10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving Abroad

It has been one year since I moved abroad. One year ago, I didn’t have any friends, didn’t have a place to live or a job, and didn’t speak the language of my new home. Did I have romanticized visions of what life would be like in Germany? One hundred percent. Has it been difficult? Yes. Is it the best decision Vinn and I have ever made? Yes.

When Vinn was given the offer to move to Germany on a three-year work assignment, we were given support from the company. We had people to answer our questions and resources in Germany to help us find a place to live and get all of our paperwork in order. Even with all this help, there were certain things that I didn’t even know to ask! If you’re thinking about moving to another country, even for a month or two, here are 10 things I wish I knew before moving abroad.

moving abroad

  1. Even the small things will cause you grief. Setting up internet is difficult everywhere, but add a language barrier to the mix and it is a complete nightmare. Day-to-day life will be hard, from converting F to C, to working the washing machine and taking the public transit. Things that used to take seconds now take minutes and usually end in tears. I never thought about how doing laundry would be in a new country, but now that I have to do it, I’ve learned that I need to plan my laundry much more in advance because it takes so much longer.
  2. You will experience all emotions in one day. And like above, emotions will run high every single day. In one day, I felt amazing because I understood the woman behind the bakery counter and two hours later felt sad because I wanted to call my mom and tell her something but couldn’t because it was 4 in the morning in the States. And then when Vinn would come home, I’d feel frustrated because he was so happy and content with his job, while I had no career direction. Not all days will be great and not all days will be bad, but it will be everything at once.
  3. Missing home will take a life of its own. Of course, I miss my friends and family. But I never thought I would miss certain things, the little things. I miss Starbucks drive-thrus, Target, Panera, Whole Foods hot bar, Miller Lite and Target. Yes, Target twice. I can’t express how much I miss Target! I just miss having a one-stop-shop for things for home, clothes and food. But, my wallet is certainly happy it’s not here.
  4. Be prepared to do more paperwork than you ever could have imagined. Applying to college has nothing on the paperwork you need to do when you move abroad. I had no idea I would need my marriage license for everything or that I would need a residency permit on top of a working permit. It’s important to understand that each country has different rules for different things and to be as prepared as possible for all procedures.
  5. You will learn who your real friends are. It takes effort to stay in touch no matter where you live, but moving to a new continent is a whole new ballgame. I have learned who my real friends are because they are the people who reach out to me and the ones I reach out to. My friendships have gotten much deeper and it’s nice to know that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
  6. Being a “traveling spouse” is tough. In our relationship, I am definitely the more dominant one. Not in a bad way, more just the one who expresses her opinion more and has more opinions in general. Moving abroad for my husband and being considered a “traveling or accompanying spouse” is difficult, much more than I thought. Sometimes I have felt like a second class citizen, like the time Vinn had to sign my work permit because all the paperwork is in his name or the time our insurance would only talk to him because he is the one working to get the benefits. I thought it would amazing to not work, and while it has its advantages, I’ve had a hard time finding my place in our new normal. I’ve always been driven and focused on what I want to do, so it’s hard to come to terms that it’s difficult to not have a career focus.
  7. You don’t need as much stuff as you think. It’s probably obvious that European apartments are smaller than American apartments. But what I didn’t know is what I would need wardrobes because German apartments don’t have closets! I purged a lot of stuff before we came but still couldn’t fit everything into a wardrobe and a dresser. Minimalism is real, ya’ll.
  8. Double the time anyone says. If someone says it will take a month to find an apartment, it will take two. If the waiter says it will be 5 minutes before a table opens, it will probably take twenty. I had no idea that it would be so difficult to get the correct information from people, but, similar to building a house, when moving abroad, things take much longer than anyone thinks. I wish someone had prepared me for how long things would take, especially when it came to finding a place to live!!
  9. Culture shock is real. Part of our package when moving here included culture training. While it was good to learn, I didn’t really think that I would experience it that much. Well, let me tell you, as someone who has been through it, culture shock is real, real, real. As with going through all the emotions in one day, I felt great for a while, and then felt sad, and then felt like I wanted to go home. It is real. And if I had been more prepared, I feel like I could have handled it better. I’m here to tell you that, yes, culture shock is real, you will experience it, it does suck, but you will get through it. And it is definitely harder to come back to Germany after being back in the States for an extended period of time. But by focusing on the positives of your life abroad, you can get through anything.
  10. You will not regret it. I talked to people who moved abroad for their jobs, but not as many people who moved abroad for their spouses. Of course, moving abroad is great for one’s career, but is it really great for one’s family? I wasn’t sure if I would regret moving and leaving behind my career, my friends and my family. I am here to tell you that this experience is once-in-a-lifeimte. If you have the opportunity to move abroad, do it! The positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

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