In a few day’s I’ll be hitting my 1 year milestone for living in the UK, so I thought I’d take the time to reflect on a few of the highlights and lowlights of my experience. Despite the fact we’ve been in a global pandemic for most of my time abroad, I’ve grown both personally and professionally. In this post, I’ll cover some personal findings that would be applicable to anyone considering moving abroad.
“Classics like Sherlock Holmes sparkle with new allure when you’re walking in the same neighbourhood as the famous characters in the book”
- Force reset to priorities: When I was in the states I spent a significant amount of time on things that didn’t hold value for me but I was driven by inertia and afraid to disappoint people by saying no. With those distractions set aside, I’m free to work on my side projects, which has helped me feel more confident and connected to my sense of purpose.
- Appreciation for history: Since moving to England, I’ve grown more interested in European history, which has given me a new appreciation of arts and culture. Especially in Europe, the history goes back so far and it’s incredible to be living daily modern life among buildings and landmarks that withstood wars and centuries of cultural evolution. Along those lines, classics like Sherlock Holmes sparkle with new allure when you’re walking in the same neighbourhood as the famous characters in the book. Before visiting Paris, I read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame – it enriched my experience by giving me cultural context for the beautiful architecture.
- Holiday traditions: This Christmas I had so much fun learning about English holiday traditions (Santa here expects brandy and mince pie instead of cookies and milk!). I’ve always been aware that customs for celebrating the holidays varied across the world, but I really enjoyed being involved in traditions that were familiar yet different and comparing the experience to Christmas from my up-bringing.
- Everyday is an adventure: Living in a different country, everyday feels like an adventure because every time you do an errand, it’s all completely new! This also comes with the cost of making awkward mistakes and taking way to long to get normal things accomplished (see lowlights), but if you’re someone like me who enjoys the challenge of learning new things and the novelty of new experiences, adjusting to life in a different country can be fun.
- Everyday is an adventure (even when you don’t want an adventure): Getting normal things done can be unexpectedly hard. I was not prepared for how long it would take me to get my first Dr appointment and (I’m embarrassed to admit) still have not been to the dentist. My situation was exasperated by the fact that I have a pre-existing condition and specialty medications, but it took me a good 6 months to get an appointment and get my treatment plan sorted.
- Being apart from family and close friends: I didn’t realize how much I’d miss the casual catch ups, Sunday dinners and neighborhood drop-ins. Having a community of people who are a part of your day to day life makes you feel supported and grounded. These relationships take effort and time to develop, and they aren’t easily assembled when you’re in a new country. Missing out on my niece and nephew growing up and my friends having their first babies – is heartbreaking to think about, but in most cases we’ve been able to keep up with each others’ developments through facetime and consistent communication.
- Relationships change: You will find out who your close friends are by introducing distance into the relationship. Those who check in on you and make time for occasional catch ups – despite the fact that you’re not contributing to social currency – are the keepers. I was confused and disappointed with some of my friendships that I had assumed were stronger but reflecting back on it now, the added pressure gave our relationship a fast forward in maturity, and I have a better sense of who my true friends are vs friendships that are easy and fun. The ones that continue to invest even when it’s inconvenient are your true ride or dies.
I’d love to here from you on whether this was helpful and (for those that have lived abroad), whether you’ve had similar or different experiences during your first year.
Thanks for reading!