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8 Empowering Things About Being an Expat

Don’t get me wrong friends, there are plenty of difficult things about being an expat. More specifically, there are some really tough things about living in Iceland!

But along with the bad, are the incredibly wonderful and unexpected things that happen when you live abroad.

Living in a different country means you get to know it in a totally different way. You experience cultural traditions, views on work-life balance, and learn about the wonderful people that make up a nation.  You wander the streets in awe, explore new sights, and find all the hidden gems.

Living abroad becomes a part of you in a way that you would never experience from simply traveling somewhere.

I’ve always loved the excitement and freedom of traveling. I love that my time is my own to use however I choose. I love eating new food. But I didn’t expect that this passion would lead to selling everything we owned and moving to another country!

Either way, I’m so thankful for this opportunity because it has made me grow as a person and realize all the reasons I LOVE being an expat!

New Experiences

Life in a new country requires some major adjustments. Every day can be an adventure. Eating new foods, seeing the famous local sights, and experiencing the customs of the new culture. The list goes on!

You will want to bring your camera with you all the time – everything is so cuuuuute! “Look at that colorful house, hold on I have to take a picture of that latte, ooo let’s stop here again!” (Okay, I’ll admit it, I still do this.) It’s so fun to look at the little things that make up daily life with a twinkle in your eye.

 

Personal Growth

Whew – this is a BIG category! I think the biggest thing that happens when you live abroad is your own personal growth – and it happens in many forms.

INDEPENDENCE

WOW does your independence skyrocket when you move abroad! Without the immediate support of family and friends around, you start to learn how to do things on your own.

No one to help you fix your foreign washing machine, no one to ask what’s appropriate behavior in a new situation. Just you and your little ol’ self figuring it all out in this big bad world.

Chances are you will be spending a lot of time by yourself in your new place. So you learn to appreciate yourself and be your own best friend. You discover the things that you really love, and then you do them! It’s an amazing and liberating feeling.

 

WORKING

On the career side of things, you are able to see a unique perspective on the business culture in that country. For example, work-life balance is a huge deal in the Nordic countries, and one of my favorite things about living in Iceland.

Employers are also a lot more understanding about taking time during the day to go to medical appointments and leaving early to pick up kids.

Lastly, maternity leave and vacation days are so different in Europe compared to the States. Vacations are seen as an important part of your well-being, and many countries allot between 20-30 days!

LANGUAGE

Learning a new language will make you appreciate the history, values, and culture of that country. There is a deeper connection that forms when you are able to communicate with a local in their native language. Even though Icelandic is one of the most difficult languages in the world, I really feel a difference when I speak to Icelanders in their native tongue.

Not only that, but learning a new skill is sooooo good for your brain! Forming new synapses stimulates the “muscle” of your brain, making you a stronger and smarter person!

Expat pro tip: If you plan to be there more than 6 months, at least try to learn the language basics. Take classes at the local university, use apps and websites, and get a tutor to practice in person.

 living abroad as an expat means challenges, personal growth and independence | Life With a View

Builds confidence

When we first moved to Iceland I was overwhelmed every time I went to the grocery store. Prices in a new currency, words I couldn’t understand, and Icelanders usually only buy food for a meal or two. Not to mention the checkout line! What would I talk to the cashier about? Why isn’t anyone offering to bag my groceries for me? Why is the person behind me pushing me out of the way before I’m even finished?!

But gradually these daily tasks become second nature. Now I can confidently go in and out of stores, speaking Icelandic, and fitting in like a local!

Expat pro tip: Keep and open mind and try not to get frustrated. Remember that you are the foreigner. Think about how that person would feel if they went to your hometown. Every place has its positives. For every bad thing you notice, try to see the good in it!

International Adventures

Moving abroad means that you have the opportunity to travel to places that you might have only dreamt of. Being able to explore new countries is one of our favorite things to do!

I’m so thankful that we’ve gotten the chance to travel more since moving to Iceland. With easy access to Scandinavia and Europe, a lot of places are just a few hours away by plane. In the past year and a half we’ve visited six new countries, with more on the calendar this year!

Making Connections

Living abroad gives you the chance to meet interesting people from a variety of backgrounds. Forming new friendships becomes second nature when living in a new country, and is really important for your well being.

One of the BEST things about living abroad is when you start to make lasting friendships. I am a very social person, and having a couple of good friends is really important to me, no matter where I live.

I’m unbelievably thankful for the amazing people I’ve met in Iceland. Our friends group is a good mix between locals and fellow expats. We meet for dinners, have game nights and book club, and even celebrate American holidays!

Expat pro tip: try everything! Put yourself out there and get all the experiences you can. Join international groups, attend cultural events, speak the language as much as possible. I’ve even found friends through Facebook groups!

Spreading the Love of Travel

You might even spark a little wanderlust with your family and friends!

Living abroad may inspire your family members to push their own boundaries, and travel to your new country.

Since we’ve lived in Iceland, we have been very lucky to have multiple visitors. It’s so wonderful to be able to show them our new life and help them explore all over Iceland!

>> Thinking of moving abroad?

The best way to prepare for moving to a new country is to plan ahead. Talk to people who have done it, read up on “expat life in ___” and if you have the chance, visit before you take the leap. Knowing more about what you’re getting into will help you feel more at ease and makes for a smooth transition.

Know that it will be SO worth it! When you’re planning a life decision this big, it can be tempting to doubt if you’re making the right choice.

Just ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and when you know what the answer is, you realize that it’s going to be okay.

Of course there will be days where you feel completely isolated. It’s hard to make friends, it’s hard to learn a new language, you miss your family. There are days when you are completely exhausted from  simple things like buying groceries or shopping for clothes.

Just remember: you can do this! The experiences you gain from living abroad will make you a stronger person!

IN CONCLUSION

I feel this amazing pride when I’m surrounded by new friends, speaking a new language, and enjoying life the way I want to! I feel like my best self. The challenges I’ve faced have pushed me to grow and learn as a person, and I can’t imagine it any other way!


Question: To my fellow expat friends – what’s your favorite thing about expat life? (or your least favorite thing!)

 

 

 

 

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The most empowering things about living abroad as an expat | Life With a View

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  • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki
    February 28, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Expat life really is just so crazy and wonderful at the same time! So glad I have a friend like you to share this expat adventure with!

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:46 am

      I couldn’t agree more my friend! Thank you for being so amazing 🙂

  • Sandy
    March 4, 2017 at 6:53 am

    SO TRUE! Love it <3

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:36 am

      Thanks so much Sandy!

  • Ellis
    March 4, 2017 at 7:27 am

    I lived in Haiti for two years and it wasn’t the easiest country to live in, but I agree that it also gives you so much new opportunities and you learn so much that it was all worth it.

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:36 am

      You got it, Ellis! Wow, I’m sure that was quite the experience living in Haiti!

  • Julianna
    March 4, 2017 at 8:30 am

    I really agree with you! It’s been a few years since I’ve been an expat but I agree that is so good for personal growth and opportunity! Glad you are having a good time!

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:35 am

      Absolutely, thank you Julianna!

  • C-Ludik
    March 4, 2017 at 9:54 am

    There are many reasons why people become expatriates. For me it is due to work reasons 🙂 I would compare the differences between traveling to another country and living there, to the differences between observing a bucking bull and being on the back of one. Living in another country is you are not just walking through or snapping pictures of a foreign and beautiful land – you are attempting to navigate your life, your career, your relationships (most of which will be via a brand new language you ain’t so hot at), your health, your banking, your utilities, your transportation and every aspect of your day to day life ! It is a real challenge 🙂

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:34 am

      I absolutely love this Celine! What a great comparison to the bull, ha! Thanks so much for your insight, you just made my day 🙂

  • Megan
    March 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I love this, because I just moved to Berlin, Germany and I’ve been asking myself the same. Great read!

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:33 am

      I can be such a worrier, so when I ask myself that question I feel like it can really help put things into perspective! Congrats on your move to Germany! How are you liking it so far?

  • Lucy
    March 4, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I’m a Brit living in Bondi and suffice to say moving to Sydney has been both the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Loved this post xx

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:25 am

      Ugh, I feel you girlfriend! But don’t you feel like you could just conquer the world now?! I’m sure living in Australia is amazing!

  • Kyntra Strickland
    March 4, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    I have never really considered expat life, but would love to live abroad for more than a couple of months one day! Thank you for sharing these wonderful things gained while living abroad.

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:23 am

      Living like a local is a whole different experience that I think everyone should have. Even if it’s not for long, you learn so much about yourself and other cultures!

  • Leigh | Campfires & Concierges
    March 4, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Your photos are fantastic! Living overseas at some point is on my life list, hopefully after my upcoming career break.

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:22 am

      Your life list sounds awesome – I definitely support living abroad! Crossing my fingers you will be able to experience it!

  • LC
    March 5, 2017 at 4:40 am

    Agree with so very many of these points! I’ve lived in London and Doha, Qatar and wouldn’t swap those experiences for anything.

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:16 am

      You have lived in some amazing places! It’s so true, I would never trade the experience just because some things are difficult – it’s all worth it!

  • Christina from Happy to Wander
    March 5, 2017 at 7:18 am

    I was first an exchange student for a year and loved my city so much, I’m now an expat here (as of a month ago). SO, 1000x times yes to this!! Especially the personal growth and independence bit… honestly, before I moved abroad, I could barely crack an egg or do my own laundry. This is an awesome list. Thanks for sharing, Jeannie! 🙂

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:15 am

      Oh wow, Christina what an awesome story! I saw on Instagram you’re living in Germany – what city are you in? How are you liking it so far? Looking forward to a post about your expat experience on your blog 😉

  • Megan | Red Around The World
    March 5, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    I would love to live abroad. It sounds super tough sometimes, but totally worth it. It would be so cool to be able to experience a new culture like a local when you actually live there.

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:14 am

      It has definitely been full of unexpected challenges, but the positives outweigh the negatives! Living like a local is very rewarding!

  • penelopi
    March 5, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing this article! 🙂 I have been abroad in 3 different countries the last 12 years and i can really relate to your post. I actually love to be an expat!! 🙂

    • Jeannie
      March 7, 2017 at 7:12 am

      That’s a lot of traveling, you are basically an expat! Never too late to take the leap 😉

  • Eloise
    March 7, 2017 at 9:20 am

    I think the hardest part is being far away from family and friends and not able to come back quickly if needed. It’s a bit stressful. Otherwise, I love living abroad – or in a different region – as it’s full of new places and new things to learn and discover. Every weekend is a short holiday break. But now that I’ve been in Brisbane for more than four years, it really feels like home 😉

    • Jeannie
      March 28, 2017 at 9:58 am

      I totally agree, it’s so difficult to be so removed when you need to get back for a big event or even an emergency. But on the bright side, I feel the same way about weekends – mini trip time!

  • Julie
    March 18, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Thank you for all the Icleand info. I really enjoyed it while planning our trip. I just got home yesterday from a week long visit and absolutely fell in love with Stykkishólmur. I joked with a friend about wanting to move there. I guess you never know…