Choosing to become an expat is not easy. It is a decision that I did not take lightly but one that I will never regret. Prior to moving to London, I had only moved countries once, and that was when I moved from the Philippines to Australia when I was 4 years old.
As a child, I remember feeling anxious about my surroundings and confused about the strange language they were speaking. I grew out of that pretty quickly and got used to the Australian way of life. That part of my life is not that much different to how I felt when I decided to leave everything behind to live in London.
Looking back, I wish that I had known 6 things before becoming an expat. It has helped me to understand my journey and I hope that it helps you to understand yours.
Even in a place where they speak the same language as you, you will still feel like you have decided to live in another planet. For example, London’s transport system will make you feel like a sardine, and the etiquette in the office and social scene will surprise you.
At work, your colleagues will look at you like you are a crazy kid from Australia who talks about food way too much! You may even feel down because the British do love complaining about the weather (bless them!).
People will quick step past you as they rush from A to B, they may even brush against you by accident (I know, personal space right!) and they will give you evil stares when you talk to your friend on the tube.
Don’t worry about that because in just a few months, you will figure out how to get from A to B in the quickest time, you will continue to break the unspoken rule of laughing on the tube, and people will soon warm up to your sunny disposition even though they continue to look confused when they ask you why you remain so cheerful when it is raining outside!
You will feel like your family and friends have forgotten you. They have this whole life that you are not part of anymore (or so it seems). Sometimes they will get married or have a baby or have a big life event like a milestone birthday, and you will feel sad for not going.
But you will learn to live with it because even though they did not say, they will secretly wish you were there when the baby smiled the first time or when they walked down the aisle. They still love you regardless! Those who really love you will even send you a message on their wedding day telling you they wish they could give you a big hug right now, send you pictures of the baby via WhatsApp, or send you a birthday message to let you know that they wish they could party in Covent Garden with you!
Friends will become your family. Though you already considered some of them family (because you knew them back home) the bond is much stronger in London. They are the people that you call when your husband is still at work and you don't know how to turn the fire alarm off. They are also the people that will lend an ear when you have had a bad day at work or when you have been yelled at on the tube for walking too slow. They will be your ray of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy London day!
You'll also meet people from all walks of life, people from countries that you never knew existed or just didn’t know the names of. The stories that these people will tell you will open up your mind and your heart, and you will realise that there is so much to learn from this world!
You have always loved food, but when you move abroad you will experience food like you've never experienced before. You can find finally appreciate pasta in Italy, seafood in Portugal and tapas in Spain. You will spend countless hours trying to find the best food venues because there is just so much choice! You will also realise that food will become an obsession and one that you are happy to accommodate.
You will have no fear. At work, you'll excel, because there is so much opportunity out there! In life, you will surprise yourself by doing things out of the ordinary such as using your rusty Spanish in Spain or jumping off a paddle boat in the Mediterranean Ocean, even though you are scared of deep water. You will celebrate New Years Eve at a paint party in Berlin, even though you don’t like messing up your hair. You will walk through Royal Palaces that you once dreamed of as a child and you will meet a lot of cool people along the way. These are people you would not have usually talked to, let alone become friends with!
You will realize how far you have come since you first stepped off that plane into the new, strange, exciting and amazing world. Who would have thought that the slightly nervous expat that arrived in London with just one large suitcase and a carry-on could see so many things and gain the confidence to live her dreams!
For me, London is a place that will give you so many opportunities, a place where you will have so many amazing memories, a place that you will feel such strong emotions, and a place that you will call home. Be proud of yourself, because this is the best decision you have ever made. Get on that plane and don’t look back! The world is your oyster!
Are you thinking of moving to abroad? If so, what is your biggest concern?
Have you already moved? If so, what do you wish you had known before moving?
Let’s chat about it! Comment below and let us know!
For a comprehensive guide to expat life in the UK, refer to EasyExpat’s Guide to London - plus our 50+ other city guides!