I am a rather spontaneous and adventurous person, I love to travel. I always had a thing for everything foreign, and I always knew I would live abroad. 13th of October of 2015 I moved to Portugal to try out the life there. This decision changed my life for 180 degrees. So I will brief shortly should havs and must havs, when you suddenly fall in love and you partner turns out to be a foreigner.
I made a decision maybe two months before the date I had the flight, right after my hitch-hiking trip through Portugal and Spain – My first Hitchhiking summer across Spain and Portugal. Everyone was really sceptical about this, never imagining I would ever survive that long. Somehow I was always hanging out with people from the south so for me it made a lot of sense to go and live there – that that’s my place, with sun 24/7, beaches and warm people. Somehow not everything turned out how I expected. Instead of climbing up my career’s stairs, I found love. If u are a nomad like me, you can risk going somewhere with no job contract, otherwise you will be broke and back home soon.
How did life play me?
My story is the following: I arrived to Portugal and stayed at some people place I met the previous times I came to Porto. I still remember well my emotions when I just arrived at the airport. There was no one in the terminal waiting for me and I had that moment of realisation – “what the f*** have you just done, Kristine.” That passed quickly, after meeting my new flatmates and their friends I was pretty excited and happy, then after two weeks things changed, which is normal. Imagine when you come home from long travel – at first you are the centre of the attention, later the things calm down. My case wasn’t any different, two weeks later I already had a plane ticket back home.
And then life plays this joke on me. Actually it wasn’t the life, it was me. Once I had this security – plane ticket – I actually started to meet people that weren’t simply bumping into me, but where hiding maybe waiting maybe. Yes, 5 days before the big day I went out for a coffee with a friend of a friend and since that day I was in a big trouble. Passed a few more days and I became more and more unsure if I really wanted to go home. So in the last evening before my flight, I listened to my heart and open the doors to a great relationship. One year passed and I am in love up until my ears – as we Latvians say. 😀
New circle of friends and the language barrier
After all this time, dinners and parties, I still call them – her friends. Not because I would’t like them, which I do, I simply don’t feel so strong connection. In the beginning it is difficult – it’s like you are competing with 10 year old memories and relationships, often getting jealous and frustrated because of this language barrier. No matter how well you know the language, there will always be some joke or expression that you won´t get. I am lucky cause I am good in languages and I love learning local slang, expressions and the naughty things, which if said, everyone will instantly love you. But still – you will often simply choose to ignore the conversations because even though you might have something to add or share it might feel too frustrating to explain yourself and you will quit.
Talk to your partner
You must talk to your partner, so that he/she can help you, by engaging you in the conversation. Explain your partner how you feel, because everything can be solved. We speak in English but I like to mix languages and sometimes we even speak exclusively in portuguese to practice a bit more. Also for your partner it might be tiring to speak English all the time, some things simply come out more naturally in his/her own language – which is absolutely fine. You can learn some new words in the end. Also consider taking language classes. By learning some grammar rules, you will understand the language better and will have better chances to land a job. I used duolingo and some online sites, but courses would have helped for sure. 😉
Also they often say – if you dont´t master the local language in the first year abroad, you may never get the courage to learn it.
Feeling homesick, isolated
The feeling of being alone might creep out sooner or later. You might start missing your friends and things you used to do when you were at home. Your partner will want to show you to everyone. You might get tired of meeting people realising that you have absolutely nothing in common, except the person itself. So this is the big deal-breaker. You might feel discouraged to go out and party. Because you know he/she will be with the friends and you will stay either stay alone or attempt awkward interactions.
Maintain connection to your country
To avoid the homesickness it is an absolute must for you to make your own friends or your natives in the country. Try reading, listening your countries news, don’t forget your language, identity and culture. Talk about it and share! Make the locals get to know you through your country. You will get surprised how long time you can talk about it and how much the others will be interested. Exchange, compare, laugh about it, it’s your identity. Plan some trip there eventually. You need to show your partner where you come from, bring to places, show your friends etc. What i didn’t do, was buying a ticket back to visit my folks, which I think is a smart thing to mark in your calendar, so that you have a date to hold up to.
Get your new connections where you live
Getting a local job would not just give you an extra income but would also be a good chance to make new friends that have similar interests to you. Your partner should encourage for you to go out and find those people, there are different communities to consider. If you like travelling then couchsurfing is a cool free time activity that both of can engage in. Show your partner that foreigners are cool – and that it is interesting to spend time with them. Your partner needs to understand that you need to find like-minded people.
Find things to do
Engage in hobbies, sports, classes, anything that would let you socialise. In the end – know your new home, the culture, learn the language the country’s identity, don’t isolate yourself. You are in this new country, full of surprises and beautiful places, the things that brought you (me) there in the first place. This has been a hell of journey for me, and I love Portugal, it will always have a warm place in my heart.
What else I had to deal with while living abroad?
- Modern slavery – or being employed
- My inner journey – becoming generalist
- A local foreigner – 3 months in Porto
- Living on the edge – challenge yourself