Our time in Oxford is coming to an end soon–we’ll be heading back to the US in a little over a month. The emotions I’m feeling are very mixed and very bittersweet. While I’m excited to be back (there’s definitely no place like home), this entire year has been one magical experience in my life.
My friend Megan (who is an amazing travel blogger and was actually the first one to encourage me to do this blog), just told me she’s going to be doing the whole expat thing herself, moving to Hong Kong for six months with her husband! I love it because while my time is almost up, hers is about to begin. I like to think I’m passing the baton over to her.
So, I’ve been thinking what kind of advice I could give her or anyone else who’s moving to another country. What is it that I wish someone would have told me? I came up with a few things and thought I’d share right here (hope these help you, M!)
1. Try to find an apartment before you move-– Because of our work schedules (and not really wanting to pay for an extra trip), Christopher and I just hopped on a plane with only a B&B reservation, thinking we’d magically find an apartment within a few days. That’s how it works in NYC, at least. But the agents pretty much laughed in our face when we asked for something immediately. Turns out, the market here works a few months before move-in-date. Oops! Needless to say, it was the most stressful week of our lives. By some grace of god, we found a place and moved in seven days after we got to Oxford. If you absolutely can’t make it to the place before you move like we did, my advice is to have a temporary housing backup plan for at least a month or two.
2. Find fellow expats in your new city— One American girl I met in my first few weeks of Oxford was key in helping me figure out why I couldn’t find anything at the grocery store. There will most likely be other Americans wherever you go (or at least near). I was surprised by how many people told me to reach out to their friends when I told them we were moving here. Also, I literally just discovered these awesome online expat communities (a little late, but still useful): expat-blog.com and blogexpat.com where you can find resources and connect with fellow expats.
3. But still make an effort to make new friends who aren’t in the expat bubble— The whole point of living abroad is to immerse yourself in a new culture. While fellow expats help you translate things into American speak, locals help you see things in a new way. I can’t even tell you how many things we learned from our neighbors this year. We obviously got lucky in that regard, but we still had to make an effort to meet others. Since I was working from home, I had to really put myself out there. I ended up joining a local writers’ group and got to experience a completely new set of people and ideas. It was really nerve-racking showing up to the first meeting with a bunch of strangers, but I’m really happy I did it.
4. You can find your comfort items on Amazon— Just like at summer camp, you’re going to crave things that make you think of home during the first few weeks/months. I went through this phase where I wanted/needed a specific smell in my house, so I had my mom send me some of my favorite candles that you can’t find here (she’s seriously the BEST, ya’ll). Turns out, I could have gotten multiple candles just for the cost of shipping abroad. I did some digging and found that they do have imported items on Amazon UK. Granted, they’re probably a little more expensive than in the States, but it’ll save your loved ones a lot of money in care packages.
5. Accept and embrace what’s different about your new home— I feel like during the first few months, we were comparing everything to America. We obviously love our home country, but it was a little silly. Sure the taco seasoning doesn’t taste the same, and they say things so differently here, but now that we’ve been here for so long, I don’t even notice those differences anymore. Moving to a different country is going to shake up your life a little bit, but I look back on it now and realize that’s a good thing!
6. Take advantage of everything— Travel to nearby places (when are you ever going to be able to fly to another country for less than $100?)… explore your new town… attend local events… learn everything you can about it. There’s still so much that I wish we would have been able to do, but I’m happy to say I’ll have no regrets about not taking advantage of this year.
Have you ever lived abroad? Got anything to share with Megan or any other expats? Add your advice in the comments below!