The 5 Hardest Things About Living Abroad
Living abroad has been amazing, so don't get me wrong by the title of this article. However, I find it important to share that it is not always eating gelato, riding my bike with a baguette under my arm through Germany, and traveling from country to country. Living abroad is full of those magical moments, but also the frustrating ones, too. Sharing with you all the 5 hardest parts of living abroad this past year.
1.) Language Barrier
Phew, this is still the hardest for me. Michael and I say on the weekly that if we were living in a country that spoke English as the first language we would have avoided lots of misunderstandings.
Don't get me wrong, Germans speak lovely English and are taught at an early age the English language. However, we live in a smaller town (30,000 people) and there really is no need for people in our town to speak English. For example, in Berlin or Hamburg, there are a lot of international people, so it's more likely for Germans to hear and speak English often in a major city.
Although we are in the process of learning German and we can get by with running errands, ordering food (this was a priority of course :) ), and making appointments; we are in no way conversational with German. It gets us by, but it definitely makes some interactions quite awkward. I imagine that if we were better with our German, things would be easier! So that's definitely on us to keep learning and growing in that aspect.
2.) Missing Family & Friends
This was something I anticipated. But what I anticipated even more was "FOMO" (fear of missing out). I really thought I would come over and feel like my friends were having a life without me and totally forget me. Thankfully, they still all seem to remember my name and answer my annoying FaceTime calls (thanks, guys)!
However, I still miss my family and friends so much. When you have people you've known for so long and it is easy to just grab a coffee, go on a walk, or make them walk around Target with you while drinking La'Croix (one of my favorite pass times), it's hard to let that go.
Germans are lovely and super great at making "appointments" and scheduling time with friends, so that part hasn't been hard. I am very grateful for how persistent and on top of friendships they are!
It's the process of getting to know people that are from a different culture and learning the norms that was a challenge in the beginning. I love it, but I also miss being around people that could simply look at me and know what I was thinking or feeling without me saying a word.
3.) Comfort Zone
Now that we've lived here for a year, things are feeling less and less out of my comfort zone. However, the first 6 months were taxing -- everything was out of my comfort zone. Little things that should be easy like paying for groceries or picking up medicine at the pharmacy became dreadful chores.
If you know me, you know I am not a shy person at all. However, if you met me in Germany 10 months ago, you would have thought I was a quiet mouse that could be brought to tears at any moment. I remember being told I purchased the wrong train ticket put me in a full frenzy once (nowadays I laugh at myself for being so sensitive about the matter).
Having to be taken out of my comfort zone every moment was a challenge, but it taught me so much. It has made me appreciate the people that helped me during the transition, given me confidence now, and taught me patience (okay, okay, still working on that one).
4.) Changing products
This might seem silly to you, but recently I saw Arm & Hammer baking soda at a grocery store in the Netherlands and danced for joy. It's the little things.
Completely changing all my products was harder than I thought it would be. Also, add that everything is in a foreign language and Lord knows if I used the toilet cleaner in the shower and vice versa during my first months living in Germany.
When you move abroad, you will eventually runout of all your beloved personal items (that favorite face wash and hand soap you love). Thank goodness for Amazon, because I still import my toothpaste -- I'm just a little picky.
However, I have changed 80% of my products since moving abroad. I mostly miss my toiletries and groceries. I have found some great alternatives, but some things are just irreplaceable (like Noosa yogurt & Trader Joe's dark chocolate peanut butter cups).
To this day, I still really miss my "go-to" brands from the United States. Every time I see a product from the States or something familiar I still get so excited. Especially when it's all written in English ;)
5.) Being on a different time zone than 90% of the people in your life
My brother recently moved to California and before that I had all my family's timezones down, until he hopped over two time zones. Next thing I know, I am calling him at 6 a.m. his time completely forgetting the change!
Other than making phone calls and finding times to talk with people in the United States, it's also difficult keeping up with the news and other events happening in the States. For example, when big events are happening like the US Elections last year, not being able to keep up with every thing and waiting until the morning is harder than I thought it would be.
Granted, scheduling time to talk with family and friends is by far one of the hardest challenges of living broad. When living in the United States I would call my dad daily while driving to meetings, but now we just have set times we can talk.
It's easy to let time slip by and not talk to some of your favorite people for weeks at a time (definitely not on purpose, it's just hard to coordinate). Thank goodness for social media and still feeling like I know what's going on with my friends and family when we haven't had a chance to speak in a few days.
I know that one day when we live back in the United States again I won't take the proximity of my family and friends for granted. One of my best friends was my neighbor and we would see each other daily. Now we only can FaceTime and it's just not the same as eating Ben & Jerries on the couch nightly (that might have been an okay habit to break). It's like the saying, "you don't know what you've got until it is gone", has never been truer!
Michael would say that the hardest thing about living abroad is not being able to watch the University of TN Vols play live. I love the Vols, but they bring way too much emotion and stress into our lives, so not having them on live every Saturday isn't such a bad thing.
For my next Life in Germany series, I will focus on a more positive subject, so stay tuned for that to be up soon!