing partner and was deeply in love – but the question still lingered in my tired mind.
Some people find it easy, some people find it hard. But I believe it´s better not to know otherwise we might miss what´s coming after the cultural shock is fading.
2. Be patient
It sounds like a cliché but it´s the truth. And the truth is I am still so bad at it.
As we dive into our new life and the honeymoon phase is over we are expecting to understand how life works in that new country.
We expect ourselves to perform at work with the same level of proficiency as previously and as results fail to appear even after 5-6 months we may start feeling like failures, our self esteem drops and we question ourselves.
A friend of mine told me once: ‘give or take a couple of months and depending on what type of work you are doing, but don´t expect to truly understand your company and its processes in less than 6 months. And if your job involves decision-making then be prepared to fuck up at least a year before actually doing it right and grounded.
Also, we expect to understand the system quickly and make good decisions when it comes to housing, creating a bank account, buying groceries and choosing the cable company.
Gosh, I´ve lost so much money on bad decisions! Starting with switching to a different currency and letting your brain get used to it, choosing a bad Internet provider, learning late about all the flea market Facebook groups where you can buy cheap furniture, paying too much for electricity or little errands – you name it, I did it all!
But guess what, that´s how you learn! Yes, it´s always useful to have people around giving tips but at the end of the day, my friend, it all comes down to the butt-hitting experience you acquire by messing up.
My latest find: never, I mean NEVER forget your keys inside the house. Make a spare, give it to friends or leave it at work otherwise it will cost you dearly.
Oh and by the way, making friends is tough! Now of course it depends a lot your personality. Some of us are more outgoing and make friends easily. Some of us prefer to let people come to them and choose carefully who they spend their time with.
I like to think I am somehow in between. And yet, after more than a year I can´t say I have more than a couple of good friends that I truly enjoy spending time with..
It takes time to make friends, good ones. You can´t replace in a few months all the lifetime friendships back at home and that is normal!
Some people are on the move so you will feel dissappointed when they leave the country. Others are only there to help you through that particular stage in life. Some might come when you least expect and stay for many years.
My lesson – be patient and remember:
3. Missing your friends and family should not keep you from creating new relationships
It may sounds easy and quite stupid, but actually it´s easier said than done.
After many months it dawned on me one of the reasons I wasn´t making new friends: I wasn´t truly allowing new people into my life because unconsciously I was constantly comparing them to the ones I had left at home.
With today´s technology it´s so easy to keep in touch with family and friends. Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp and many others are just one tap away from being permanently connected with the people we love and that is awesome!
The downside of it is we can easily slip into replacing these with the real interaction, getting through the awkward first encounters, getting out of our comfort zone to truly get to know someone.
And isn´t that one of the main reasons we left our nest? To explore, to get enriched not just from places but from people as well.
It´s ok to miss the old folks, by all means it´s so normal! Some of us find it more difficult to leave all behind and there is nothing to feel bad about depite the decision we made to leave. But I bet there are so many amazing humans out there waiting to meet us and enjoy our company, we just need to open our mind and hearts to let them in.
4. You really start appreciating your home.
So I come from an Eastern European country and that is already made most of you judge the quality of life there. And you are right, Romania and mainly Bucharest isn´t exactly the paradise on earth, it still lacks a lot of development in infrastructure, traffic, pollution, public transport and so on.
But damn I miss a good Internet connection! You know, that kind that downloads a film in less than 2 minutes, that opens a web page in 1/2 a second. I miss good bread and warm radiators in winter. And I miss not paying 12 euro for a taxi if I have too much to drink on a Friday night and my high-heels are killing me.
My English boyfriend misses custard apple crumbs and some proper brown sauce. He misses a good service at the mobile company and getting things done quickly at the bank.
That doesn´t mean life in Barcelona is not amazing. It doesn´t mean that wherever you chose to live you are not grateful and happy for the experience. It means you get to appreciate what you couldn´t see before; it means you get to see your home place in a new light, spend a little more observing the small things and feel truly grateful for your roots.
5. You are stronger than you think
… and you can make pretty much anything possible.
You´ve moved away from home, you´ve left the comfort and security of all that is familiar and ventured into an unknown culture. Don´t belittle that, it´s a huge achievement!
I used to refuse myself the feelings of exhaustion, I wouldn´t allow myself to feel it was hard, that I was scared and lonely and sad. The feelings of not understanding what´s happening around you, of not wanting to be where you are. In the end I had only moved from Romania to Spain, it wasn´t Asia, it wasn´t America, it wasn´t like so many others I knew that had to go through real cultural shock. And I had prepared a lot emotionally and spiritually for this change. I felt ungrateful, I felt weak.
Now, looking back at just one year of challenges I know that it´s absolutely OK to feel this way! And more than that, it´s part of becoming stronger and discovering your real potential.
Each time you learn to do something new, each time you understand something more about the environment , each time you pay less attention to how it makes you look and more attention to getting things done – that´s when you start tapping into that inner power.
6. Make your own magic!
´Children see magic because they look for it´
The themes of children and magic have been the main tunes of my journey. In order to let myself go to the new experience, I had to become child – like again.
I had to give up what I believed about myself and the world around me and look with new, inquisitive eyes to what others showed me.
It´s not easy, I know. We are so damn stubborn and judgemental. The harder we cling on what we think we know, the harder the lesson of humility will be. But once you step into the mindset of wonder and curiosity of children, new perspective unfold and it´s so much easier to receive the lessons and the magic.
We cannot force things. We can´t force the processes of learning and adapting. We can only give our best every day and choose to live each moment as a blessing, as another step into our growth and evolution