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Should I live abroad? To Leave or Not To Leave

Should you live abroad?

How difficult could it be to go abroad?

People, do it all the time, don’t they?

I was confident when I decided to leave Switzerland. Living abroad was going to be a walk in the park. Although, I had always worked and lived by Lake Geneva. English and traveling had been a big part of my upbringing. On the other hand, it never felt like quite enough – I wasn’t fulfilled.

All my friends had gone abroad to study, learn a language, or on internships. 6 months here, 6 months there. Surprisingly, most of them have decided to drop their bags in Switzerland — it was my turn to go out and explore. Yes moving abroad meant turning my back on the infamous “Swiss Salaries” but I needed to do it.

Sometimes decisions have to be made despite FI/RE as mental wellbeing is paramount.

Just like every 22 years old, I was convinced I had everything under control! Once I found a great job opportunity in London, it was very straightforward, get there: find a flat and go to work. Friends, finances, and all the rest will just fall in place.

They will right?

Well… it wasn’t quite that easy. Let me share what I learned, hopefully, it’ll make your life easier.

Living abroad can feel extraterrestrial

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it. Of course, I expected a few things to differ. From the currency to the language or the cost of living. Somehow differences are hidden everywhere. Even within Europe, social expectations, work culture, and mindset are drastically different.

People were bonding in different ways. Where back home we tend to be straight to the point— in the UK people would take offense. Where working overtime was customary (and paid), it was now frowned upon or hidden in plain sight. It isn’t bad far from it. It just took some time to get accustomed. None of these things were deal breakers, I’m more than happy to be abroad. But when preparing or thinking about a move abroad take the time to research smaller things. It won’t always be plug and play. The learning curve can be steep at times but golly gee is it worth it.

For example, if you are looking to move abroad and are from the USA The Frugal Expat shares amazing insights on wealth from the other side of the world.

Living abroad an astronaut on the moon
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Banks, credit score, and more...

Oh, how naive I was…

Why did I expect everywhere to function like the Swiss system? I have no idea… most likely I was arrogant. Take it from me at least research how to open a bank account. Sounds straight forward right? Well, it wasn’t… I had to go to at least 10 banks before I could start the process. They didn’t understand how time-sensitive it was. I mean how was I supposed to receive my salary, pay rent, get a phone?

Once again this could have been avoided with a bit of research. Had I known which documents were needed for what — it might have been easier. I’d recommend researching the following:

  1. How to open a bank account?
  2. How to get a phone plan?
  3. Public transportation or a car?
  4. How does healthcare work?
  5. Do you need to change your driving license?

The list goes on. But had I figured out the 5 above, my driving license wouldn’t have expired…

Look for financial opportunities for example in the UK you can open an ISA (a tax-free account) and opening a brokerage account tax-free is simple! Whenever you are making a move abroad take the time to look for opportunities. If you are in the UK learn how to start investing with Index Funds here. If you are in Switzerland check-out this article 2 Step Guide To Achieve $1,000,000 In Your Voluntary Retirement Account — Swiss Edition by Fast Track.

There are many more to find and countries all have their hidden tricks. Luckily you can find Personal Finance bloggers all over!

Banks abroad piggy bank and coins
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Building Trust Abroad

Leaving your support system behind for a city — you’d traveled to once is tricky. I expected building a new support system would be easy. Somehow knowing which supermarket to go to was already a challenge.

The problem, when you move abroad for work and not for studies, is people are at different stages of life. Some have a family, some have a favorite pub, or group, finally, the other new guys are also completely lost. Although, I quickly found circles to join building trust and true friendship took time.

Thankfully, I stuck through it. I got out of my comfort zone and got to know these lovely people. Since then I have formed a tight-knit group of friends and met a wonderful young lady. The rough start was definitely worth it. I’m now blessed to have true friends both in Switzerland and in London.

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” — Robert Southey

Homesickness is sneaky

6 months… they flew by — it hit all of a sudden. What in the world was happening? Everything had felt normal until that moment. This intense feeling of doubt and dread suddenly dawned upon me.

I might never live there again.

A crazy thought. The 1-way flight ticket should have made that obvious. I remember the Sunday 17th of February 2019 like yesterday. It suddenly all became real. I picked up the phone and called home. Hearing my mother’s voice was all I needed. I guess there is just something about rainy Sundays in Watford that makes you nostalgic.

Instead of letting the feeling control me — I let it flow. 

I dug in what did it mean?

The sadness was not that I left, it was the realization I was creating a new home in the UK. A new identity, even though I grew up in Switzerland — I can exist elsewhere. Every time, I feel it since then, I take time to reflect and I look at my partner — it’s worth it. No doubt here! I’m happy, but I would lie if I said I didn’t miss the mountains.

“Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.” — Jodi Picoult

The best decision of my life

Despite all of this, leaving home was the best decision of my life. Of course, staying would’ve been easier. On the other hand, going home now has a completely different flavor. I enjoy every moment with my family and friends tenfold. I have also created a support system and met the most wonderful person here.

The beauty of leaving is not knowing when I’ll return. The open ending means my life is up to me. I get to choose my direction, my purpose, and my passions. Although traveling for vacation feels liberating, nothing compares to packing your bags and leaving. A 1-way plane ticket feels and is entirely different. How could I regret being truly alive?

If you are contemplating making this decision. I couldn’t recommend it more. Get out of your comfort zone, travel, live elsewhere. You’ll never regret it.

What was your big decision financial or travel-related? What makes you feel alive?

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  1. One of my favorite quotes was “Although traveling for vacation feels liberating, nothing compares to packing your bags and leaving.”

    It is such a different feeling going into the unknown and not knowing what will happen. Buying that 1 way ticket is a leap of faith. As you had also said many people are in different stages of life and trying to connect to circles could be a hard thing.

    I am glad you took a leap of faith. This journey seems like it has made you a better person. Life is a journey and there are times you need to explore what else is out there. Keep exploring and keep learning.

  2. Jodie | That Happy Reader

    A very inspirational post! I’m one who enjoys travel but I’m always ready to come home after a few weeks. Well done!

  3. Really nice read!
    Many, years ago I had a a financial opportunity to emegrate to Perth, Australia or buy my first house. I chose, to leave everything behing and go to Australia, had my visa and everything ready… right at the last minute I backed out of it, I was only 19 at the time. I still wish I had gone through with it. But at the same time, I wouldnt never have met Mrs F and have my kids, so i guess it all turned out ok in the end.

    • You are happy and fulfilled today thanks to your decisions and that is what matters most.
      And I’m not sure I would have been ready to board the flight at 19 either, the leap at 22 was hard enough!

  4. Kat

    I have lived in the UK for over 3 years already now, but this post was very relatable! It took me almost 3 months to get a UK bank account, and when I tried to order a new cell phone, the person on the other end said ‘oh no, we can’t help you, you need a phone number to get a phone here!’ It was quite frustrating, but also very educational. I’m glad you stuck it out and have settled in now.

  5. Homesickness is most definitely very sneaky! It’s been a really interesting living abroad with more of a mix of good and bad than I had initially anticipated so a willingness to learn and adapt is a must! Great post!

  6. “Get out of your comfort zone, travel, live elsewhere. You’ll never regret it.” – this is so true. I studied abroad and now moved to a different country. It’s not easy, it’s scary but I never regretted my decision to move abroad. I do miss the food back in my home country though, that’s the biggest challenge, it will never be the same 😦

    Nevertheless, this is so good and I do agree with you, get out of your comfort zone is the best suggestion!


  7. I’m moving to Australia this year and I’m very nervous. I am excited to move to a country where things actually work, not like where I’m now where everything is just a mess. I’m sure it will still be quite the adjustment though.

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

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