How to Move Abroad (Without Losing Your Independence)

I’ve written a post similar to this a long time ago, called How to Move to Another Country (Without Losing Yourself). This is one of my most popular posts to date, and I think it’s because moving to another country changes your life. Sometimes (the times you read about on blogs like this), it’s for the better. You become more educated, more adaptable, more cultured.

But sometimes it changes your life in ways you didn’t imagine, and in ways that you might not really like.

how-to-life-abroad

I’VE BECOME COMPLACENT/DOCILE SINCE I MOVED TO ABROAD. I feel like I am not nearly as independent as I used to be, even though I moved myself to a whole new country and have started a life there.

This isn’t some foreigner-blues, just-need-to-get-settled kind of thing. I’ve lived in this country for almost 3 years in total, and recently realized that this country has made me … docile.

Yes – that’s the perfect word for it.


My situation may be a little different, because I moved abroad not by myself. I was moving TO someone, meaning when I got here, I could (heavily) rely on someone else to show me the ropes (as opposed to someone who moves abroad independently and needs to figure things out for themselves.)

I guess both situations bear their challenges, and that’s why I’m writing this. If you’re like me and have moved abroad for love, or even simply moved abroad to live with someone you know – you might find yourself losing your sense of independence because you have someone else you can rely on.

If you’re in the situation of moving abroad alone, you may be losing your sense of independence in the midst of all the confusion of figuring everything for yourself. When someone explains how something is, maybe instead of questioning it or thinking it through yourself, you just believe them because you’re alone in a new environment.

 

I think it’s strange, because people will tell you that moving abroad is so empowering – and it is (for the most part.)

But sometimes it’s also a little confusing and maybe even intimidating. So much so, that we expats sometimes find ourselves just kind of drifting through, listening to what everyone native to that country is telling us instead of forming our own systems.

When you’re in a new environment and don’t know as much about the culture, language or place, it’s really easy to allow other people/things to dictate our lives.

Either way, it’s possible to lose a sense of independence when you travel or move abroad is something I think a lot of people deal with.

 

cropped-cropped-IMG_8306.jpg

I think the strangest part for me is that I didn’t realize this was happening to me until my sister arrived and spent more time with me here. (I guess it’s because my sister is someone I spend a lot of time in Canada with, and spending a lot of time with her my new country made me realize how different I can be here.)

I have started to notice this in every day experiences like things with my boyfriend, his parents and my job. When they explain to me how things work, I very rarely question it – because how would I know? I’m not Belgian. I’m not “from here”.

What I’ve noticed the most is that this docility isn’t because people are shutting me out or labeling me as a “foreigner who doesn’t know how things work”. It’s mostly in the way I (myself) act because I’m not confident enough in my abilities in this new country. As an example; I hardly ever drive anywhere by myself even though I have a license and regular access to a car. I don’t do this because I’m not as familiar with the rules of the road here, I don’t generally drive standard vehicles and I’m just generally not as confident that I know what I’m doing. 

And I think it’s something I really need to change.

Hence this blog post…maybe you all can keep me a little accountable, here!! I’m going to talk in this post from my own personal standpoint and about things that have changed in my own personality after I moved to another country. But, if any of this sounds familiar to you from when you’ve moved abroad, the “solution” sections may just apply to you, too!
Who knows…maybe we can change together!!



HOW DID MOVING TO ANOTHER COUNTRY MAKE ME LESS INDEPENDENT?

 

I’ve stopped questioning things (even if they seem a little strange to me).
When my boss explains a work policy that differs from the ones I’m used to hearing in Canada, or my mother in law explains how certain garbage can only go in certain garbage containers – I don’t ever look into it for myself anymore. I take people at their word, mostly because they are “from here” and I am not.  Now, taking people at their word…that may be a noble quality…but maybe it’s a naive one, too?

A SOLUTION: I am going to try to research/learn more about how this country works. From things as simple as garbage pick up to things as complicated and diverse as maternity leave entitlements. That’s why on this blog you will start to see a lot more information-based posts about how things work in Belgium.


I’ve completely given up on doing a lot of things by myself. 
Now, this might come from living with a boyfriend, only owning one vehicle and (for the first few months of my life here) having to depend on him and his family for support until I found sustainable work – but this is something that I definitely HAVE to change about my expat lifestyle.

I don’t drive (because most of the cars here are standard and they kind of terrify me) – so most of the places I go, I go with my boyfriend. If I can’t bike or walk there, I generally just wait until my boyfriend has time and we go together. Which is fine, I love spending time with him. But I’ve almost become TOO dependent on him taking me places.

If I go anywhere by myself, it’s via the train, because I hate biking – (and most of the time I venture into the bigger cities instead of exploring my own area) because I haven’t tried to figure out how buses in my little town work.

A SOLUTION: I’m going to actually drive by myself to places I need/want to go. Like the gym. Or the store. See, my boyfriend has actually taught me how to drive our standard car. I’m sure I know how. I just don’t do it, because I don’t feel very comfortable doing it yet.


I’ve (kind of, temporarily) given up on becoming fluent in the language here. 
This one is totally my bad and I’m actually embarrassed about it, especially with posts on this blog with tips about how to learn a language (and even one about learning a language without classes).

I had a lot of motivation in the beginning, I promise. Back in 2013, I was enrolled in a Dutch class 4 days a week and really gave it my all. I passed with an 89. But then I had to move back to Canada for a while, and just never really kept up with it. And learning a language IS NOTHING like riding a bike – because I seem to have forgotten a bunch of the things I’ve learned (simply because I went so long without using the language). It’s like the information just fell out of my brain!!

It’s not entirely immigration’s fault, though. I will be honest, my Dutch practice has seriously gone downhill and because of that, I am just not as motivated to learn as I was when I first got here. This isn’t a normal problem in my day to day life as most of the people I’m surrounded by at home speak English, but it IS a problem when it comes to things like finding work or socializing with people in my small town.

A SOLUTION: I am going to enroll in another Dutch class as soon as I can (post baby), and I am going to actually follow my Rosetta Stone course (that I paid $300 for and hardly ever use). Really, I just want to try harder. Because if I can fix this, I have a feeling I will be a lot less docile here because I will have more freedom to go wherever I want to go or work wherever I want to work without the fear of not being understood or misunderstanding other people.


My anxiety has provoked me into becoming an introvert. 
This one will be a little harder to fix, but I am still confident I can at least work on it! I suffer from an anxiety disorder, and a lot of the time this comes out in me just hiding in my house with my boyfriend, our cats and soon our son. While I absolutely adore this family life I have, I also feel like becoming an introverted house expat has hindered my ability to really build a social life for myself here. I have friends, but most of them speak English and we meet only once a month or so. I don’t know anyone in my own town (other than my boyfriends’ family), and I’ve never really made an effort to change that.

A SOLUTION: This one (like I said before) is a little tricky because I can’t just wish away my anxiety over meeting new people. But I think what I can do is try to be a little more social in the things I do end up leaving the house to do. Like getting back into my pole dancing classes, yoga classes and maybe attending some mommy-and-me classes in the future to meet other moms in my area. I think I could make more of an effort to make friends in these places, so that when I go to them I am forced to be a little more social.

Ontario, Canada

And just so I am clear about how moving to another country has also changed my life for the positive – here are 3 of the biggest ways moving abroad has made me MORE independent. (Because I can’t just do a completely negative post!!!)

  • Moving abroad made me way more accountable for my finances, meaning I rely a lot less on my parents to help out.
  • Moving abroad made me separate myself from my family, which sounds difficult (and it was at times) but it taught me that I can build my own life and don’t need to live the same lives as everyone else around me.
  • Moving abroad allowed me to leave a career that I wasn’t happy with. I thought I wanted to be a social worker because of one event in my life, one person that I had crossed paths with – and I lived a lot of my early life thinking I had to be a social worker to do right by them. And I didn’t realize how unhappy I was with the work until I left it to travel.

 

capture

Share This:

Travel Pray Love

Canadian travel & immigration blogger.

18 Replies to “How to Move Abroad (Without Losing Your Independence)

    1. Oh, I am so glad it’s relatable! Sometimes it’s really hard to write about stuff like this because I wonder if I’ll be able to explain it properly or if anyone feels the same way. So I’m really happy to hear when it hits home for people. Thanks for reading!! xx

  1. What a great piece!

    I have lived in London and now I am in Vancouver, I am good at being alone. I am independent enough that I have to do things like understand where I am, how public transport works, how the banks work…how jobs work! But i am getting through it.

    I think ultimately, I am trying to be wise with my money. I am putting myself out there to grow, to build my resume (i am working at the Van city xmas market for 8 weeks in guest services/marketing- a career i started in when I moved to London.

    The way I see it, London led me here. Because too many chains have got me here (including who I am staying with-i wouldn’t have known her if I hadn’t done London), so I am letting the universe guide me but still trying to determine what my journey is.

    But I keep traveling, I keep learning and trying to do more than i did back home. In a life I wasn’t happy with. So that’s what keeps me going.

    1. That sounds incredible, Toni! I’ve always wanted to experience Van city during the holidays – and to actually be a part of working in that?! That’d be awesome.
      I’m so glad you’re still able to find your independence through all that! 🙂

  2. This is such a great post!! In the summer I basically lived with my boyfriend in Scotland I made hardly any effort to see other people, make friends or do anything because every moment together was precious. When I move there next year I know I have to be so careful to not fall into that again and make an actual life for myself there, not just a life in his bubble or with everything connected to him! So hard though, when you move to be with someone you love :).

    1. It’s so hard! Especially when you’re long distance or you’re not sure how much time you have together – a part of you just kind of sinks into that other person because you’ve missed them so much! I totally get it – I hope when you move there next summer it’ll be easy for you to get out there more! 🙂

  3. Can completely relate! I don’t have a docile personality, and like you was independent at “home.” But I’m a different version of myself in France and not all of the traits are positive oes. Will be sharing on FB 😉

    1. Thanks, Diane! It’s really strange, to see those other sides of yourself, and there will definitely be things that you don’t like (as well as some things you do!) Glad it’s so relateable – thanks for sharing/reading! xx

  4. I really connected with this post! After I´ve moved to my now husband´s country, I´ve become so dependent of him that I sometimes feel like a shadow of myself. It is not his fault, but it still is something I have to struggle with and not accept it because the way I often let him lead the way (even when we are not in his country anymore) is kindda unhealthy. I am really glad to have found this article – it feels better that I am not alone! 🙂

    1. That’s totally how I feel! I didn’t really realize it until my sister (from my “home” country) came to visit us and she pointed out how different I was here. And some of it is positive (like I eat healthier, save more money, etc) but a huge part of it is that I don’t do much without my boyfriend or his knowledge of me doing it and that’s not healthy! We’re our own people, still! I’m glad the post made sense to you and I hope we can both work on this! 🙂 xo

  5. Wow you sound just like me. Im having these exact same problems. I’m taking a great deal of comfort with your blog. Thank you.

  6. Hello! I am so happy I’ve found this blog. My boyfriend is in the US Army and is being sent to Belgium for a 3 year assignment. I am a school teacher and I am seriously thinking of making the move from California to Belgium to teach overseas. It’s a huge step and I’ve never thought I would ever do anything like this. Your blog has been inspiring! Thank you!

    1. Wow, well welcome Amy!! So happy you have found me, too! I can imagine your world is a bit upside down at the moment but I promise it can work. I loved moving abroad to Belgium. Sure, there are times where it was very difficult and cost a bit of money but it strengthened our relationship and totally broadened my entire world view. I hope it works out for you and your military man. Please let me know by email if you have any questions or just want to chat about it (travelprayloveblog@gmail.com) or reach out if you decide to make the move – I would love to meet for coffee and a delicious Belgian waffle.
      😉

Leave a Reply