16 Things That Change When You Live Abroad

1. The hardest part is making the decision to go. — After weeks of teetering, “should we or shouldn’t we?, once you finally say “yes”, you realize it’s just to get on with it and take each hurdle as it comes. Then you wonder why on Earth it took you so long to decide in the first place.

2. Your family of four instantly becomes the four musketeers. — You depend on each other, especially in the beginning. Evenings and weekends once again become real family time with lovely family day trips – discovering your new world together.

3. You learn that home is wherever your family is. — Over time, you come to realize that you can find happiness and make a good life just about anywhere as long as you have each other.

4. You become an expert at hellos and good-byes. — While you make new friends in your new country, you wear an invisible shield of armour – one that you don’t realize is there, because you know that one day soon, you will need to part ways. It’s a form of self-preservation in ways, one that perhaps your new friends cannot understand unless they have lived abroad themselves.

5. Genius becomes defined as juggling annual tax season in two countries simultaneously. — There is only one word for American tax season, “paperwork”, plus “OMG, more paperwork”.

6. Applications and forms take on a whole new meaning. — Same as above, but you can add another OMG to that!

7. You find yourself mixing languages. — Especially when you live in a household with two languages at all times. “Please pass the hallonsylt, snälla?” Or “Do you want gräddfil with that?”

8. Your accent changes depending on who you are talking to. — In the US, I apparently sound somewhat English, though I’m sure a hint of North Carolinian twang is in there somewhere. My English friends in Sweden laugh at that and when I meet my family in Canada, it goes right back to good ol’ Canadian again. I’m just waiting for someone to mistake my accent for real Göteborgska. Stop laughing now – it could happen!

9. Longing for home is never satisfied. — Even when you visit, you know your visit is only temporary. It’s sweet while you are there. You indulge in all the things you’ve missed while abroad; the food, the people, the scenery, but then the itch to get back to your new world comes creeping into your skin again. Then #4 comes calling again.

10. You become more patriotic abroad. – Everything is wonderful about your home country; the food, the people, the landscape, the culture. You nearly have a coronary when you see a packet of Singoalla, or Kalles Kaviar on a store shelf. Not only do you grab every single one but you try to order more.

11. You discover that your very Swedish husband’s Spotify playlist is now dotted with country music. — Yes, I believe it was the Keith Urban concert in NC that was the culprit. I’m sure somewhere hidden in our unpacked boxes there lurks a cowboy hat waiting to be donned!

12. The simplest task becomes a monumental challenge. — Try walking into a shop without being bombarded with “hello, can I help you find something.” Let me at least get through the door… please. Ordering “milk” in a fast food restaurant isn’t something to be taken lightly either – at least not when you ask for it with a Swedish accent. I was the translator on site – I asked for it with my Canadian accent. No problem. Now my husband knows how I feel in Sweden when I ask for something (in Swedish) and they just stare blankly as if I’ve spoken Russian. Hello!

13. Going home doesn’t feel quite the same anymore. — While you’ve been living a harried life with a constant set of new challenges and cultural changes, everything back home feels as though it’s stayed the same. Nothing has changed while you have changed in ways you can’t even define.

14. You discover who your real friends are. While friends come and go, there are those amazing people in your life who don’t take notice of the ocean between you. It is something you will always be grateful for.  And what a lovely surprise when you realize the seed of a friendship that began in your new world continues to blossom once you’ve moved away.

15. Things are just things and people are just people wherever you go — no better, no worse, just different, even though some customs hit the weird list easier than others.

16. You feel like a real Viking — When you return to your home country again, you realize that you could do it all over again, that you want to do it all over again – only somewhere new – that there’s no mountain you can’t conquer. Hear me roar, I am Thor!

/Susan

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