25 Things They Don’t Put in the Life Abroad Brochure

This post is especially for those of you on the cusp of the BIG MOVE. What an exciting time, right? Packing the bags. Selling the stuff. Applying for visas. Family farewells.

There is a wealth of expectation-setting information out there and a ton of draw-you-hither messages promising the adventure of a lifetime.

“Make a difference!”

“Impact people!”

“Change the world!”

Pay attention. Soak it up. Take it in.

But just in case no one else thinks to mention them.


Here are 25 things that often get passed over on the front end.


1. Some days the most adventurous thing you’ll do is wash dishes.

It’s true. Life happens and when it does, someone still needs to clean up. Sorry.

2. You’re not the smartest person in the whole country.

Take a breath. Sit down if you need to. You will definitely FEEL like you know more than anyone around you simply because they are obviously doing EVERYTHING all wrong. Give it some time and it will become clear. Everyone is not dumb.


3. You can’t do little stuff

Like simple stuff. Easy stuff. Stuff you’ve been doing since forever. Stuff like buying cucumbers and saying words. Things you’ve taken for granted may very well seem out of reach. (Secret sauce? — give it some time)


4. You can’t do big stuff either

All the visions of grandeur that you come in packed and loaded with take time too. Here’s a tip — Learn to buy cucumbers first, then change the world.


5. You should embrace ignorance

Only (and I mean this sincerely) because you are . . . ignorant that is. Horribly. Painfully. You just don’t know — and that’s ok. In fact, it’s beautiful. You’re not supposed to know yet. You will know later . . . but NOT if you THINK you know now. Why would you even try to learn what you think you already know? Does that make sense?

Read it again.

And then embrace ignorance.


6. You were right about everything

You’ll probably notice this one right off the bat. Every stereotype. Every presupposition. Every assumption you have ever made about this place and these people is absolutely true.

Pat yourself on the back.


7. You were wrong about everything

There had to be a catch didn’t there? Keep looking. Keep watching. There is always more to it and even though your stereotypes were spot on they were also SO incomplete.

Don’t stop learning.


8. This is going to pound the snot out of everything you hold dear

Faith? Stretched. Politics? Pounded. Values? Challenged. Lenses? Changed.

Living abroad messes things up. Maybe you should have stayed home.


9. Your worst You is coming

Like really. The You that you’ve been hiding from everyone is likely to show up at some point in this endeavor. Exhaustion. Isolation. Grief. Frustration. Language barriers. Confusion. Total incompetence. They all have a way of pulling out our worst traits. If this is your main concern — skip to number 25.


10. Issues travel

Think you’re escaping your worst habits? Moving abroad to fix your marriage? Turning over a new leaf in a new country? Maybe think again.

click here to read about how moving abroad fixes all your issues . . . and other lies


11. Issues inflate

Life abroad is the great inflator. Issues not only travel with you they expand under the stress of your new normal.


12. Foreign people can be irritating

They really are. They stare. They ask ridiculous questions. They invade your space and say stupid things.


13. You’re the foreigner now

See number 12.


14. Community is addictive

There is something super-uber-rich about life in community. Needy people smashed together produce amazing relationships.

click here to find out why Expats  love community and struggle to find it again


15. Community is annoying

Needy people smashed together is also a recipe for ZERO personal space. Everybody in your business. Hard to keep a secret. “He said that she said that you said.” Brace yourself.


16. Community is really hard to reproduce

Just in case you get any fancy ideas about trying to make a carbon copy of the beautiful community that you experience when you move on to the next place . . .  you should know  . . .  every community experience is unique.

Let it be.


17. The Exodus is coming

Expats leave. A lot. Sometimes in herds. Goodbyes are a hard reality of life abroad.

click here to find out why expats hate June


18. There is nothing in the world better than a cardboard box

Goodies from home light up the whole week. Plant those seeds now in the people who are most likely to send them.


19. You can love two places

You don’t have to stop loving your passport country to love your host. Vice versa . . . multiplied by as many countries as you live in.


20. Time does not always equal wisdom

Expat veterans know stuff. But 20 years of pompous ethnocentrism is not the well you want to be drawing from. Choose your mentors wisely.


21. You’re not going to be that excited about learning a language three months from now

Learning a new language is most exciting before you begin. Push through the dip. Stick with it even when it’s the most frustrating part of your existence.


22. You’re probably going to act like an idiot

Just wrap your head around that. Tuck it away until it happens. Then come back and read the next line . . .



23. This is going to change you

You ready for that? It is. You will never be the same.


24. Time doesn’t stand still

Guess what. All those people at home . . . the ones you’re saying goodbye to. They don’t stay the same either.


25. Grace changes everything

Some days it will be all you have. If you can’t give people grace when they frustrate, irritate, annoy or otherwise bug you, you might just go crazy. If you can’t give yourself grace . . . you definitely will.

You got this.

Now . . . go change the world.



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Jerry Jones

Jerry lives in China with his beautiful blended family. He is a trainer, a speaker, an adventurer, a culture vulture and an avid people watcher. He writes about all of that at www.thecultureblend.com

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