What is it like to live abroad?

A lot of us dream of living overseas. Obviously this is a big change and requires a definite commitment and determination to make it work.

Having travelled solo I was aware of the attitude towards people who travel solo, so I was curious about how people are seen when the move to a new country. I asked four of Kettle’s editors about their experiences with moving and living abroad, and if there was any difference in attitude.

Sports editor Jessica Wells, and business editor Kirstie Keate both moved with family, so the choices behind the moves (to Denmark and New Zealand) we not solely their choice.

Jess’ family moved around because of her dad’s job, ‘I was sixteen when I moved to Denmark and as you can imagine it was incredibly hard to leave my friends behind. A lot of my friends were supportive and our family has always been on the move so no one was really surprised.’

For Kirstie the reason for the move was more personal ‘My dad is a New Zealander and all his family are over there.’

For Kealie Mardell and social media editor Francessca Poggi, the move happened in adulthood.

Kealie lived in California as part of a study abroad programme, she is currently trying to obtain a visa to be able to return and marry her fiancé ‘I had always known that I wanted to take a study abroad year in America, and it was one of the deciding factors when deciding which university to go to.’

Francessca moved with her friend from her home country of Italy in 2008, partly to chase a dream, ‘unknown, per se, but still a dream’ and partly to put a distance between her and her family.

So, while all moved for varying reasons, what were the main differences observed? Since all four moved from one peaceful Western, first world country to another peaceful Western, first world country, there was no major difference driven by economics or political upheaval.

Francessca noticed a number of differences between the UK and Italy ‘The way of living, of perceiving people, work… I was very surprised of the benefit support UK government has, since in Italy is a semi-foreign concept.’ 

Jess noticed a difference between the UK and Denmark too ‘They are very liberal compared to the UK. Gay rights are very much accepted and I found there to be little criticism. The tax rate is very high in Denmark, but it means that the infrastructure of the country is absolutely fantastic. The public transport is like something I have never seen before. There will be trains and buses every twenty minutes at least and they are never late.’

For Kirstie, the differences like jumping through time, in both directions ‘although NZ is reputed to be like the UK 50 years ago, and in many ways it is, it’s also fairly progressive in terms of women’s rights’.

Kealie discovered a more relaxed way of living in California ‘The change in lifestyle was a pleasant surprise, with everyone seeming a lot friendlier and more laid back. ‘

When moving abroad, how are we seen by both those around us and those left behind? Kealie made the observation that when you know you are leaving, relationships can be affected, ‘Some people do treat you differently when you’re planning to move abroad, and you also sometimes find yourself treating others differently. I regret that I’ve lost some friends because of it, but it’s a big ask for people to treat you the same when you’re going to be living 5,000 miles away, and I don’t blame anyone for that. Since coming back from my study abroad year I’ve probably been less reluctant to form close friendships, as I know that I’ll be leaving again soon.’

Jess would also agree that the move affects relationships ‘Once we had got there, keeping in touch with friends became difficult. You soon start to realise who makes the effort and who doesn’t’.

People will see you differently, if you are moving why invest in a relationship when you know it may end in the near future? It’s not pleasant, but it’s a horrible side effect of preparing to emigrate.

Francesca mentioned the reaction that people had to her moving ‘People kept telling me I was very brave as it took guts to make a decision like I did. I still don’t see it, though’. For a decision that is mostly driven by many varying factors, this seems to be met with a little bemusement.

While all four recounted that they were met with a lot of curiosity from both home and abroad, there was actually little difference in how they were seen and treated.

If you are thinking of traveling or moving abroad, go for it. We all have doubts about changes in our lives, and, although this is cliché, it is genuinely better to know for sure that something didn’t work out than to not try and wonder if it would have.