What’s it really like to live abroad? Away from familiarity and comfort of family and friends? I agree that living abroad can feel freeing in a lot of ways but thinking deeper about why this might be true, I also see a flip side of this feeling and how living abroad can also be isolating especially for someone who feels constrained by life stress, commitments, language barrier, habits than they did at home. I’d also like to fully acknowledge that you can feel “free” by making a move, or a change for yourself, much closer to home and not necessarily living in another continent.

Let’s dive into my reasons why living abroad is feeing:

  • FEWER OBLIGATIONS

    You don’t have a large network of friends and family abroad and you will have fewer things you’re obligated to do. Life will become more of a personal choice and you do what you feel like doing and often, spontaneously. I think there’s a healthy balance between doing things for others and prioritising your own needs and wants but if you are someone like me who often prefers social settings, it can feel isolating, almost mundane being alone at times. Living abroad has allowed me to do a lot more personal reflection and I find myself being more calm which is something I never thought myself to be when in Singapore.

  • LIFESTYLE CHANGES

    This is a huge one! Many of us moving abroad will experience a major lifestyle change almost at the get-go. While some people might trade the change for a high career position and live the same life just in a different culture, there is bound to be some kinda of culture change at a slower/faster pace. In addition, when your whole life becomes different, you are free of your old routine, old way of thinking and old habits. It’s just freely to not feel mentally locked in to what you have done for years. Instead, you are forced to experience new things in the new country. The way you communicate and go about your day is also different and you encounter new people and new places around you.

  • NO HISTORY

    With zero / little social network, you’re almost completely unknown. No one knew you as a kid, teenager, at your old job or thing about your family for both good and bad. You start on a clean slate and get to present yourself however way you would like with zero baggage of your past. This sense of a fresh start is freeing on your own terms.

  • VISA-FREE

    I can stay in France on a long term basis through my marriage to a french man. Okay this sounds like I married for the visa but what i mean is that the freeing feeling of not having to worry if my student/work visa expires is freeing. I could apply for a visa on my own accord and stay here on a renewal basis but having a sense of security free from possible permits and visa blockage issues is great when you want to plan your weeks, months and even years ahead of you. Citizenship is a whole other topic off tangent depending on each country but I have zero plans for this big switch and with the Singapore government’s restrictions…

    Pros:
    – You can live and work legally
    – You can have the (almost) same benefits (and duties) as other citizens of the nation
    – May be able to get into new countries visa-free since France is part of the European Union ( I need to double check on this )

    Cons:
    – It can be expensive
    – There’s alot of paperwork involved!
    – It can take alot of time

It has been 10 months living in France and everyday is still an exploring, learning curve of the environment, culture, climate change and way of living. Life has taken me outside of my comfort zone and into newness that is absolutely freeing!