Things I Wish I Someone Had Told Me Before I Moved to a Foreign Country

  1. Language is everything. Language forms thought, and reality is socially constructed, so if you want to share the reality of those around you, you must speak their language. Well.
  2. The fastest way to learn a new language is with a lover. The less of your native language they speak, the faster you will learn.
  3. Immigration everywhere sucks, at least any place that is desirable to live. You may be stuck in this mire for far longer than you expected, so plan accordingly.
  4. Try and sock away at least 10K (USD or equivalent) in cash before you make the jump. This will cushion your passage through #1 & #3.
  5. Wherever you are, decide to be there, until you decide to leave. Waffling in hesitancy for years on end only ensures 1) that you don’t bother investing the energy necessary to make your stay more convenient & comfortable and 2) you will start to resent where you are for not being convenient and comfortable. Case in point: the shitty showerhead I didn’t bother replacing for 3 years. Why??
  6. Stuff is your prison. The less stuff you are hauling around, the freer you are.
  7. If you desire something from a system or entity, you must give something to that system or entity. If you don’t want anything from it/them, don’t worry about it. To illustrate: if you want working privileges, access to public services, protection under the rule of law, you need a visa or citizenship. If your situation does not necessitate these things, you need not apply. As I write this, I’ve been banging my head against this uncomfortable reality in the effort to purchase a home, in my country of origin. It’s pretty universal.
  8. Being an expat is to experience your weening all over again. Foreign supermarkets will thrill you. It also often means doing things three times over until you get it right. This can be very time-consuming. Your child-like innocence and ignorance also make you a target for the unscrupulous.
  9. People are people are people everywhere. Flawed.
  10. Economic participation and social participation are so inextricably linked as to be inseparable. It is EXTREMELY difficult to accomplish one without the other. While everyone thinks you’ve made it when you’re making big freelance bucks in a more developed economy while living the high-life for pennies in the third world, it’s incredibly, isolating and lonely. Get a local job in addition to this, and your language skills and social contacts will soar.
  11. All systems of socioeconomic organization are highly imperfect. There is always some group that is left out of the system designed to redistribute resources.
  12. For the more mundane inconveniences of the hapless traveler (i.e., excluding extremes like being the victim of state-crimes or horrible accidents), chances are someone else has experienced it before, and somewhere, there is a help-desk with a simple solution to your problem. However, don’t expect it to be instantaneous.
  13. Get ready to understand the concept of postmodernism on a painful new level. If you didn’t already know that everything familiar & comforting to you is of little to no consequence to a lots of people everywhere, well, it is. Once you grow into this concept, you may find that dealing with non-expat acquaintances that haven’t come to this realization will become extremely frustrating.
  14. The mass media everywhere is full of shit.
  15. If you’re moving between nations of similar levels of industrial development, shipping stuff abroad is a big waste. It’s often AS costly as buying the stuff new, and you’ll find that most things like voltage and bedding are done differently anyway. When in Rome…
  16. Time seasons friendships. You will miss those back “home,” and it will take some years to develop comparable rapport with new individuals & groups. Befriending other expats helps, but these connections are often as fleeting as your travel schedules.
  17. Paradise does not exist, except in your own head.

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