The fountain outside parliment.
Here are 10 tips for easy livin’ abroad:
1. Know that the magic is going to where off one day. You’re romance with Rome will turn into “I hate this dirty fucking crowded hot place.” You aren’t studying abroad, you’re living there. You have to work, you have to eat, you have to live. Your king-size washer and dryer will shrink to a shaky clothesline and drying rack. Your dishwasher and car will be traded in for …life experience.
2. Don’t get defensive. Cruel remarks about your country will be tossed at you like a hot potato. We’re not loved all over the world. We’re the despised, head-cheerleader who’s in everyone’s business. And yes, it happens even in Canada. I’m far from a flag-waving freedom fighter and it still annoys me whenever the locals say things like, “Americans don’t read. American girls are fat.” Easy, there. That’s my country you’re bashing. Don’t turn into Mr. Hyper Defensive and you’ll be fine.
3. When you make your grand return don’t bore everyone with your living abroad stories. No one wants to hear how much better everything is elsewhere, though you’ll be tempted to say so again and again. It just makes your friends super jealous and makes you look like a pretentious ass. Stop it!
4. Try to save money. Pass up the outdoor terraces and long nights chugging exotic beer for catching up on chores at home. It’s completely fine. Becoming broke and homeless in your host country is not exactly easy abroad living.
5. Pack light. Find out what they won’t have wherever you’re going and go from there. Bring extra certified copies of important paperwork. Make a copy of your passport and give it to someone before you leave so they can track you down. We crammed six big containers full of stuff and it was still too much. I never miss the stuff I put into storage. I just know I have a bed, a huge mirror, piles of books, and old photos waiting for me.
6. LEARN the LANGUAGE. French is a pain in the ass. But what’s more of a pain in the ass is going to places when I need something done and not being able to communicate or signing contracts and not knowing what I’m signing. Your understanding of the language is directly correlated to your happiness as an expat. Enroll in a language class immediately upon arrival. Bonus – you’ll meet other expats.
7. Make non-American friends. When I first moved here, I clung to the “anglo community” like it was the last lipgloss on earth. And now, I have friends from almost every continent. Still waiting on that native Anartican.
8. Don’t hang out with complainers. I met a hip, young Australian girl at one of the events for English speakers here. We would have become good friends, me being a hip, childfree American except that during the event, she told me everything wrong about Quebec: The horrible, icy weather. The lack of posted jobs in English. The French, oh the French. I went home and cried for Seattle’s mild winters, my job, and my good friends. Expats who aren’t thriving tend to carry you into their dark abyss. Employ a no-whining rule in your household.
9. Bring your pet. People respond with quirked eyebrows when they find out we brought our dog. Sure, this is Canada, not Cambodia, so it’s pretty easy for us just to pack him in a crate and drive him over the border. But pet relocation services can help get your pet overseas. I wouldn’t move anywhere Elwood couldn’t go. We’re close like that.
10. Just accept that things are going to be very different for a very long time.