On Living Abroad

On Living Abroad

Way back in my early years when the only friends I had abroad were pen friends and getting an international student at our school was a big deal, I’ve been fascinated by living abroad. I remember looking to the sky many a time and wondering what time it was in America or Europe or anywhere really just so I could imagine what people were doing at that exact moment in time.

Fast-forward to present day and I’m now one of those people I would imagine living abroad. Swapping my country home of Casterton for the big city life of London has finally realised one of my childhood dreams. Most locals I meet call me crazy to be here and are looking up ways to escape but I’m happy to be here renting a place in the Queens country.

Just like moving cities at home you have the same issues with finding accommodation, finding work and learning to navigate your new surroundings. The only difference for me is, I arrived with just a backpack’s worth of belongings and I know I’m not staying put forever. I’m a temporary resident and when the visa runs out it’s time to find a new country and a new city to do it all over again with that same sized bag of belongings.

My birth home of Casterton

The real joy with living abroad is the moment you realise you’re less of a tourist and more of a local. Over time I found I no longer held up the line at the tube station, I walked central London with a sense of direction instead of wandering aimlessly (ok maybe I still do a little), I always stood on the right side of the escalator and not the left and for the most part refer to my money in pounds and not dollars. I do however refuse to call thongs, flip flops no matter how many weird looks I get.

I’ve had friends tell me you are just doing the same things you would at home what’s so good about it. You go to work, you go to the pub etc what’s so good about living abroad? Yes I do all those things but its the immersion in the atmosphere of the place that I love. The pubs are different, the work environment is different, walking down the street is completely different to back home. That’s why I love it and why I will continue to do it for as long as I can.

London Street

Anybody that tell’s me living abroad is just like living at home either doesn’t appreciate the differences around them or just doesn’t get it. You are saturated in a different way of life to what you know, how is that the same?

For me well I’m taking the safe route for now living in London where the differences are a little more subtle. But I still look to the sky like I did as a young Aussie Nomad and wonder what people are up to in Argentina, Moscow, Toronto and many more. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to find out and push my travel boundaries that little further.

I want to hear from you now. Have you have ever lived abroad and if so what did you take away from the experience. Did it enrich your stay or did it drive you away?

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31 Responses to On Living Abroad

  1. CLAIRE June 14, 2011 at 1:56 AM #

    Well… I can answer for Toronto. I’ve lived here about 6 months. Tonight my evening consists of watching game 6 of the Stanley Cup, and reminiscing about a time I knew nothing about hockey. My winter consists of skiing every weekend, and rejoicing in a pair of warm winter boots that I could never wear in Sydney and dodging black ice on the streets, and my summer is going to be spent watching baseball and out in the great Canadian wilderness. You think they speak English, but I can’t get away from a phone call without having to spell my name using the NATO phonetic alphabet. I think it won’t be forever, but for the moment I’m loving it!

    Great post!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 19, 2011 at 8:27 PM #

      Claire that sounds like a nice way to be living and hopefully one I can come to know when I eventually make it to Canada (next year hopefully). Mind you I’ve been in the UK or a year and still don’t understand everything about football (read soccer).

  2. AMY @LIVINONTHEROAD June 14, 2011 at 4:39 AM #

    We stop and work in small towns for a while as we travel. I love the feeling of getting to know the area and the locals better. It adds so much to the experience, and you get to see a richer side to the town than in a few days passing through.

  3. JULIA June 14, 2011 at 11:56 AM #

    Glad to hear you enjoy living in our fair country as much as you do! How long do you have left on your visa? And I’m glad you have admitted to the world that you wear thongs. Don’t be afraid, we will all still accept you for who you are πŸ™‚

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 19, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

      Julia i’m allowed to stay until the 21st of June next year and then I have to get out and come back on a tourist visa. I’ll go see Europe for a bit hopefully before coming back to see how London handles the olympics.

  4. RUNAWAY BRIT June 14, 2011 at 12:08 PM #

    I have lived in 3 other countries – Japan, Vietnam and now Sweden. Japan and Vietnam were totally amazing, nothing felt like home and everything was different and new. I always felt like I was in some kind of parallel universe or living somebody else’s life.

    Sweden shares many similarities with my home country (except the weather is a lot better) but it feels a lot more real and I can actually see myself settling here.

    I love living overseas πŸ™‚

  5. KIWIGIRLUK June 14, 2011 at 12:22 PM #

    As a child we moved around a lot, and I’ve kept that habit as an adult, though I have been in the UK for over six years now. There is the excitement of a new city, its kooks and nooks to learn and appreciate, but I love the moment where you become a local yourself; where you don’t need to think when you leave the tube what direction to head in, you don’t need to triple check the bus routes – you just instinctively ‘know’. We hope to live in at least another two countries, and probably three, before we settle down permanently, and I’m looking forward to the excitement of learning somewhere new AND becoming a familar face in the corner shop and pub.

  6. DANIELLE June 14, 2011 at 10:31 PM #

    I lived in Florence, Italy for five months. While I was living with American flat-mates, I think I was able to blend into the city a little bit more easily than some of my classmates. An American tourist actually mistook me for a resident Italian and jumped back a couple of steps when I responded to their questions in English. Florence was a fabulous city – you could live on any sort of budget and everyone was friendly. A short bus ride would take you into the hills of Tuscany. I really couldn’t have asked for a better place to be for that period of time. I think living there gave me a peek at Italy that I would have never gotten otherwise… and even five months didn’t seem long enough!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 19, 2011 at 8:31 PM #

      Danielle I’m jealous of your time in Florence. I only passed through for 5-6 days and loved it there, think I need to start learning some italian and head back for an extended time.

      I found it really friendly and how can you beat a warm summer night and some gelato while walking the streets.

  7. THE TRAVEL CHICA June 14, 2011 at 10:56 PM #

    I just stopped in Buenos Aires after 6 months of constant travel. I’ve been here for over 2 months, and I love it. I feel like a local, and it’s totally different from moving to a new place every 1-2 weeks. I get really excited when I can help others with directions, recommend the cheapest place to buy veggies, and find some wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 19, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

      Travel Chica, I love it when someone asks for directions and I can actually help them. Sure i might not know much considering how big London is but even being able to say that such and such a street is over here to a couple lost in their car is rewarding for me.

      Now if only I could stop myself getting lost so much…

  8. HEATHER June 15, 2011 at 12:01 AM #

    It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since we both left our jobs to move to another country πŸ™‚ I’ve loved following your adventures around Europe and in London.

    You already know about my year-long experience in your home country and how much I loved it.

    I remember one night I was walking to the bus stop after work and it felt like I was simply going home after work…I realized how comfortable life in Sydney had become that I no longer felt like a guest but like a resident. I’d go back in a flash if I could.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 19, 2011 at 8:38 PM #

      Heather I can’t believe that the time has passed so quickly. I remember all our talk about you coming to OZ to live. I also love that you got to see parts of OZ where I have lived.

      I know I’m going to miss London when I’m gone as everything is so familiar and like home. From the tube rides to walking along the themes, everything. Guess that’s the hardest part about living abroad… the leaving part.

  9. ADAM @ SITDOWNDISCO June 15, 2011 at 4:58 AM #

    I guess it’s just that some people like to do the same thing, day in day out for their whole lives whereas those that have had the opportunity to travel marvel at all the different experiences that we have every day! When we get bored with a place, we move on unlike our homebound non-travelling buddies.

    The other thing I reckon travelling and living overseas does is gives you a broader perspective on many facets of life. Onya!

  10. CAZ MAKEPEACE June 15, 2011 at 4:59 AM #

    Living abroad is nothing like living at home. We have done it in 5 countries now and there is nothing Craig and I like more than living as foreigners.
    Every day, even spent in the normal mundane tasks of living, are exciting as everything is new. It’s challenging, its exciting and fresh.
    When I return home to live I find myself incredibly bored as I know everything too well. I crave for that excitement back.
    Our daughter has the same bug as we do and always talks of her life in America that she misses and the excitement of going to a new place to live soon.
    Craig and I are planning, yet again, another move abroad. This time we’ll be dragging along a second child with us.

  11. LINDA June 15, 2011 at 9:55 AM #

    Yes – er, I live abroad. Actually came to the Canary Islands for what we thought would be a year to five years, but 23 years on I’m still here! Maybe because I lived so long in England before making a move the novelty has yet to wear off too! Although, I constantly think about finding somewhere perfect. This island is not my idea of perfection. The thought that there is somewhere else is enticing, yet every time I travel I end up back here!

  12. SOFIA - AS WE TRAVEL June 15, 2011 at 12:41 PM #

    Nice post! I agree, the difference in living in a foreign country is not about what you do, but the atmosphere and culture you’re surrounded by.

    I had the most amazing time living in a small village in Switzerland, and it made me realize that “home” is where you make it.

    When I decide to settle down somewhere, it will not be based on where I am from, but on how I want to live my life and what I want to be surrounded by.

  13. NANCY @ DREAM TRAVEL VACATION June 15, 2011 at 4:13 PM #

    I always admire those who could live abroad. I wish I had done that when I was younger when I had no commitments to anything. Perhaps when I reach an age of retirement, I may just do that. πŸ˜‰ Happy Travels!

  14. WANDERINGTRADER June 15, 2011 at 5:14 PM #

    I wear thongs too man.. its the future… lol

  15. SHEAH June 15, 2011 at 5:26 PM #

    i agree with you that if you havent done it, you just dont get it. it feels different the moment you step out of your own country and become officially ‘the foreigner’. i am from malaysia but i spent some years in singapore and i was surprised by the difference a tiny strait make. just the slang, the attitude, the way you use some words or dialect will single you out, sometimes in a good way.
    environment maketh a man. laws, social expectations, slangs, humour and every subtle little things will collectively cook up an entirely new experience. i guess if you are use to moving around, everywhere is really, same same but very different πŸ™‚

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 19, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

      Sheah I agree with you about the language and slang. While Australia and the UK share the same language there are quite a few differences (along with the accent) that make you stand out. Going to the supermarket, the movies even the hairdresser is so much different to home that while you do virtually the same thing. The whole aura surrounding it is uniquely different and that’s what I love.

  16. AGIRLFROMOZ June 15, 2011 at 10:15 PM #

    well put… other comments have said, some people just don’t understand why you would move many thousands of miles away….and its something I still can’t really explain to people. Sure I’m doing the same work here as at home, but its different as well….its about experiencing the ‘whole package’ so to speak.

    As for me, after a couple of years here, I think I have learnt to be more adaptable and easy going than I was before, and to appreciate home. I’m not ready to move back to Australia yet, but I think I’ve got more of an appreciation for what is great back home…

  17. ROY | CRUISESURFINGZ June 16, 2011 at 12:37 PM #

    Oh yeah, that’s my favorite part of living abroad too – when you feel like a local. It’s like living in an alternate universe. I’ve lived in 5-7 countries, depending on how you count it!

  18. LORI - THE UNFRAMED WORLD June 17, 2011 at 3:44 AM #

    I’ve lived in Japan for almost two years now. At times it feels like home just because I’ve gotten so comfortable with the Japanese lifestyle. I still recognize the differences though and will miss some of them a lot when I go back =)

  19. CHRISTY @ TECHNOSYNCRATIC June 17, 2011 at 4:57 AM #

    The uniqueness of living abroad is one of the reasons why we decided to stop traveling around the U.S. and head to the U.K. While it’s awesome to explore your own country, it’s also way awesome to fully immerse yourself in a different culture. When you’re abroad even just sitting in a coffee shop for a short spell becomes an interesting experience! πŸ™‚

  20. LEE CARTER @ GLOBAL GOOSE June 21, 2011 at 1:51 AM #

    All very true. What better way to truly understand the country you are travelling than by practically becoming a local?

    After New Zealand I my fondest memories are not of the attractions they are of the day to day life, football in the park, banter with workmates and evenings in the pub with people I really enjoyed spending time with.

  21. EX-EXPAT September 5, 2011 at 11:07 AM #

    I loved living in Europe beause I found being an expat was a real adventure. New languages, cultures and lots of things to see and do meant it was always exciting. Even when I was frustrated, coping with the challenges made me realise what I’m capable of.
    I felt like I could experiment a lot more as a foreigner, because people don’t know what I’m normally like, or what is normal in my culture back home. I agree that people who haven’t done it don’t understand, but I think being an expat is a really great experience – everyone should do it at least once! For some of us it risks becoming a way of life πŸ˜‰

  22. RANA May 2, 2012 at 12:49 AM #

    I lived in Mexico, and it was a paradise of a place called Playa del carmen. They were the most amazing 2 years of my life and I do plan to go back there again and live someday. At the moment I’ve been living and working in London for eight months. I can’t say I loved it at first (I actually hated it). My first day going to work on the tube I felt like I was a cattle following the herd, and had doubts if I could do this for another day. Another reason I chose London is because my dream was to live in Spain, and as an Aussie it was too damn hard/impossible to get a working visa there. So I was basically using London to be close to Spain and travel around Europe. However London has grown on me (I’m at the attachment stage of our relationship) and I realised how special it was when I went to Paris last month and came to the realisation that London has way more going for it than Paris and the arrogance it fills. I’m also in love with East London, especially the brick lane and Shoreditch area. Compared to West London where everything looks similar and everyone looks like Ken and Barbie, the East is filled with a unique bohemian vibe, interesting characters who could be out of a 1970’s Woody Allen film.

  23. EMMA July 28, 2013 at 12:30 AM #

    Your blog is wonderful and really helpful! I’m just starting to plan my very first trip to Europe.
    I think getting a visa to live in a different country for a year or two sounds really intriguing. My question is that when people do get a visa, do they usually find new jobs whenever they change cities or do they save up money beforehand? And what kind of jobs are available to those types of travelers/how do you find jobs?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD July 28, 2013 at 11:52 AM #

      Hi Emma, for most people living abroad its a combination of savings and getting a job. For myself I saved money to allow me to travel for 2-3 months and then have enough left over to keep me going until I found a job in London. From there I stayed put for the 2 years of my visa while taking frequent trips to see other parts of Europe.

      Finding work is perhaps the most difficult. I knew people that connected me with my job, others have gone through agencies while more just knocked on doors looking for bar/waitress work.

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