My American accent makes me rehash how I ended up in London all the time. The answer: I serendipitously met my husband abroad and moved overseas to begin a new life with together. Or, I ended up moving abroad for love. I’ll admit that it’s kind of romantic. But it’s also really super hard. ‘Foreign lover’ sounds glamorous, but ‘trailing spouse’ – not so much. The closing of the honeymoon phase frequently splits up couples, and even more stress is added when one partner completely uproots his or her life. So, ladies and gents, to help you prepare – or to simply commiserate – I am here to tell you exactly why moving abroad for love ain’t easy.
The Move & Subsequent Culture Shock
Honestly, I cannot think of a single person who enjoys moving. Jetting off with just a checked bag and a carry on is freeing, but the prerequisite organization and downsizing is not so fun. Maybe you’ll have to set up a garage sale or rent out a storage unit. Consider yourself lucky if your parents don’t threaten to chuck out all your stuff. And sorting out your physical junk is only one step. Perhaps you’ll need to find a subletter, which could be easy-peasy in comparison to sorting out visa requirements.
Then, once you have safely land with the correct documents and your most important belongings, you’ve got to face a new culture. Perhaps, a new language will trip you up, but even if you simply move to a different region within the same country, the local customs may still throw you off. For instance, the people I met in university (real adults, included) were radically different from the grown ups from my hometown in the same state, just less than 2 hours away by car.
Yes, I know that these are the same issues anyone who moves away has to face. But I am just reiterating that even though you are moving for love, the rules still apply, cupcake.
This point has double meaning.
1. Your footing will be quite uneven, as you get adjust to basically everything. This includes the aforementioned culture shock and your partner’s lifestyle habits.
2. In stark contrast, your partner’s footing will be steady since they are just carrying on with everyday life. Just because you live together does not mean that you will have the same connections to and relations with the place you live.
So, if you are brave enough to move abroad for love, you won’t just be buffeted by new cultural norms; you will have to insert yourself into somebody else’s life. Trailing spouses have to live in a house decorated (or intentionally left sparse and bachelor-like) by their partner. As a couple, you must agree on house furnishings, and learn to deal with different cooking and cleaning habits. And as the uprooted partner, you may find that your schedule is dictated by your partner’s life since he or she golfs every Thursday evening and visits your in-laws every weekend.
Even most of your first relationships will be through your partner: family and their friends’ who are nice enough to humor you, which will likely make you long for the security of your own home, your own friends and your own family. Which leads to the eternal complaint of, “It’s not fair.”
Any Unhappiness Leads Back to Argument #2
Maybe, unlike me, you’re a hero that likes to silently bear the brunt of your sacrifice. I, on the other hand, occasionally ask, “Do you realize I gave up [X] for you?” My sacrifices include being in the same time zone as anyone I knew before I came over, missing out on cuddles from the family dog and only being able to visit my family once or twice a year. I am sure the most painful sacrifices will stand out to you clearly.
And any time that you are unhappy or unstable with your partner, you may want to inform your partner that you deserve to have something your way since you gave up everything. It looks very adolescent written out in a blog post, but even if you don’t blurt it out – I guarantee you will think this at least once a month during your first year abroad.
Moving Abroad for Love: Last Words
In summary, assuming expat life to facilitate a romance and life partnership is doable, but difficult. Even after 2 years, I still host my own pity parties. But any time you are stuck in a rut, or just feel crummy, find someone who will listen to you complain without interruption. Then remember that in some ways you actually are a special snowflake. Your love crosses countries – or even continents, hooray! You outlasted the honeymoon phase, and you are ready to demonstrate great commitment and love for your partner, yee-haw! Even though logistics and circumstances forced you to move abroad, you ultimately made the decision to move abroad for love.
Congratulations, you lovebirds. I am rooting for you, sending you biggest virtual hugs and wishing you the best of luck!