Living abroad : the good and the bad.

It’s been a couple of years that I left France to live in other countries. A lot of people find it inspiring, other quite boring (it’s a trendy thing in our generation), other don’t imagine living their hometown.

Since I am living this experience, I have had so many conversations about preparing your trip, how to adapt yourself in another country, how to speak a language that is not yours, make new friends, build your career… But I think I never listed clearly out loud the positive and negative aspects of it. I spoke a bit about it on my podcast (it’s in this blog if you want to listen to it and are a French speaker).

People have dreamy visions of being abroad. I think it’s a beautiful capacity of our brain and our imagination. We fantasize a lot, creating beautiful boards in our heads about how is it going to be, how we will feel, what we are going to accomplish. It is an amazing process because I think for most of us, it help us make the jump. Actually not only about living abroad but also take a trip on our own, move on from a job, a relationship or try a new hobby.

My entourage really was amazed by my moving to Canada (I was too) and they got even more excited about Miami (USA my life dream become reality). I have been here for a year and I really feel the need to be clear and explicit about what it is to live here. I don’t mean to be pessimistic and discourage people who want to try. I just want to be really honest so the ones of you reading me can have realistic expectations.

Miami is a vibrant city, with a lot of sun, beautiful settings and a big mix of cultures. It is also a city that never stops working, who is very expensive, with bad customer service in almost everything. Miami is unique and I wouldn’t live it. I love my new home and I am proud, me the little girl from Normandy, to have fulfilled my dream to live here before I am 30. Being clear: being here on holidays is not the same as living here. I am not clubbing a lot, going to yacht parties and tanning my ass on the beach every day. What you see on TV and the postal cards are for the tourists. It’s not the reality for the locals. It’s generally 60 hours of work a week and a few times a month to cool down. But I make it work my way and it’s even harder for a lot of other people . Oh and the food is shit and it cost you 400$ to see a doctor when you don’t have a good insurance.

Every city has it specificities, you have to find what suits you. No matter where you go, you will always experience the same things:

The negative sides:

  • Being far away from family and friends. You are going to miss weddings, babies, parties and the daily life pleasures and little comments. Some times are harder than others (holidays, birthdays…) but it also helps to see who are your real friends and which family members you can really count on. I am gone since more than 2 years and I am still talking to friends and family on a daily/weekly basis. It helps cherish the moments you spend with them when you go home.
  • Food : I will be quick here because there is no need to go into details. French food/American food… do I need to say more ?
  • Your culture : sometimes I really miss being understood for my French weird sens of humour, the references to my shows/favorite artists/movies… My culture and my knowledge of it is really something I miss sharing because it can only be understood by my own…or partially by my auditors here… It takes away a bit of the pleasure of sharing it.
  • You can really kill your budget quickly. Be smart on your savings and work as fast as you can to get back on your feet. It’s stressing enough to be abroad, with no money the nightmare can take a whole new dimension.

The positive sides :

  • This is the biggest and more important one to me : you will grow and learn every day about your strength. Because it takes balls to leave everything behind you for something new and completely unknown. You challenge your comfort zone, your relationships, your financial security. It scary as shit. And yet you did it. And you keep doing it and working it. I used to be really anxious about little things. I don’t anymore. Because I look at what I accomplished and I think “hell yeah I moved by myself to 4 countries with almost no money…I can deal with this little shit easily”. You will be even stronger with time, more flexible and resilient. Fucking badass.
  • You will challenge yourself on your professional side: make international contacts, work on projects you would have never done home. If you stay in the country where you immigrate, it will be a good asset to show you know the local culture and you can bring your own vibe. If you come home, you will have even more leveraged on your competitors.
  • You will create a whole new family : your boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, coworkers, your hobbies buddies… You can create the same deep meaningful relationships then when you were home. It takes time and patience to do so because you are not in your familiar place but trust me you can. Surround yourself with people from your tribe, quantity over quality.

I used to have a lot of “fixed” ideas, now I am more open minded. I know I can be home anywhere, I know what matters is to be at peace with myself, have a good health and quality relationships in my life.

The lessons I have learned, I wouldn’t have learned them staying in my home town, with my family around. Because I wouldn’t have met all of the people I met, did my jobs and faced these challenges.

So hell yeah, if you can, move abroad, for 6 months or 6 years. But be aware it is not going to be only a wonderful adventure full of laughs, unicorns and bills floating around. If you just want to have fun abroad and you are not sure about what you want to do, just go on vacation.

If you really move abroad for more than a holiday, be prepared but have fun along the way.

Living abroad

The moments I have spent abroad taught me a lot of things on every level.

I have learnt to be independent, adapt myself to every situation, appreciate moments on my own, take initiatives and organize myself.

Let’s also be honest, I am not going to pretend I have not been scared and did mistakes. I did a lot. I felt stupid a lot of times, I lost myself in many occasions and I have spent money on stupid ways. But that’s the purpose, you do a mistake, so you can learn from it.

You have to take care of everything and every shit that happens, it’s on you. And believe me, shit always happens. But you can’t do anything to plan every second of every day. There are always good and bad surprises that’s life. So, you learn to breath, calm down and accept that a lot of things that you can’t control are going to happen and you will have to accept iT.

Living in another country on my own has taught me to go with the flow and be patient. Generally, when you have problem with a reservation, your rental, your phone or your papers, nothing get solved in a couple of minutes.

Here is a little review of my trips outside of France:

  • After I graduated my Licence degree, I packed a suitcase and a bag and left to discover London in England. It’s because of this trip that I achieved my actual English level. During this year I lived in a small house in a not-really-good but safe neighbourhood with other young people trying to improve their English skills. I have been working as a waitress in a pub, really cliche, with the regulars every night asking for the same amount of beers. I also worked in a clothes shop and since then, I have admiration for people working in this area. There is nothing more annoying than spending 20 minutes folding a pile of clothes and then having a client destroying it in 10 seconds.

Last but not least, I have been a barista in Starbucks and I can honestly say it has been one the toughest jobs I had in my life.

London is an expensive but very nice city to live. There is always a lot of different things to do and once you passed the typical touristic spots, there are amazing little places hidden in every neighbourhood.

What I liked the most is how British people don’t care about the way you are dressed and clothed. People have very different styles and they aren’t scared to do what they want.

A spirit I never found in France. I can’t speak and generalize an entire population but from my experience, English people are very much less judgmental and it’s a release.

  • After this year in a rainy environment (still better than my native Normandy), I chose to go to Spain to also improve my second language. As I have Spanish origins in my family and went to Spain every summer since I was a baby, that was kind of an obvious choice.

I went to the Alicante University, in the province of Valencia and studied in one year my Communication Master’s degree. The classes were really interesting, modern and collaborative. I was the only French, all the classes were in Spanish and we were a very mixed group of students. A part of the class was coming from the city but the majority from different parts of Spain and various countries of South America and East Europe.

It has been very interesting to learn from so many various cultures. Also, Spanish people know how to work hard but also, they know how to party hard, especially in Alicante where you have sun all year around.

What was better than England and very similar to France, was the food. Spain has incredible fresh foods and each province has its own recipes and treats.

I keep as a souvenir a population suffering from the civil war and fighting numerous economic and political problems, but with a ferocious willing to enjoy life.

  • After my master’s degree I stayed in France for two years and a half. During this period, I travelled for short weekends and holidays. I celebrated one of my birthdays in Amsterdam, two New Years in London and I went back to Spain during the summers.

I made two road trips that made me fall in love with North America.

One in Canada for a month by myself: I went to Quebec, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

One to California with friends: LA, San Francisco, Vegas and a lot of small towns in between.

It took me a long time to get there but every time I was in Canada or United States I thought, “I will be back to live here someday’. Which led me in 2017 to my next move in Montreal.

  • May I say the obvious: it has been the coldest year of my life. No one can complain to me about cold except for people who lived in Canada or any country from the North.

I have to endure the all freezing winter but what a human experience. By far Canadian people, Quebecois for the least, are so welcoming, warm and easy to live with.

It stuck in my mind and I repeat all the time now, it’s a cold country but full of warm people.

I have had crazy work experiences and I made friends for life. You have to make tight relationships to endure this type of cold for months (and a lot of alcohol, it helps stay warms, we use the same excuse in Normandy).

Montreal is a really special place because there is a huge mix of different cultures. The city also has two faces, one for the winter that you wouldn’t recognize during the summer. It seems like another planet, everybody is outside all the time and the city teems of activities.

From the beginning I knew this place was going to be temporary for me because my ultimate goal was to go to America. But I am really grateful for the year I spend there and the people that crossed my path.

  • My most recent move is to Miami. As a former Normande who spend a lot of time on rainy and snowy places, I wanted my spot in the sun. I took several trips to Miami during my year in Montreal, I liked the energy and made it my new destination goal.

As I am living here only since a couple of weeks, I will give you guys a feedback in a couple of months. For now, I still feel like a tourist in an adaptation mode, looking all the time for the landmarks I have lost.

To conclude, to each and every one of you that fears to go abroad for a week or a year, just go. Jump and go. It doesn’t matter if it goes how you were expecting it or not. You will learn tons of stuff and you will grow as a person. Of course, to do so, you will have to try and don’t give up when the difficulties are coming to you.

When I was in London, I had a lot of roommates that left after only a couple of weeks because they found it too hard to work with a low English level. I get it. But if you give up and go home where you can speak only French and stay in your comfort zone, how do you expect to improve your language skills?

Believe me, I watch shows in English and Spanish and I read books and articles in those languages. It helps, but it won’t make all the work and won’t make you bilingual. There is nothing more efficient than living in a country to improve your language because you doesn’t give you the choice. You are forced to adapt yourself and get better because you don’t want to feel uncomfortable and stupid all the time.

If you guys want more details or advices about one of the trips I did, just tell me and I will develop more.