The first time I moved abroad was in 2014. I was planning on going to Thailand but unfortunately there was this whole military coop. Long story short I ended up in Colombia. I didn’t know what to expect which turned out to be extremely detrimental. Now, I’m a year into living in Spain and I know a few small pieces of advice I would give myself both back in 2014 and last year before I moved. Here are the top 5 pieces of advice I would have wanted to receive.
- Be strategic in what clothes you bring with you. I knew that one thing I didn’t want to buy when I arrived in Spain was work clothes. So I brought all my typical “teacher dresses.” What I didn’t know is that teachers in Spain actually tend to be much more casual in the USA. Jeans are totally acceptable as are sneakers. While I still wear my dresses – I brought literally one pair of ripped jeans. Shopping for jeans is not my favorite thing and sizing here isn’t made for people with hips. TLDR – I ended up stocking up when I was back in the states for a trip.
- Research apartment prices where you’ll be living. I see this a lot from people living in Madrid – they have sticker shock for how much a room in an apartment is, let alone the whole place. A room in the center of Madrid is typically between 500 -800 Euro. Try to find out what they most common websites for home searches are and research ahead of time. It’s going to dramatically affect the amount of extra money you have to spend.
- Be upfront with how much or how little involvement you want to have with people at your new job. Before I went to Zaragoza, I didn’t really know what to expect from people in my job. I guess I assumed they would be cordial, sometimes offering coffee or a drink. I figured I would develop friendships. None of that really happened. Partially, I blame that on myself. At my new school I was extremely upfront – I want to be part of the community. I want to be involved. I want to help wherever I can. So far the difference is light and day. I’ve already had tons of outings with my new coworkers and seriously am infinitely more happy.
- Expect to spend a decent amount of money on little things. The apartment I bought in Zaragoza was furnished. However, there were lots of little things that I needed to pick up to make it a little more livable. I needed sheets and a duvet. During the winter, my room was unbearably cold so I bought a heated blanket. I needed some basic organization – things like bins and boxes. Even here in Cartagena, my room didn’t have any sort of mirror. Each of these things doesn’t seem like a lot – but they do add up quickly. Especially considering when you first move in you also need to give your security deposit, it may be a financial burden at first.
- Find “your places” in a new city. In Zaragoza, I loved getting my coffee at Starbucks. I had a place in a little back alley where I would get a glass of wine when I wanted one. My favorite shop in town was a little arts and crafts store. Here in Cartagena, I have my coffee shop (Brooklyn Coffee), my pizzeria (Mano a Mano) and my favorite place to buy clothes (Springfield). Some of these places are chains – there’s nothing wrong with that. Find places where the people are welcoming, you feel comfortable and hopefully have good prices and good food. You’ll feel a lot more at home.
If you’ve ever lived abroad, I would love to hear your take. Do you have a slightly different point of view? Let me know if there’s and advice you would give below.