In the past ten years, I’ve lived abroad in three countries: Argentina, France, and most, recently, Uganda.
As a result, I’ve learned that moving to another country will change you, in ways big and small. From what you to eat to how you see the world… and possibly even your accent.
Here’s how living abroad has permanently changed me.
1. I’m grateful for the little things…
Drinking from the tap. Having air conditioning. Not needing a VPN to watch TV. Using a dishwasher. After living in Uganda, I will never take these luxuries for granted again.
2. …But I’m kind of a snob.
I blame this on living in France. Call me a snob, but I still hate seeing runny cheese served cold. And don’t even get me started on the quality of bread in America.
3. Apparently, I
have had a weird accent.
Thankfully, this problem has long since gone away. But when I was 24, after two years of living and traveling abroad, I’m pretty sure I had a weird accent.
After one trip, I was staying with a friend of a friend. After FOUR DAYS of staying with her, I mentioned I was from Michigan. She replied, “Oh, I thought you were Australian!”
Needless to say, I was mortified. Had I really turned into one of those pretentious Americans who sounded vaguely transatlantic?
Guys, it’s a Michigan accent, I swear to god. I’ve never even been to Australia.
4. I still think everything’s expensive.
Do you know how much a ten-minute Uber costs in Uganda? $0.80.
5. I’m a whiz at converting currencies.
I was terrible at math in high school, but after living abroad three times, I’m now a pro at converting currencies on the fly.
6. I know how to make a proper cup of tea. Kind of.
When I was younger, my family didn’t have a kettle. So when I made tea, I used to “boil” the water in the microwave and then add the tea bag.
After living amongst many Brits over the years, I have since reformed my ways. At the very least, I now put the tea bag in the cup before I pour in the water. Which is… something?
Definitely still a coffee drinker though.
7. I bake using the metric system.
First of all, let me say that I love the metric system. Efficient, universal, easy to compute… what’s not to love?
But I especially love using the metric system for baking. Instead of fiddling around with measuring cups, you simply weigh the ingredients in one bowl using a food scale. The result? Almost no dishes to wash.
8. I try to talk to everyone in foreign languages.
If I find out you speak Spanish or French, I will probably approach you with a lame line and try to talk to you.
And if I’m drunk and you’re Brazilian, I apologize in advance for my broken Portuguese.
9. I miss a lot of places, all of the time.
This is definitely a first-class problem to have. But having lived and traveled a lot of places, I’m nostalgic for a lot of places at once.
In the course of a week, I’ll miss eating noodles while sitting on six-inch plastic stools in Southeast Asia, riding on the back of a motorcycle taxi in Uganda, walking home from the bakery with a still-warm baguette.
While missing lots of places (and for that matter, people) can make me feel melancholy at times, it also reminds me of how lucky I am.
10. I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy in one place.
I’ve moved a lot in my twenties. The longest I’ve lived anywhere, Colorado, was two years. Now that I’m nearing thirty, I wonder if I’ll ever feeling content in one place. I’m honestly not sure yet.
Have you lived abroad? How did it permanently change you?
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