Living Abroad: An Emotional Survival Guide for Moving to Another Country by Carrie Watts
This July I celebrate 15 years of marriage with my husband. But this isn’t the only anniversary of magnitude worth recognizing – it is also 15 years since I moved from Upstate New York to Inverness, Scotland. A laudable achievement, if I do say so myself!
There were many who didn’t think I would be able to survive, that I would give up and go back to the U.S. And, honestly, there were many moments at the start where that felt distinctly possible. After all, moving meant giving up all of my comfort zone: routines, favorite places, work, social circle, family, food – even language. You don’t know how much you love Jell-O pudding and the “correct” spelling of aluminum until they’re several thousand miles away from you! And as an autistic person, “comfort zone” is critical to daily life. So how did I do it?
- Focus on the big picture, not the short term. Picking long-term goals on which to focus instead of short-term discomfort can get you through an awful lot.
- Establish new, personal routines as quickly as possible. I will always remember the day I first drive somewhere “by habit.” It was thrilling to have a habit!
- Find things that bring you joy that only come from your new home. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate Whole Nut, anyone?
- Be open to new perspectives and to learning about the world from an ex-USA viewpoint. It is startling how little Americans are taught about the rest of the world, and that can hold you back from connecting with your new local crew.
- Give yourself time. Such a major change will never feel easy. Give yourself two years at a minimum to know if you are settling or not.
- Be honest with yourself and your partner. Trying to be brave and act like everything is OK when it isn’t will not help you or your partner.
With lots of support from my husband, lots of tears and more than a little courage, I persevered through the early challenges. Fifteen years in, I can genuinely say that what we have now was more than worth the sacrifices.
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