The Hardships of Living Abroad


Yes, living abroad is a once in a lifetime experience... and maybe then again for some people moving abroad is permanent.  So I guess it isn't always a once in a lifetime thing.  Either way it's an experience full of excitement and wonder, but sometimes it can be difficult.

Photo by Brittany Butters


Language Barrier... There isn't much to say about this one.  You can't speak to them and they can't speak to you.  Well in most cases you learn a bit and they MAY know a bit, but then you can never fully express yourself in the language and frustrating times lie ahead.  I remember being on a plane coming back to the states and I talked nonstop for what seemed like 20-30 minutes to another American before I caught myself.  I apologized profusely and explained I hadn't been able to really speak my mind in months and didn't realize I had been in need of a chat. 


Culture Shock... Yes culture shock AND reverse culture shock are both real things.  Anything from food to clothes to people staring can set it off.  I once had someone in Japan say something about me wearing a tank top.  It was humid, about 90+ degrees outside and sunny.  Prior to Japan I had been living in Arizona for about 5 or 6 years and my wardrobe was about 50% tank tops.  So I was really surprised to hear someone say something about exposing my shoulders.  In Japan your upper section should be covered, meaning no exposing your chest or even wearing a remotely low cut top, definitely no shirts that show your belly and wearing tops that expose even your shoulders will get some looks.  However, wearing tiny shorts and skirts with high heels is totally normal and not frowned upon at all -_- ...... No comment.  


Reverse culture shock is weird in it's own way, but in my opinion just getting back into the swing of things quickly and forcefully will do the trick.  When I moved back it took a few weeks to fully readjust, but even now after being back in the states for 2 years I still want to bow on accident or use aizuchi (相づち)What is aizuchi (相づち)?  Definition: "the Japanese term for frequent interjections during a conversation that indicate the listener is paying attention and/or understanding the speaker."  So sometimes I feel weird when I catch myself  speaking to my American friends and continuously using "uh-huh", "wow", "ehhhhh", etc..... Not sure if my friends in the states even notice, but yeah, that's a thing. 


Letting people get you down can be a real drain on the brain... and of course what I mean by that is, no matter what anybody says or tells you, you are awesome.  You are living abroad and experiencing a different culture!  Most people don't leave their comfort zone or much less move more than an hour away from where they grew up.  You will always have this experience to show how you made an effort to live a life in someone else's shoes.  Not many people have the courage to get out.  I mean sure people travel, but living in a different culture is an entirely separate beast.

Photo by Brittany Butters

Living abroad isn't always peaches n' cream. There are days you have where you genuinely question what you are doing and you reallyyyy miss home.  At times I thought... What is life going to be like once I return to America?  Will my friends still be there when I return?  Will my partner and I have grown apart?  Will life back home be a bland comparison to living in Japan? 

I have come to learn through much deliberation that you just can't care what happens.  As much as you care about your friends/significant others/family etc, you can't care about the outcome.  You just have to stick to what makes you happy and what makes your ticker keep on tickin'.  If you stay stuck in the thoughts of "what if" you will always be disappointed.  Guess what?  Life goes on and your friends/ significant others/ families WILL move on without you because you aren't there.  HOWEVER, that doesn't mean they've forgotten you or are glad you're not around.  Think about it, you are abroad experiencing amazing things and living life too.  So they probably feel more like YOU are leaving THEM behind.  My advice is to just remember what you want from the experience and what is your purpose for chartering the unknown.  

After recently watching "10 Things I Hate About You" I re-discovered one of my favorite movie quotes.  "Don't let anyone ever make you feel like you don't deserve what you want". ~R.I.P. Heath


If you have any questions or comments, you know what to do....


- Butters