Monday, January 7, 2013

Living abroad relfections

I found this gem while going through my half-finished blog drafts, but I think it deserves posting:After two years of living abroad, I wanted to reflect of what I have learned from this experience. Some of it may seem utterly trivial to some, but not for me. Living in a completely foreign country, where you don’t even understand the language one bit, alone.. takes quite a bit of courage. I am still astounded that somehow I managed to get over my fear of the unknown, I rose above the challenges that seemed to want to swallow me whole upon initial settling, and now I have to add I am truly enjoying myself in this European atmosphere. So much so, that I even decided to extend my stay by few extra months, forgoing the perpetual rush to graduate in order to advance in the job hunt before the others gain on.

I am no longer in a rush for anything. My life is comfortable, enjoyable and still plenty exciting. And now, looking back, I just wanted to note a few “for the future” valuable insights I had gained along the way:

1. Any time it comes to signing contracts, in a foreign language, it definitely pays to hire or ask someone to translate for you, in order to avoid many headaches in the future (yes, this happened to me on the topic of public vs state-owned health insurance in Germany- turns out, once you choose one or the other, you may never change you mind again. So much for freedom of choice that I grew so accustomed to in Canada)-never let yourself be bullied, rushed or pressured into signing anything you’re not sure about. Always ask around, weigh your options, ask other ex-pats and make sure you understand the binding conditions, then proceed.

2. In general, it doesn't hurt to ask. Ask, ask, ask,-talk to the people, go on forums even before you make the "big move", find out what you can about the country- health insurance policy, income tax rates, how does one go to a GP, etc. Don’t just assume you understand the situation because you heard one person’s opinion on the matter. Nothing is ever as clear-cut as it seems, so don’t put additional boundaries onto yourself; know when there is a will, there is a way. There will always be people willing to help you and offering guidance.