Packing up your bags, selling all your belongings, and relocating to the other side of the world is a frightening, exciting, and challenging experience. Not many people have the nerves to just jump up and leave the comfort of their own lives without knowing what lies ahead. In 2013, I (finally) packed up my bags and relocated to Japan for nine months to study in Kyoto. Although I had previously traveled to Japan a few times before and felt rather comfortable in the country, I was pretty nervous about the prospect of meeting new people, not knowing the language, and living in a completely different environment. Here’s a few things that you should know before you go to help you deal with the big change!
It will be a huge culture shock
No matter where you move to, whether it is England, Spain, Japan, North Korea, or what language is spoken in your new country, you will experience a sense of culture shock. Be prepared to embrace the differences – the climate, lifestyle, culture, work life… If you aren’t willing to embrace the change you will spend your experience clouded in a negative bubble. Japan is definitely a country where people experience culture shock, and although I had visited before, living there was a whole different experience. I had to learn to adapt to people wanting to speak english with me, take photos with me because I am blonde, and a whole new cultural lifestyle in regards to eating and going out.
You will eat a different way
My experience in Japan opened my world to a whole different way of eating. Majority of my daily meals began incorporating seaweed, fish, rice, and pickled vegetables, which was something I would only eat in restaurants back home in Australia. You will need to be open to eating a whole new way, because in some countries it will be very difficult to eat the same way you have always known. I had a friend in Japan from Ireland who had never really tried seafood before, and when she came to Japan she still wasn’t open to giving it a go. This really limited the things she could eat and caused her to be quite negative during her time there.
& you will live a different way
Your new apartment or home may be completely different to anything you have known before, and it is something that you should embrace early. I came from living in large houses in Australia with big backyards to a tiny studio apartment in Japan that didn’t even have a lounge and the bed was a mattress on the floor… You are moving overseas to experience a new culture, so why would you want your own home to be the same as what you have always known?
At times it will be very scary…
You won’t have your family around you to look out for you when things do go wrong (because lets face it, things can go wrong no matter where you go). You might have to go see a doctor (who doesn’t speak english), end up in hospital, get really lost, or even run into more serious trouble like getting robbed. It is really frightening feeling all alone when your family is on the other side of the world, but you need to remember that you are on this incredible independent journey, and you can’t always rely on your family – you can do this!
But you will meet the most amazing friends
And I mean lifelong friends! I have already caught up with people all around the world who I met in my time in Japan, and we always keep in touch. It is great bonding with people who are in the same situation as you, as well as the locals.
& see and experience the most amazing things
You’re in a whole new country, you are going to have so much time deeply exploring your new home than you would if you were just a tourist! You will be able to immerse yourself in the culture, maybe learn a new language, tick some things off your bucket list, and experience a country in a completely different way than ever before. The world is your oyster!
Have you ever lived overseas? What was your experience like?