What you learn living abroad

Living abroad has taught me so much. Not only about myself but how I see the world and others.

2008 was the first adventure I went on, I moved to Germany. I was a fresh 19 years old and went out to experience something new. This was probably one of the loneliest times of my life. I was completely alone and everything was it of my comfort zone. Long story short, I ended up leaving a few months early as I was so incredibly homesick.

After moving back to Vancouver I realized that I didn’t quite belong there anymore. I was stuck between needing adventure but also a sense of comfort.

After a few years in Vancouver, going about my daily routine, I met Sven -the love of my life (you can read about how we met here). After knowing each other for a few weeks we decided to move to Germany together in 2011. It was a tough few months in the beginning but it has turned out wonderfully and I couldn’t imagine living in Canada at this stage in my life.

So, I have experienced living abroad on both spectrums, the “I dislike everything and am lonely” side as well as the “I have a wonderful support system and am thriving in a new culture” side and here’s what both situations have taught me:

  • That I need to have a sense of comfort regardless of where I am. This can be a routine, a person (my husband) a comforting dish, or even similar surroundings.
  • How to speak another language, this is a given, of course after living here for 5 years and having in laws that don’t speak English, learning German was mandatory -and boy am I ever happy that I did! It didn’t only allow me to communicate with people but truly understand the culture. Knowing someone’s native language also gives you insight to their personality or why they have done or do the things they do. This doesn’t only go for an individual (although it really helps know someone on a personal level) but also the culture as a whole.
  • That I will always be learning the language. Even when I have become fluent, there has always been a special situation arise which proved that I still have things to learn. After moving here and becoming fluent, I took a driving course and learned German words for car parts that I didn’t even know the English words to! Or now, being pregnant, I’m still learning new words for medical procedures or situations. At times it feels like a never ending battle, but I am always interested at what I’ll learn next.
  • That I love being by myself. This may sound weird, as if I should know this already at the age of 27, but it really took moving abroad, and being alone to realize that I enjoy being. Just being, doing nothing or day dreaming or people watching. Regardless of what I’m doing, I love my own company, which really makes it easier to enjoy being around people, oddly enough.
  • I am actually an introvert. When I lived in Canada, I was asocial butterfly! I was always out with friends, making new friends and socializing -I was way too comfortable. It took me being in uncomfortable and in infinitive situation for me to realize, I like being alone and in quiet situations more than with people.
  • How to understand people better.
  • How to have an open mind.
  • How to communicate better, this really came with being an English teacher. Having to explain myself or something in general to a group of people with a low level of English, really helped me understand how to communicate effectively.
  • Independence -I think this is obvious, and expected.
  • How to cook. Before meeting my husband I had no desire to cook for myself. I ate out almost every meal, but that isn’t why I learned to cook. Once we moved abroad I ended up missing my comfort food -sushi, shepherds pie, certain dishes from home, that I started to learn how to make these dishes on my own to fill the void. My husband doesn’t complain and every now and then I end up missing home and turn to cooking.
  • How to convert metric to standard. From ovens to measurements EVERYTHING will be a struggle to convert from what you’ve learned everyday in school to what the people around you use -I still have to use cheat sheets and calculators to make sure I’m right.
  • How to convert different currencies in my head. This one is so easy now (as long as I have the up to date exchange rate) that I automatically exchange the rates when shopping online or talking to someone from home.
  • How to get out of my comfort zone -this could be taking public transportation to somewhere new (I hate public transport) or going to a new city on my own to explore. As I mentioned, when I lived in Canada I was way too comfortable. Being in a country where I couldn’t speak the language got me out of my comfort zone in a big way, which allowed me to learn so much about myself.
  • How not to be defensive. This one is odd, but, while abroad I have realized how patriotic I am. I truly love Canada and am proud to be Canadian. It took many months of hurt feelings and feeling defensive from stupid irrelevant comments for me to understand that I can still be patriotic without getting defensive. I got into a few heated discussions with people who were small minded and would say things jokingly about Canada or international couples, only to now know not to waste my time on an argument with them.
  • How big my home country truly is and how small other countries are in comparison. This one is funny, but it seriously took me a while to realize how truly massive Canada is. When I look at the size of my home province (British Columbia) and that it is twice the size of Germany, the country I’m currently living in, it is mind blowing to me.
  • Similarities within cultures. This one is also strange but in Germany there is a game called “name, city, country” the objective is to think of a letter and find as many objects that start with that letter. I have played this game with other Canadians and groups of Germans, only to find that no matter how different the people within the cultures are, they all think of the same objects with the letters chosen. There were Canadians I’ve played with that I didn’t know before hand, or would consider us to be completely different, and we still had the same answers, it is really interesting!

So there we have it, what I’ve learned from living abroad. What are things you’ve learned from travelling/living abroad?


Stay tuned for part 2 -what I’ve learned being in an international relarionship.


Thanks for reading! xo

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