Have you ever dreamt about living abroad? The world is home to millions of other people, all who lead very different lives to us, and emigrating is an incredible opportunity to live among them, and explore. Explore a new culture, a new country, and a new way of life.
Having travelled to over 50 countries, and emigrated 5 times, we interview popular travel blogger Meg Jerrard to find out why, in her opinion, 2018 is the year to go for it and finally make that big move.
What inspired you to take the plunge and emigrate?
I’ve always had a thirst for adventure, and an itch to really discover the world, though my first few years as a traveler, I realized I wasn’t much more than a tourist who was just passing through. 5 days in a new place wasn’t enough to really immerse myself in a new culture, interact with the locals, make new friends, and eat new foods. You don’t even scratch the surface of a new country if you’re just passing through.
I always dreamed of spending the day exploring, and then dragging myself back to my neighborhood, smiling at other locals in passing, because tourists don’t stay there. So I decided that I wanted to actually live overseas! I wanted to see how other people lived, find and try new things; I wanted to taste, listen, learn, and fall in love. Because ultimately, you only live once!
How long do you have to stay in a place for it to be considered living there?
Many expats emigrate with the idea that they’re never returning home. Though just as many people decide on living a year abroad. I don’t really gauge whether you’ve “lived” somewhere based on a specific period of time - more-so if you’ve managed to adopt a local frame of mind.
For instance, did you meet your neighbours? Did you invite them over for dinner? Did you learn to communicate in a new language? Does the Italian guy who owns the bakery know your name? Someone who only has 3 months might immerse themselves more-so than someone who has been there for 3 years, so I think “living” abroad is all about your attitude, and willingness to throw yourself into a new scene.
What is the best thing about living abroad?
Moving abroad is rewarding on so many different levels! It’s culturally immersive, obviously, and gives you the chance to explore deeper. But, it also gives you the opportunity to really get to know yourself better (apologies for the cliche!). Taking yourself from your normal environment to a new country gives you the freedom to discover who you are, what you want in life, and really work on the relationship you have with yourself.
And this is because you’re now living outside of the influence of your family and friends. You have the chance to rethink the way you understand your own culture, and yourself, and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone gives you the chance to question (and improve on!) your original attitudes, values and perspectives (which were all influenced by your upbringing).
You have a completely fresh slate where nobody knows or really cares about your background. So you can start over, be who you want to be, and forge friendships without the outside influence of your family and old friends.
Surely it’s challenging settling in. What were some of your initial challenges, and how did you deal with them?
Of course – I would be lying if I said that emigrating was smooth sailing the whole way. It’s the beginning which is the hardest part though, and then it gets much easier from there.
When you move to a new country, everything you know gets thrown out the window, and you have to adapt to a new set of rules. Whether that’s road rules (I’ve driven on the wrong side of the road once or twice!!), or people’s attitudes and common behaviours – you have to learn a new way of life, and in this sense it’s almost like being back at school. There’s a new social etiquette, a different system of healthcare, and cultural beliefs and traditions which might be foreign to you. So you have to stay positive, be flexible, and open to learning new things.
But honestly, that’s one of the reasons you emigrate in the first place – to find a fresh perspective on life and throw yourself into a new way of living. Even if you’re usually afraid of change, emigrating will definitely teach you to embrace it!
How do you make new friends?
It can be pretty daunting trying to make new friends when you don’t know anyone, especially if you’re a bit more of an introvert. But it will definitely help you settle in quicker, and make you feel more at home.
Knock on your neighbors doors and introduce yourself. And a good start is to socialize with your colleagues, classmates, or other expats depending on your job / school. If you’re moving and you have kids, show up early to pick them up to meet other parents at their school.
Joining organized sports or a hobby group is also a great way to make new friends who share the same interests as you.
What are the reasons which hold people back from emigrating, even if they want to?
If something holds you back from what you want to do, I don’t think that’s a reason - I think it’s an excuse. But some of the biggest reasons people find it difficult to actually make the plunge are close connections with their family and friends, not wanting to jeopardize a secure job, or interrupt their child’s schooling, and a fear of the unknown.
But honestly, with the amount of technology we have these days, staying in touch with family and friends is easier than it’s ever been before. My dad puts his iPad up at the dinner table when I Skype in so I don’t miss out on the family dinner table convo! And in terms of your job, living abroad is actually CV enhancing. It gives you a competitive edge and shows future employers that you have different perspectives on things, that you can adapt to different environments, and that you can establish a good rapport with people from different nationalities. And the education your kids will get from living abroad far beats anything they could learn from a year of school.
In terms of fear – let’s be honest, if you get there and it’s terrible, you can always jump on a plane and come straight home. But I’ve never known anyone who’s done that. It's scary pushing the limits of your comfort zone, but it’s also really rewarding. And I’ve never wanted to live my life based on fear.
You’ve convinced us! So let’s talk logistics. What type of things do you need to organize before you emigrate?
There are definitely complex logistics involved with moving abroad, as much as I wish it was as easy as booking a flight and deciding to go! So I would absolutely advocate for proper research before you go.
You should check things like whether you need a visa, and what type (do you plan to work), the cost of living, and if your finances can sustain you until you find a job. Is there a language barrier? What’s the healthcare like? You should answer all of these questions before you go.
Foreign exchange is a big one to consider too – you’ll likely need to transfer money between the two countries from time to time, so making sure you’re getting the best rate can save you a lot, and ultimately make your money go further.
Three things you can’t relocate without?
My laptop (crucial since I work from home), my portable hard-drive (has gigabytes of photos of family and friends so I never feel homesick), and comfort foods I can’t find in the destination I’m going to. Usually for me this means Vegemite – it’s also a great ice-breaker making people from other countries try it; mainly because no-one outside Australia can stand the stuff and the reactions are hilarious!
Why is 2018 the year to take the plunge and emigrate?
Because it will be the best decision of your life! Time passes far too quickly, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting old far too fast! Moving abroad isn’t for everyone, but if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, go for it!
Do you want to spend 2018 daydreaming with thoughts of a far off adventure, or actually living it? Make this the year you head overseas and try some life changing new experiences. After all, the only things in life we ever regret are the chances we didn’t take, and the adventures we never lived.
Posted in Expat Resources on Nov 6 2017