What’s the difficult part of living abroad? How I addressed them?
Ahhh, Paris— the most romantic city, filled with arts, rich in culture, and the City of Lights. Everyone around me sounded sooo sexy! Everywhere I look— I am awestruck with beauty, sophistication, and glamour. I have an overwhelming feeling of genuine admiration to this new place that I am gradually calling, my new home.
Truth be told, my first few months was tough. I was not HAPPY. I wasn’t feeling the magic of the city can bring to other thousands of people who wanted to come or live here. I was borderline depressed. Like, I can’t count the times I cried with Frenchie about this.
If you know me personally, I’m a very positive and happy person. And moving to a new country and starting my life all over again was already rooted in my DNA since 2006. It was never an issue or a problem for me to pack my bags and leave everything behind. In fact, I always look forward to a new beginning in a foreign place because it gives me a feeling of liberation.
It’s the chance for me to reinvent myself once again— my daily routines, my wardrobe style, my healthy habits, or just simply do a much better version of me!
What’s not to love about that part of living abroad?!
Well, France was a different move. It was something deeper. It was something I needed to do— but it took out all of my energy and time, just to get here. Hello, thirdworldpassportholder! It was more or less a sacrifice from my part. That perhaps some of you can relate with me.
You see, I came from sunny-summer Brazil before I moved here last December, in the middle of cold winter. I hate winter(!) I’m not a fan of snow and neither am I a fan of layering my clothes. I hate not seeing and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. So that was already a big turn-off from my part.
I also resigned from a job that gave me a love-and-hate-relationship with teaching, but still made me very fulfilled as a human being and as an educator. To leave behind a career that sustained me and gave me financial freedom is most likely the topmost reason why I wasn’t happy about my move here. I know I can find a job here. And I did eventually got a job offer, but was turned down because my working permit took sometime to process. Ahhh, just the bureaucracy of French government policy. But how can I complain if they will give me the best medical care and social security in the planet?! 😍
The sexiness of the French language only had it’s magic on me for the first few weeks. When the potion died down and faced with reality that I can’t speak it, I got frustrated. Although again, this wasn’t my first time to live in a foreign-speaking country— Chinese as the most difficult language and Portuguese, second. Yet those two languages and countries embraced my lack of, or almost zero language skills with light humor and fascination. Here, the Frenchies couldn’t care less and I have been raised with eyebrows in some occasion for my funny attempt to communicate with them in French. I don’t like to generalize the Parisians to be snobs because of that tiny detail. Let me be clear with that.😜
What about my social life in Paris? Well, my social life evolves with my husband, a.k.a. Frenchie. We are both grateful that we now share the same geography and bed, because four years of LDR was just long. I am happy to explore, discover, and make a lot of FIRSTS with him in this romantic city. It’s all very valuable and genuinely unique to have that in our relationship and marriage. But there are times that I wished I had a group of girlfriends and gay biatches that I can also hang out with. Because friendship made it even more meaningful, inspiring, and fun to navigate your way in a new foreign land.
I came to France several times before moving here. I had more or less an idea of what my life would be like, almost channeling myself as Julia Child— going every morning to a boulangerie for freshly made baguette, buying fresh produce from the farmer’s market, eating my heart out to yummy French dishes, cooking those great dishes in my own kitchen, and immersing myself in the art & culture history to get inspirations. Reality is, she probably had it easy or maybe, I wasn’t as adventurous as her. Or perhaps, I was focusing too much on my misery rather than addressing some solutions to my problems.
So I’m glad to report that on this day, March 1st, I am back to my happy state and inspired self, once again. It’s a relief on my part, but mostly from Frenchie because he felt that how come his effort of support, love, patience, and guidance were not good enough to help me.
Truth of the matter is, it was all on me. “It’s not you. It’s me.”😊
The sad truth of living abroad is not about the place, it’s not about the people, and it’s not about the language. It’s all about how receptive you are to the circumstances and changes of your own self while living in that foreign land.
Especially, if it was ultimately YOUR CHOICE to move somewhere.
Do you feel sad in your new place? Think of how lucky you are and how difficult it was for you to get there. I made the excuse of winter time to feel sad because I was lazy to go out in the cold, much more to get up from bed. I made excuses of exploring new neighborhood because I was dreading to put on layers of clothes. But once I started to tell myself how lucky I am to be in this place— where some people made it their lifetime’s dream to be here, was a turning point for me. It is important to see the brighter side. It’s also really important to remind or ask yourself, why are you there in the first place? How badly did you want this to happen? Wasn’t this your dream coming to life?! Basically, slap yourself and tell yourself you’re a fool for being sad just because it was not how you expected things to be.
Do you feel sad because you can’t understand the people around you? Learn the damn language to survive. Ha! Honestly, being a teacher of second language to children, I’m not a good example of this. Why?! Because I’m stubborn to learn a new language. I blame my Filipino mentality on this one. Bakit pa?!😜 But since it’s not only mandatory for me to learn French but also a requirement for my future, I had no choice. And I’m glad I did. Because I’ve met another amazing and inspiring group of humans! Have I not went and push myself to learn French, I wouldn’t have the chance to meet my new girlfriends!
Do you feel sad because you have no friends? You will and you can make new friends if you make the effort. As an expat, this was no big challenge for me. I am a friend magnet! Ha! The most challenging part for me is how to make long lasting friendships with the people I met in a new place.
I am at a point in my life that it’s not how many friends I have, but how many small in numbers they are, and how they inspire, support, and build me!
I may have a lot of friends on my Facebook list, but the few good ones are the ones that made a constant connection and inspiration to me, regardless of our distances and our life’s shifts. So if you want to make long lasting friends while living abroad— invest your time, your listening ears, and your fun vibe!😍
In order of photos below: The new friends I met in Paris from studying French, my girlfriend from Beijing who is now back in Paris, and my Pinay friends from Beijing who came to explore Paris last month.
Do you feel sad because you feel like you’re uninspired from being unemployed? Never stop looking for opportunities and inspirations. I mentioned earlier, unemployment was something made me feel down. As much as I wanted to stay at home especially this winter, there is nothing more that I wish to do— to be in a classroom with my little rascals. For three years, I was used to go on a month-long holiday in December-January. It was like my reset-button-time for I know, I will eventually go back to my work— where I am in my best element. But the case was different this year. It’s no longer a loooong holiday. It’s the real deal. That’s why I was really sad. I miss my old self, but only from that aspect.
What made me inspired again? I try to find activities that will truly fuel my inspirations once more. Believe it or not, I found the solutions in my Facebook. You see, you can find groups and people with the same interests and inspirations like you. I always start with clicking on the search button: expat groups in my city. From that simple button click, I was able to attend an education forum in UNESCO headquarter, no less and I found a group of expats who loves writing just like me!
When it comes with searching for a job, you can also build your network with your friends. From my experience, LinkedIn is still my source of employment job listings. It’s really important to build your career based on your expertise and training background.
The right job, that is truly meant for you will come, no matter what…
So if you’re still starting to build your career, my piece of advise is go into training (as much as you can) in your chosen industry because you will eventually find the right connections, people, and the best job.
Do you feel sad because you’re not nurturing your own happiness? Acknowledge this feeling because I absolutely feel you! I have talked to several expat girlfriends here and has also shared the same sentiments & frustrations as I have. One has even shared, how it was even more difficult for her because it was her husband who had gone into the same “unhappiness” situation like me. I was starting to believe that maybe behind the beauty, sophistication, and glamour of Paris, the sad truth is— it’s the city and not us. But then again, it would be unfair to blame Le Eiffel Tower for our miseries. 😉
On this note, I have to say, our happiness begins with our self-worth.
I remember the exact moment when I felt I wasn’t worthy here. I got my very first email of response from a job posting, saying that although I have great credentials, I’m not the one they’re looking for. I cried to Frenchie but afterwards felt a lot better when phone calls after phone calls started coming in.
So what I’m trying to say is, don’t loose your self-worth. If you’re unhappy right now, pump up a loud JLo music to feel good. Reach out to your families and friends. Take short trips, if you can. Or call someone who will brighten up your day, until your stomach aches from laughing so hard.
Do not go deep with your frustrations.
Always find a way to lighten up. Meditate and practice gratitude. Thank yourself for staying strong and for making things work, no matter how hard it is.