The seven things you learn about yourself when you move to a new country

Moving to a new country opens the door to many new and exciting opportunities. While you’re stepping into the unknown, you’re also developing new perspectives that will change your life. Every aspect of your life will change, and even your daily activities will challenge you. Some days you may question whether or not you’ve made the right decision, while other days, you’re looking at the world with a whole new perspective that’s filled with gratitude. 

You will be amazed by all the new things you will learn while living in the United States. The people, culture, and social customs will feel so different from what you left behind. Not only will you learn a new way of living, moving to a new country will teach you so many things about yourself that you haven’t even realized. 

You’ve become more independent

Moving to a new country and away from your friends and family forces you to go outside of your comfort zone and create a new sense of independence. You have to learn how to navigate your new life on your own and make decisions for yourself that you may not have needed to in your home country. 

This new independence can feel freeing and overwhelming all at the same time. Your life is now very different from the lives of everyone back at home, and you may feel disconnected. But there is a bright side. As you become more settled in your new home, you learn to embrace new opportunities with ease. Before you know it, you’ll be trying new cuisines, visiting local festivals, and trying new things that you wouldn’t do back home. With all your new experiences, you’re bound to meet new people and create new memories. While building new friendships may take some time, you’ll learn early on that it all starts with being comfortable doing things on your own. 

You’ve developed a better sense of who you are

In your home country and in your native language, you may have been the funniest one in the room. Now, in America, you’re often the quiet one. You may find yourself struggling to connect with those around you, or that your new American friends don’t know the “real” you. In a new country and in a new language, your personality, interests, and sense of self will begin to evolve and change. Who you are can often be a reflection of those around you, so it makes sense for this to change when you are in a completely new environment.

With this new environment is a unique opportunity for self-reflection. You now have the chance to evaluate who you want to be and to reflect on who you were in your home country. You are no longer limited by your old routines or family influences. You can set new goals for yourself, find new interests, and create a new beginning. Anything is possible in your new country. 

A study by social scientists at Rice University, Columbia University, and the University of North Carolina, found that living abroad increases your “self-concept clarity.” Meaning those who live abroad spend more time on self-reflection and evaluating cultural values and norms than those who have not. The scientists also found that extended periods spent living in a foreign country can contribute to greater life satisfaction, decreased stress, improved job performance, and “enhanced clarity about the types of careers that best match an individual’s strength and values.” 

The challenges and situations you will face in your new country will make you stronger and shake up your sense of self. You’ve experienced the complexity of international travel, the frustration of visa applications, tackled language barriers, ate diverse foods and embraced a culture different than your own. All of these experiences are bound to be life-changing. 

You’ve learned to accept that life goes on without you

As your life changes, so will the relationships you had in your home country. You don’t get to see your friends and family as often as you like, the time difference can be a challenge, and it might feel like your old life is passing you by on social media. But this is also an opportunity to form a deeper connection with your loved ones back at home. You learn who your true friends are as relationships can strengthen or fail with distance. 

You’ve learned to accept that life in your home country will go on without you. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, make every moment, visit, or conversation with your loved ones back at home really count. Appreciate the time and make an effort to share anything important that is going on in your life. Keeping in touch will take a lot of energy, but the relationships with those that are meant to last will always be supportive of you and your new life. 

The hard things don’t seem so hard anymore

You’ve left the comforts of your home and moved thousands of miles away to start a new life. If you can take on that challenge, then suddenly the things that seemed hard before, don’t matter anymore. Think about all you’ve accomplished and the hurdles you’ve crossed to get to the United States. Everything that was once familiar to you is in the past, and you’ve had to learn how to live in a new city. 

Be proud of how far you’ve come and don’t take anything for granted. You’ve earned the freedom to make your own decisions and to live the life you want. You’ve gained a new perspective on what used to cause you stress and how you’ve dealt with them, and before you know it, you’re navigating your new life with ease and no longer sweat the little things. 

You’ve learned that culture shock is indeed real

After the excitement and novelty of living in a new country begin to wane, you may get the feeling that you’ve made a terrible decision. Nothing is familiar or feels normal. You can’t seem to connect with the people around you, and you miss your home terribly. This is culture shock, and it happens to even the most well-adjusted expat. But what you’re feeling is entirely normal, and it’s only temporary. 

You’ve experienced frustration, annoyance, and confusion about the new world around you. Your emotions have been all over the place, and you’ve even questioned your choices daily. But with time, you’ve started to see things from a different perspective and begun to appreciate the many different ways of accomplishing a task. As you go through the stages of culture shock, you may feel frustrated that the way things were done in your home country is entirely different than in the United States. But you’ll also learn that differences don’t mean that something is wrong. Experiencing culture shock is a lesson in being open-minded. Once you’ve gone through the tough stages of culture shock, your perspective evolves, and so does your feelings of loss and confusion. 

If you’re still struggling with culture shock, here are a few things that you can do:

  • Establish a routine to help you become more comfortable in your new surroundings. Find your new favorite restaurant or the best route to work. By giving yourself a constant, you can start the process of feeling normal again. 
  • Make your new place feel like home. Surround yourself with familiar things and unpack as soon as possible. Make your new house feel like an oasis to provide a sense of comfort when the outside world feels overwhelming. 
  • Introduce yourself to your new neighbors and co-workers. Making new friends is key to combating loneliness and building a happy and fulfilled life in your new country. 
  • Join a local group or club to find people who share similar interests. The app, Meetup, is a great tool to help find groups near you. 

You’re never as fluent as you think you are

Whether you’ve come to the United States already knowing the language, or picked it up it along the way, you never really stop learning. The nuances of the English language can be tricky, and American humor and social customs can be even more challenging to translate. Even if you’ve lived in the United States for a majority of your life, the language and the ever-evolving American expressions will never stop surprising you. 

Take every chance to speak, practice, and ask questions to sharpen your language skills. You can’t become fluent just by living in the United States, it takes a continuous amount of effort. By understanding the language and increasing your comfort level, your grasp of the language will play a big part in a successful integration into American culture. As you practice your English skills, watch American television shows or your find your favorite book translated in English, as these are some simple things you can do every day. 

No matter how fluent you are, don’t be afraid to talk to the locals. You may slip back and forth between languages or find that the perfect word can’t be translated into English. It’s all part of the learning process, and not only are you learning, so are the Americans you converse with. Be open to sharing your culture and language, and you’ll find that the favor will often be returned. 

You are stronger than you think

As a newcomer to the United States, you may make some mistakes or find yourself in awkward situations. Be patient with yourself and know that’s all part of the process of fitting in and making America your new home. In time, you will learn how to meet new people, share a meal with your new friends, and what it means to be an American. In all the ways that your life will change, who you are will be the most significant change. Your perspectives will change, you’ll take different approaches to problem-solving, and you’ll stop noticing all the little differences and start appreciating how we’re all more alike than different. 

You will learn many things about yourself and your worldview as you settle into your new life. At times you may feel homesick, lonely, or frustrated, but remember why you are here. Your reason for coming to the United States is what will keep you pushing forward. Your grit and determination have gotten you this far, and it will continue to carry you during your time in the United States. No matter what happens or where this journey will take you, know that you are stronger than you think. 


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