The first year living abroad, what is happening?

I moved abroad for love, some move for work and others because they are travelers. And living abroad is something different, something on a whole new level of experience. I wasn’t completely new to the country; I knew his family, most of his friends and their culture, but it was not easy. Not everything will go as planned and that is fine. So what does change?

The culture shock
Even when Dutch moves to Belgium, there will still be a culture shock. Probably not that big, but every country is different and has its own culture, habits and way of life. In the beginning I had thoughts like: ‘Oh hell no why would you do that’ or ‘In my country we do it like this…’.
Some natives will agree with you or are very interested in the way you think. But my advice is: just adapt and let it go. If you don’t adapt you will get annoyed by the smallest things that are happening around you.

‘New country, new city…
new everything!’

The language
I have problems with the Macedonian language. I can write it, I can read it, I can understand around 70% of it, but (oh dear lord) the talking. It seems I completely black out when I forget just one word, it’s very upsetting. Most expats apparently learn the language very easily and I am jealous if you are one of them.

I was so tired the first two months, I tried to learn everything I saw. Trying to make a home of something that is so new to you takes effort. I moved in with my boyfriend, to a new country, new city… new everything! I complained to some Dutch people that I was so tired and I didn’t know why, they started laughing and explained that it is normal when you move abroad. Because you want to pay attention to every little detail around you.

It takes a lot of time to learn another language and just talk like the natives talk, and I wanted that from the moment I arrived in Macedonia, silly ha? It also takes time to get used to your new surrounding. The one thing I learned: be patient. You will get there, just try to talk whenever you can and have fun.

Homesick and loneliness
Was I ever homesick? Yes rarely, but yes. Did I felt lonely? Yes, that happens. It happens when your best friend tells you she is pregnant, and you can’t be there for her. It happens when a relative dies, and you cannot be there to support your family (worst thing ever). You feel all of a sudden so distant from your home. Can your new friends and family help? No, they won’t understand what you’re feeling. And exactly that is the point you start feeling lonely.

But how harsh it sounds: this was your decision, you chose to go abroad and these are some of the consequences. Now of course every expat has thought about this, but for some people the feeling ‘lonely’ can come as a surprise. And it is something you have to deal with for some time. The same goes for homesick; sometimes you just want to go home right? Well just remind yourself why you took this step? For me that always helps.

‘It didn’t feel like home’

Home? Home!
That moment when you realise your old home doesn’t feel like home anymore, but your new home does. That can take a while for some, and for some expats they feel at home within a week. For me it took about four months that I realised my new home in Skopje, feels like home.

I went back to the Netherlands for a week and I noticed it didn’t feel like home, it was home, but not home home (you get me right?). No, my new home is in Skopje now. When you are starting a new life, a new chapter, it is important that you know you made the right decision, and that feeling will confirm it.

Change of personality?
Did I change that much as they say you will when you move abroad? Honestly, not according to me or people who knew me from before I moved abroad. My personality stayed the same, I just gained more experience, and an experience not every person gets to have, which I am very grateful for. The only thing that did change is that I care less about what people think of me and what I do. But that’s a good thing in daily life!

8 thoughts on “The first year living abroad, what is happening?

  1. Hey Girl,

    I just want to tell you that your blog is awesome. I have a colleague (girl from Amsterdam) of mine here in Skopje. She works here and she’s by her self. If you feel homesick maybe she will be a good company for you 🙂 if you want I can connect you.

    p.s. Keep the good work here writing

    1. Hey Nikola,

      Thanks for your feedback! I always like to meet Dutch people here in Macedonia and hear their stories 🙂

  2. “Can your new friends and family help? No, they won’t understand what you’re feeling. And exactly that is the point you start feeling lonely.”

    I understand this SO MUCH! I have lived in Italy for 7 months teaching English to children. Its amazing and wonderful but…its really hard. I went home for the summer and returned 2 and a half weeks ago. It is not as hard as the first time, in fact everything is going right. But I just had to miss one of my dear friends weddings and there is always that feeling, that life is going on without you at home and you are missing it. I couldn’t go back but it is the greatest sacrifice. Sorry to spew feelings at you, I just think you might understand. Did you ever find it hard to make true friends? I find that the language barrier (even when you know some of it) really slows the process down. Anyway thanks for at least being a person who understands!

    1. Hi Sarah, I know exactly what you mean that their lives are going on without you and you are missing out on everything. Although you are trying hard to stay in touch and be up to date, but its different. My two best friends both got their first child, and I feel like I’m missing out on everything!!
      True friends are always hard to make, I know my best friends for over 15 years. I don’t think I will ever have a true best friend here, but I have a lot of friends over here with who I can have a great time which is fine for now. I don’t have that much issues with the language barrier because everyone that I know is fluent in English (thank god), but it can be an issue when they are joking around with each other. I don’t have the slightest clue about what they are joking… awkward. And btw feel free to spew feelings to me, I’m glad to we both can understand each other in this 🙂

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