I get asked a lot how I’m liking Antigua and if I’m happy we moved here. I usually reply that yes, I like it, but it’s also very different.
Once the sparkle fades from the exciting prospect of living in a new country, you will probably start to wonder what on earth you’re doing. Everything is different and almost everything is difficult (at first). Imagine all of the time and effort it took for you to build a career, relationships, a personal identity, etc. Now imagine that most of that is a thousand miles away, and you’re like a child again. You might not understand the language, the culture is foreign, people dress differently, the food is different, the stores are different, and for goodness sakes, there’s not even a Walgreens 🙂 ! Simple tasks like going to the grocery store become this huge obstacle (glad someone finally explained what a NIT was) that take you forever and stress you out. But it will be fun, they say!
The positives of living here (far) outweigh the negatives, and I feel so lucky to be able to have this experience. It’s fun and rewarding and hard, all rolled into one…and I wouldn’t change it for the world! Also, not doing this alone has made a huge difference (thank you for everything, Pitu).
If you’re considering the expat life, here is what you can expect!
You will inevitably miss out on things back home.
Your friends will get together without you, they’ll start to talk to someone else when they need a friend, your family will have Thanksgiving without you, and life will go on while you’re thousands of miles away. Go home when you absolutely need to, take advantage of that $400 flight, even if it’s just for a couple of days. A WhatsApp family chat goes a long way to feel included from afar!
You will get homesick.
I miss the most random things that made my life 100x easier (Walgreens comes to mind). I miss my job, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I even miss the Chicago weather. Just know that these feelings are totally normal, and will likely get weaker the longer you’re away.
You will meet new people.
It takes time, and it’s kind of awkward and uncomfortable to make new friends (so much easier in kindergarten), but you will meet new people. I’m lucky that Antigua has a relatively large population of expats, and people are generally really friendly and curious. Even if they don’t fit into the mold of your new best friend, talk to them, learn about them, and make an effort.
You will cry.
There will be tough days, so keep busy and take care of yourself. One time, I cried after getting a massage in Antigua…it was an intense deep tissue massage and at the end, all of my stress and anxiety that had built up just overflowed. It was kind of scary when it happened, but I’ve read a lot about it since and it actually makes a lot of sense. A puppy helps with this too 🙂 How can you be sad when you have a really cute and playful puppy?!
You will grow.
Personal growth is something I think about a lot, and I’m admittedly extremely hard on myself. All of the challenges you face and all of the hard days are there for a reason; after all, no one has ever died from a bad day (I think). Change your perspective, and view the tough times as an opportunity to grow.
You’ll have to re-learn rules.
Depending on where you’re moving, expect stuff like healthcare, car insurance, taxes, banking, etc. to be different. The days of depositing a check digitally in my banking app are looongggggg gone. Things are slow in Guatemala, which isn’t necessarily bad, but can be pretty frustrating when you’re used to a totally different (and much more efficient) system.
You will adjust. And you will be happy, if you let yourself.
It takes time and effort, but you will eventually adjust to your new routine and surroundings. You will learn that different doesn’t always mean better or worse, and that life is really, really, amazing. Practice gratitude, live in the moment, and make a conscious decision to be as happy as possible.