expat life

Expat life – beginners guide to relocation

Preparation period – college

I started my “relocating around” life at 18, when I left home for college. First time out of my provincial home town and out of my comfort zone. Quite a shock, for that time: a much larger city, new and weird colleagues, sharing a room with four others, having to cook for oneself or to wash my clothes – in other words, slowly becoming an adult.

Expat life – the USA experience

4 years later, an even greater shock: leaving my home country and moving, by myself, halfway across the world, to USA. First time in a foreign country, first time flying, first encounter with a capitalist society, first time looking for a job while trying to speak a foreign language I hardly knew……Well, you know, the cultural shock of an Eastern European moving to the West and stepping into the complex world of global mobility.

Relocating to my home country

4 years on, returning to my home country proved to be no piece of cake. After the experience as expat  you’re not the same person anymore, but everything around you seems to be stuck in time. You feel a stranger among your own peers and that’s when you start realizing how much you’ve changed. In some aspects, re-relocating proved to be even more challenging than the initial move abroad.

Another expat exposure – Scandinavia

But, hey, life is too short to be stocked in the same place? So, 4 year later, another move abroad, another expat adventure, this time going Nord, towards Scandinavia. You would think it gets easier with experience, but different challenges are there every time. Each new place has its own particularities and cultural shock is a real thing. Of course, your adaptability level is much higher, but there is still a process of integration, even if on speed-dial.

For tips and tricks about Denmark and the Nordic countries, see my next article Moving to Denmark – what you should know and expect

Where am I now? Back to my home country, to be more precise, back to my provincial home town. How do I feel after 12 years of relocating across the globe?

That I am where I should be, wherever I am!

The beginners guide to relocation or what I wish I’d knew before moving abroad:

  • You can run, but you can’t hide! A new place will definitely influence you. It will push your limits, it will break your comfort, it will enrich you, it will challenge your beliefs… But it won’t do the one thing you probably want the most: it won’t solve your inner problems. Wherever you go, it’s still you, or, as a friend described it: you can be as depressed on a tropical island as you were in your cubical, back in the big city.
  • You will be homey everywhere and in any conditions: 2 nights in the same hotel room, and the feeling of normality kicks in or living out of a suitcase for months won’t seem a big deal. And, yes, you’ll learn how to pack efficiently, how to buy only the things you actually need and how to live a minimalist lifestyle.
  • You will loose people along the way, friends or lovers. And it will hurt…a lot! But then, you will also gain trust in humanity: you’re going to get help from complete strangers or establish deep connections over a cup of coffee, in a rainy afternoon. You’ll learn to say goodbye without regrets or sadness and to move on without looking back.
  • Your national identity will become a blur, a mix-up of traditions and cultural dogmas. You won’t belong anywhere, but, in the same time, you will belong everywhere. Discussing with some friends (she’s Brazilian, he’s Dutch, living in Denmark, at that time), the only logical conclusion we could reach was that a new country should be created: a country for and with expats, where we might stand a chance to feel at HOME.
  • Expat life is damn hard! Looking back, I don’t know if I would do it all over again, but in the meantime, I wouldn’t change a thing! Totally worth it, but damn hard!


Want to know how to integrate a dog in your expat life? Check out my article: Best tips for moving abroad with a dog

Also, if you’re looking for inspiration and good advice, I recommend you this great book: Living abroad Successfully: What, When, Where, How.

Photo credit Rodion Kutsaev https://unsplash.com/@frostroomhead?photo=IJ25m7fXqtk

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