By Vadia Rai, Life Coach and an NLP Practitioner
Moving abroad can be challenging at the best of times, but moving to a new country to be with your foreign partner can present a whole host of different challenges.
“So, what brings you to Zurich?”
I hated when people ask me that question. Being the awkward turtle that I am, I have developed a number of canned responses:
The professional response: “I wanted to work in an international financial city and there’s no better place to do that than Zurich — at least where I could learn a new language!”
The grown-up response: “I wanted to continue to live abroad and travel, and it’s easy for me here as Switzerland is in the heart of nature!”
The blunt but funny response: “I moved for LOVE.”
Of course every answer is true, but one is truer than the others. I admit it: I’m one of those girls who moved abroad for love.
It might sound like the ending of a Hollywood film, but moving overseas to be with your significant other can be an isolating and distressing experience. Cutting ties with your home country, packing up your life and readjusting to a new culture, language and city are all gargantuan tasks. Often the true impact of your decision only hits after you move, when the excitement wears off and you’re left to decide what to do next.
I moved 15 years ago to my husband’s (ex-husband now) home country, Switzerland, so I know what it’s like to live abroad for love. Here’s some advice to help you prepare and cope.
Before you move
It’s easy to tell yourself that everything will fall into place when you arrive in your new country, but the only way to secure a smooth move is to plan for every eventuality before you leave. Sit down and make a list of all your worries and concerns and all the things you’re going to need and miss when you move.
Enough about me! This is about you. Here is what you should do if you’re thinking about moving abroad for love:
I don’t mean that you shouldn’t move to a new country with him, I mean don’t do it for him. Do it for yourself, because you want to see the world, learn a new language, or challenge yourself. If you don’t find your own reason for moving you will resent him when you’re having a hard time (and you will have a hard time). If he has a job there and you don’t then you’ll need to find a way to keep busy and make friends.
Set yourself a goal to achieve or find a new hobby that will help get you out of the house — start a blog, research some aspect of the culture, get a degree online — just do anything that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something besides being a ‘trailing spouse’.
If you can’t think of a reason why you want to go for yourself then you probably shouldn’t go. Again, maybe don’t do it!
A lot of people seem to be misunderstanding what I’m saying. I don’t mean you shouldn’t move abroad for love, I’m saying think twice before you do it: First, can we make this work long distance? Second, is there a reason besides my partner that I would move there and would it be without detriment to my dreams, goals, and needs? Because there is no comeback worse than “I moved countries for you!” or “I gave up a full scholarship for you!”. Your partner may never sacrifice in the same way and will be unhappy if you use that as a trump card every time things are going wrong. It’s why I say; find a reason that ain’t your partner.
Learn to speak the language if you can’t already.
There is nothing more isolating (well, besides being put in isolation) than being unable to understand the people around you. It will help you get a job (or a better one) and talk to people while you’re abroad. If you need to take lessons then you may even make some friends that are in the same boat as you.
- Be honest with him/her–and yourself.
Hopefully you have honed good communication skills throughout your relationship. Being an expat couple is a blessing and struggle but you go through it together; on the other hand, moving abroad for love and being the only one who is adapting to a new country can be especially lonely. If your partner is a local let him know that you’re having a hard time and talk about what he can do to help you (and how you can help yourself).
- Discuss your expectations of living abroad.
Perhaps you totally want to become an honorary Syrian –you plan on learning the language and how to make Hummus –but your partner doesn’t. If you’re both moving to a new country he might want to experience the culture in a different way than you or won’t be as willing to make himself uncomfortable in a foreign country. Everyone has a different expat style and adapts to new places in their own way.
If you want a partner in crime, let her/him know. If she/he just wants to continue living like did at home but with better Instagram opportunities, you have to decide if you’re cool with being the one who orders the food, talks to the landlord, and does all of the engaging with your adopted home.
- Don’t lose your identity.
Keep your cultural heritage alive by sharing the food, music, and history with people. Your partner, and people who care about you in your new country, should be interested in where you come from because it’s a huge part of who you are.
And Finally, the hardest but most important thing you must do is find your own reason for living in your new country. Your partner cannot be the only thing that ties you to a place. If you hate everything about your new country and are only there to make your partner happy, you may become bitter and your relationship could falter. You need to accept that you’ve moved and you need to make your own ties and your own peace with your new country. That might be in the form of friends, a job, hobbies, food, shopping or sights. Learn to love your new home and you’ll find life will become a lot easier. Simply, love for love!
About the author
Vadia Rai is a Life Coach and an NLP Practitioner and a Director in the FTI Strategic Communications practice based in Dubai. She joined the company in October 2006 to work in corporate and financial communications across a range of sectors.
Prior to joining FTI Consulting, Vadia was Assistant Sales Manager at Allied Enterprises and was involved in achieving and exceeding company budgets. Before relocating to Dubai in 2004, she worked with the Czech-Arab Chamber of Commerce in Prague.
Vadia attended Prague’s Bohemia Institute where she studied Commercial Management and most recently she has completed Diploma in Public Relations from Fitzwilliam Institute in London; English for Business at the London School of Journalism and Finance Talking course; she is fluent in Arabic, English and Czech.