It's not all photo back drops and gelato stops!
This Essay article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Moving abroad is the epitome of testing all your boundaries. It's the embodiment of stepping out of your comfort zone and understanding the world by actually going out and living it.
I should know. I've lived in seven different cities in five different countries.
After moving to and from South and North America in my teens, I wanted to go ABROAD, abroad. So, I went to London in February 2018 and never looked back.
Though London was amazing, eventually, Rome became my home.
After four years in Europe, I always get questions about living the 'European lifestyle'. Often, people also bring up my learning curves and the experiences from travelling to so many countries.
It's not all English breakfasts and afternoon tea, or pasta and wine in the sunset; those are luxuries only tourists can afford every day.
When you move somewhere, you have to embrace adulting, thanks to small matters like work, rent, socializing, etc.
Here are a few essential things that I wish I had been more prepared for before making these moves.
Find out how the healthcare system works where you are moving
Health systems vary in each country and the way you apply for eligibility is completely different. Yes, there is universal healthcare in European countries, – but you need to prove that you actually live or study in the country in order to receive it. Tourists still need to pay if they see a doctor or take a trip to the hospital. Tourists should consult travel agents for travel insurance options for better health coverage.
You might need to pay taxes, and in some countries, people do it by themselves.
You'll do yourself a massive favour if you research the tax policies and how things work, come tax season in the country you are moving to.
I always had an accountant do my taxes in the United States, so I was surprised to learn that in the UK and France, people do their own taxes. However, there are still accountants you can go to, and they can help you with the unfamiliar systems in another country.
What transportation systems are like in the city so you can move around easily
Not all transportation services are created equal.
London has plenty of sources for moving around – besides their public transportation system, which is stellar! Rome, on the other hand, offers street taxis more than anything else, while there are also train and bus services available, though neither are very reliable or on time.
While Uber was very useful in London, it is not so much in Rome. Everyone in Rome uses taxis instead of anything else, and they're a lot more cost-effective. A 15-minute journey in an Uber in Rome once cost me 45 euros, while in a cab it cost me 15.
Every country has its nuances, so find out what your city, town, or village offers, and prepare accordingly.
Some days you will miss home
There will be days when you think, "Is this really my life?!" You'll feel truly lucky to be living your experience.
There will also be days when you want to be home, with loved ones, doing the things you once took for granted. Even if it's just sitting around the living room, watching TV and eating a homemade meal cooked by your mom. It gets hard if you're not able to make it home for Thanksgiving; maybe it's not even celebrated where you live.
Get ready, because nostalgia kicks in, and it's normal. All immigrants feel it sometimes.
A hug from mom or dad is irreplaceable, even if you're living your European dream.
You're going to need a sim card, and it's not always easy to buy one
Be ready to purchase a sim card, but first, you have to figure out if sim cards are sold in regular convenience stores and shops. Sometimes, you have to register and buy one from a phone and internet provider, instead.
In London, it's quite easy. You can either get a sim card by buying it at the shop or drug store and activating it online and choose a pay-as-you-go, or you can start a contract with a phone and internet service provider. They do require proof of employment, address, and a few more details, though.
In Italy, they don't have the option of buying a pay-as-you-go sim card in any shop (like in London). You need to go to a telephone company and they assign a specific one to you as a 'tourist'. If you want internet and wifi on your phone, they require numerous documents including a bank account in the country.
Give yourself a deadline
Unless you are already going with a timeframe in mind (six months, a year, etc.), moving abroad involves a lot of challenges. One has to navigate the process by understanding visa permissions, job requirements, house hunting, etc.
It's okay to give yourself a deadline based on savings, lifestyle and wellbeing. Give yourself the chance to be in the country and do everything that you can to stay, if that is really what you want. But also give yourself legroom and space to look at other alternatives if it doesn't work out for you, especially if you are on a visa that limits the time you can be in Europe.
Embrace the culture no matter what
Adapting to local customs, foods, beliefs, lifestyles and to different surroundings can be a process. And it's not always an easy one. But many people would love to be in your shoes and live in another country, whether for six months or five years. So embrace the culture, your surroundings and the people.
Soak in this experience. There is so much to learn from moving abroad and only those of us who have done it can understand that you really do come out a completely different person. Here’s to the adaptable ones!
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