Early in my professional career I was given the opportunity to work abroad in England for a two-year assignment. My decision to take this assignment has been the best decision, greatly impacting my life. Yet at the beginning of my journey, when the opportunity was in front of me, I hesitated.
What stopped me from immediately saying yes?
For starters, I had never been to England, so I had a million questions running through my mind. For anyone considering travel to a foreign country, I suspect you will have very similar questions racing through your head.
- Will I be safe to live alone in a foreign country?
- What happens if there is a family emergency back at home?
- What type of food will there be?
- Will I establish friendships?
- How much is rent?
- What transportation options do I have locally?
- Is this a good time to move?
- How will I sell my house?
- How will I stay connected with family and friends?
- What if I don’t drink tea?
I was fortunate that my employer offered me a "look-see trip.” This was an opportunity to visit the office, meet my prospective colleagues, tour the city, look for housing and answer many of my questions before actually moving there. After this initial trip I only had one more question: would I regret things later if I decide to stay home? YES! You only live once; let’s go abroad!
My assignment was extended numerous times at my request and after four years, I returned back to the USA permanently. I was a changed person with a new personality and global perspective. My family relationships were stronger as our limited time together became precious quality time. When I lived abroad current technology options such as international text messaging, FaceTime, Instagram, FaceBook, and Snapchat did not exist. Technology has made great strides recently, which is usually to the advantage of travelers. My only communication options to the USA, when in England, were a landline telephone or email. Seriously.
My advice to anyone preparing to live abroad:
- Enjoy the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes.
- Soak up culture and social norms that are found in daily living to find hidden treasures about where you are.
- Take a quick read through country history and current political climate before you go.
- Be modest, respectful, and curious.
- Learn about historical events and other countries' perspectives
- Appreciate your work/life balance
- Think about your spending in local cost of living norms
- Re-frame your perspective: British do not drive on the “wrong” side of the road - they drive on the “other” side of the road
Are you still struggling to decide: should I stay or should I go?
Let me ask you. What is the worst-case scenario? Perhaps you don't have the best experience, but you've had a new experience.
It will change you. It will inspire you.
You might even encounter my favorite lesson; that a cuppa tea with a friend really does solve all of life’s problems.