Hejsan! Greetings from Karlshamn, Sweden. I’ve now been two weeks in the country and it slowly starts to feel like I’m settling in. It feels so refreshing to be in some other country after one year of not travelling at all.
At the same time, this is the fourth time for me to move abroad. The first two times were when I went to Australia on my Working Holiday visa. The third time was for me to move to Malta. Even though Sweden is a very similar country to my home Finland, there are still tiny differences that make everything more interesting.
What have I learned from moving abroad?
Lesson number 1. When you are in a new country, not every moment is supposed to be fun.
You will feel lonely, insecure, unsure. Sometimes even the tiniest setbacks will feel like a huge rock wall. Even the simplest things, like finding an apartment or getting a library card, don’t necessarily come easily. You will need determination. You will need hard work. And that hard work pays off in the end.
Lesson number 2. A friend will enter into your life when you need it the most.
You don’t have to “survive” alone, there are other people who are in the same situation as you.
Lesson number 3. You will get help.
Generally speaking, people are kind. In every single country, most people want to help you.
Lesson number 4. Things will work out. Trust in that. Just give it some time.
Lesson number 5. Try to get your normal life going as soon as you enter your new country.
I always get a gym membership, buy my fridge full of food and organise my home. Moving to a new country can be a bit stressful, but having some familiar routines around you can make settling down a bit easier. At the same time, your new environment can serve as a trigger to refresh your old routines and learn something new.
Lesson number 6. Learn to be an underdog.
When you just live in the country you are born in, you take many things for granted. You know how your society works, you know what you are entitled to, you speak the language fluently, and everyone accepts you as a member of the community. Things change when you move abroad – and that can be a good thing! You become an underdog, who will need to adapt, work harder, and yet, you will feel like an outsider. This makes you appreciate those people who have moved into your country as immigrants, and who are trying to make it there. You will understand, at least to some extent, their struggles.
Lesson number 7. Immerse into the new culture
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I always aim to try out the customs, dishes and traditions of my new country. It is both respecting the culture, but also “not fighting against” the integration process. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I’m an Italian living in Sweden. I think Italian pizza is the best – and it is, hands down. However, in Sweden, people will put weird stuff on their pizzas, like gyros, pineapple, banana (yes!) or bearnaise sauce. Instead of complaining about this every time I see a Swedish pizzeria, I could just accept that this is how things are here. I could just eat the Swedish pizzas, or at least let Swedes eat their pizzas in peace, without constantly making comparisons to Italian superior pizzas. Haha, you get what I am going after here?
What lessons have you learned from living abroad?