Newlywed support – first time living abroad

posted 2 years ago in Married Life
Post # 2
30 posts

I feel for you, bee! Two years ago I moved with my SO from a large city on the East Coast to a small rural town in the Midwest so he could begin his studies to become a physican. It wasn’t like moving to another country, but it certainly has felt like it! winkI similarly left a well paying job at the time and started graduate school. Although my graduate studies were full-time, I also wanted to find a job in my field. The first month we moved I felt so depressed – I hadn’t yet found a job, my graduate school hadn’t started yet, and the culture shock was so intense. I should throw in that we are an interracial couple and we moved to a town that was predominantly white/where it was very obvious that we were “different.” It was a really tough at first, but I eventually found a group of women I bonded with (women who were also partners of medical students). We’ve recently moved again for him to start his clinical rotations, and that has been an adjustment period, but not nearly as bad as before. I think with time I’ve learned to embrace where we are in our journey, find things that I enjoy to do (yoga, trying new places to eat, spending time with SO, etc), and immersing myself in the community (finding community organizations that have mission/vision/values that resonate with me and dedicating some time working with them). I’ve also found a therapist in our new place, which has helped in the adjustment. I’ve used Bumble, which is a dating app that can be turned off to only feature finding female friendships. I’ve met a couple of women that way. There also might be meetups in your area that you can look into. I can tell you on the other side of things that it does get better but you have to be intentional about finding things to make you feel better/keep you preoccupied. As far as jobs go, I know how frustating it can be to be in a new place and not find work that is fulfilling or as stimulating as what you’ve done before. How I’ve turned this situation around is by seeing each job as a new opportunity to build different skills and make myself more marketable. You’d be surprised at what you can gain from different experiences. And I also tell myself that our situation is temporary – especially if you know you will only be there for a short period of time, it’s easier to tough it out. Hang in there! 

Post # 3
164 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: June 2017

Hi elliebee357, I really feel for you! I have been living abroad for many years and now live in my husband’s country where my chosen field of work doesn’t exist and people are not always easy to make friends with. They grow up here attending preschool to high school taking all their classes with the same 20ish people and so everyone already has a very established and closed group of friends… Over time I’ve made 2-3 girl friends who I’ve become close to, but this is after about 3 years here. Can you tell us what country you’ve moved to? That might influence some of the advice as well… But I’m curious what efforts you have taken to learn the language? Have you been taking any group language classes? Which are a great way to meet people. Also, if you can’t work in your field instead of temporary work is there something else you are passionate about that you can explore? Expats abroad often find cooking and selling food from their own country or teaching English, etc. to be rewarding experiences when living abroad. What are some things that you like to do and how can you leverage those to get out and either a) make some money with it or b) make some friends with the same interests. 

Feel free to PM me if you want to talk further. I don’t have it all figured out of course, but I’ve been trying for many years and maybe just sharing experiences and hearing you’re not the only one going through this. 

Post # 4
1856 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017

I’ve lived abroad in a bunch of different countries and can relate!

Firstly, language learning takes time. Don’t be discouraged with your progress or lack of after two months. How are you learning?

What country are you in? Or at least what part of the world? Are you in a city, town or village? Is there a desire for people to learn to English? 

What picks you up when you’re feeling down back home? What do you enjoy doing there? Which of those thing can and can’t you do where you are now?


Post # 5
1856 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017

(My questions above aren’t just for the sake of asking quertions but will hopefully help me give useful advice.)

Post # 7
1856 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017

Baking is my pick me up too, even though it can be frustrating because I can’t get the same ingredients and don’t have much kitchenware. But it can be fun too to experiment with baking using local ingredients so maybe you can try to find Italian recipes to try?

If you have experience with yoga you might be able to cope with a class without understanding much – just by watching others. I would try to find a class. Or else you can do what I do and use youtube videos at home. Not the same but at least it helps me be less lazy.

I don’t know if it’s the case where you are but in France and nd Germany I had a lot of luck finding expats and people who like travelling and therefore are more open to foreigners through the couch surfing community. I would have a look there, see if there’s a group for your town and see if they have a monthly meet up.

Do you have any neighbours who are at home during the day who could do informal language learning with you? Even if it means losing an evening or two each week with your husband, I think the benefits of speaking the language make it worth more formal evening classes too.

Maybe you could volunteer at something involving kids? A kindergarten, daycare, creche. You can play with kids without understanding what they’re saying, they will ask you questions until you understand, and they have a much more limited vocabulary than adults.

Post # 8
1251 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2016

Moving to a new country is hard, especially when there are language barriers. I’m a pretty experienced “expat” and I’ve learned that the first month is awesome (yay new place thrill!) then it usually sucks for the next few months 🙁 After about 7-8 months you start to feel a semblance of a routine and by a year it starts to feel like normal life.

That timeline varies though. When I moved to the UK it took a full year until I felt settled (I wasn’t in a great city) but the Netherlands I felt at home almost immediately. Belgium took the longest, nearly 2 years before I felt happy and at home.

Definitely get into formal language lessons – especially if you’re not working you NEED to tackle that language barrier. If you have lots of $$$ to spare check out CERAN — it requires flying to Belgium but it’s a super intensive immersion program (you live on premise) that goes from 8:30 AM – 10 PM each day. It’s great for getting at least to the point of daily conversations in your community.

More realisitc financially would be in-person small classes (don’t do more than 3-5 people, you really want lots of speaking and interacting time). Easiest logistically (but not great for meeting people in your community) would be 1-on-1 skype lessons. You can find some Skype programs that are only 10 EUR/hur for a private session. So even just adding this in to Duolingo would help with the spoken side. I find Duolingo great for learning basics and increasing vocab but what you want is conversation practice and that is what Duolingo is weakest at.

For meeting people, it’s hard. It’s really really hard to make friends when you don’t have a “forced” extended & repeated interaction time (e.g. work) — that’s true for most adults and is just made even more difficult once the language barrier pops up.

I tend to still have mainly expat friends, at least my closest friends because it’s just easier plus in many European countries they are small enough that people are close enough geographically to where tehy grew up to just keep their same social circle from their teens/early twenties throughout their adult life. Most of my Belgian friends spend their weekends with home-town friends and their families — given how central family is to Italian culture I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s similar there.

Just hang in there, keep putting yourself out there, and get out of the house as much as possible! (that last one is something you don’t really think about but is SO important).

Also keep in mind that it is TOTALLY ok not to totally LOVE everything about living abroad. Yes it’s a great experience, but all experiences have their pros and cons. So don’t feel guilty if you’re not ecstatic with life at all times. Being an expat can be a very lonely road, especially in the beginning. Happy to PM if you want — I know how tough these transitions can be 😉

Post # 9
532 posts
Busy bee

elliebee357 :  I can understand how you feel and I know it must be difficult.

I also got married this year and moved to a non-English speaking country because my husband and I were LDR before marriage and he would have to do his residency and licensing all over again if he were to practice medicine in the US. So I decided to move to him instead. I’m finishing law school soon and wondering what I will do about the licensing problem for myself now.

In the meantime, I’m keeping myself busy with language classes (which is difficult but it’s also my hobby so I love it).  I’m also taking some other classes to stay active. I think doing activities you enjoy—rather than activities just to keep you busy—is most important. You mentioned not taking yoga because there are no classes in English. I think exercise-type activities are the best because the language barrier is thinnest there. I’m taking some indoor rock-climbing classes despite not having a good grasp of the language. But it’s okay because I can watch and follow.

There’s not much of an expat community where I live, but I’m close to the main city, which has a lot of foreigners. Why not join a language exchange or some other event where there are expats or locals who speak English (even if it requires a bit more travel)?

And it’s important to stay in touch with friends and family back home. Plus, see if you can go on little dates with your husband and explore this new place together. Tell him honestly about how you feel.

You sound very homesick too, and I don’t know if it will pass, but give it some time. If you’re still miserable a few months from now, have a discussion with him about long term plans and if it’s possible to move back at some point if things don’t get better.

I hope things will though. Good luck!

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