Sometimes moving to a foreign country can be a very daunting experience, especially if it’s your first time. Embracing a new culture, new life, new experience and the very thought of not knowing anyone, not having family or friends around, the discomfort of leaving behind everything you are used to including your favorite restaurant, hair stylist, beautician, dance instructor etc is not easy (at least, it wasn’t for me).
I’ve moved countries three times over the past 7 years and the most recent one was our move from Singapore to Hong Kong a month back. Here I was thinking the third time would be easy peasy but interestingly it threw up more challenges for me on a personal level and I’ve learnt so many life lessons along the way. So in a way I am very grateful I chose this move because it has been a process of incredible personal transformation and my awareness has expanded way more than I could imagine. I now see life differently than I used to, before!
So I was excited to put together these tidbits of learning I had during this process hoping this would be a contribution to others.
Moving to a foreign country, especially where English is not the spoken language, allows you to discover your superpowers like to communicate without knowing a language! It may come more from a space of necessity (and desperation at times!) because you can’t find a specific thing you are looking for in a supermarket and you have no idea what it is called in that language or you want to hail a cab but you have no idea how to tell the cab driver the address of your home in Cantonese because it somehow vanished from your phone’s notes! But hey, despite all this I’ve managed to get around in a place like Hong Kong and I was proud of myself for thinking out of the box and coming up with innovative ways to communicate what I need 😉
Let’s face it, when you move to a different country most things are probably not going to go as you expect them to, or the way you have been used to back home. Things are going to be chaotic! I was initially frustrated because everything in Hong Kong takes a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks – be it installing internet or cable TV in your home or getting your furniture and mattress delivered or even getting your bank account and credit card functional. So we had to wait for 3 weeks before we could actually move in to the apartment after getting our keys.
For someone like me, who is a control freak of magnitude this was too much chaos to handle. Nothing was perfect. Nothing was as I ‘expected’ it to be. Once I let go of all my expectations and points of view of how I have to be on top of everything and go as per my plan, I began to enjoy the experience of being here. I started seeing the beauty in this new place and the things that I could actually enjoy even though they were not perfect! So even though it is a roller coaster ride, it can feel out of control and it can be bumpy, if you let go of control and embrace that chaos that you are in, you can truly enjoy that moment and receive the beauty of it.
When you live in place for a very long time, we kind of get used to everything. Unknowingly we begin to create a zone of comfort around us within which we live our cozy life. There is very little reason and need to push ourselves out of that zone. It always pulls you back in. Life can become stagnant. But moving to a foreign country and having to set up your life from scratch means you have to go way far beyond this comfort zone you have created.
Change, initially can be scary for certain people because change is something that never comes the way you expect it to. It never looks the way you think it will. If you are someone who doesn’t like change, then you get screwed in this process. Embracing this made me even stronger as a person. It made me question the status quo I had unknowingly created having lived in a country like Singapore where life can be extremely comfortable and easy. I learned to talk to strangers despite having a language barrier. I got used to walking more, using public transport, long commutes and terrible traffic and not to forget the insane amount of crowd and people in this country. It wasn’t easy but hey I love being here now and I am receiving the amazing things this country has to offer!
Moving out of a country that you called home means you have to leave behind a lot of things that you really love. That piece of furniture that’s your favorite may not fit in your new home, or you can’t carry your plants that you nurtured and love the most. Not to forget leaving behind your favorite places and amazing friends that you hung out with. It was hard to let go of some of the things I loved but making that choice made me more willing to lose things that I love the most. It’s said that whatever you are unwilling to lose actually controls you and your life. When you are willing to lose everyone and everything, your life can actually be greater because you are then making choices based on what will create the most not because of someone or something.
During the move and this whole process of settling down in a new country I’ve seen many things go ‘wrong’ but instead of judging it as wrong and getting frustrated, I started to see what was right about things not working out. I began to trust my awareness and that there is a gift in whatever shows up the way it does. Whether the visa doesn’t arrive on time or the move to the apartment gets delayed or shipment is damaged, you simply begin to trust that everything will work its way out when it has to. You give up your inner perfectionist and begin to trust in you and the universe more. This level of trust can bring in a deep sense of ease and peace into your life and you can literally handle anything!
Let’s be practical. Everything is not going to be nice and fairy and gold dust like. There are things that you may not like. Things that shocked me here was that most people are mean and rude, for no reason. I am used to loads of politeness in Singapore and initially I got offended but you realize each country is different. People are different. You develop more allowance and stop judging and just look at it all as interesting. Because moving here is a choice I made. Choice always creates more awareness, you know! The less you judge, the more you can receive from everyone and everything around you. You also probably learn to appreciate your home country more and judge it less because there are some comforts back home that you will never find anywhere else! 🙂
If you are anything like me, you don’t like asking for help! I’ve always been this so called ‘independent woman’ who doesn’t like asking people even for directions even when I get lost. I like figuring things out on my own. But I’ve learnt that asking and learning to receive help from others just makes your life more easy and fun. Receiving is something we don’t do well on this planet but I’ve been exercising that muscle a lot living in Hong Kong where I literally have to ask people for help to get my way around and find out where to shop for what! The language barrier makes it tougher. But learning to ask and receive help has created more ease for sure and this now reflects in other areas of my life too.
When I moved to Hong Kong, in the first couple of weeks I felt like I was uprooted, like i didn’t have any place that I could call “home” anymore. I’ve been out of India way too long to relate to it as home and Singapore is what I used to refer to as home but here I was feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. That was a very unusual feeling that I had never experienced before. But when I looked at it deeper, I realized that we often times refer to a particular ‘place’ as home but it’s actually the ease, joy, comfort and the energy that you be, the space that you be that’s home. You can travel around the world all the time and yet feel at home wherever you be ‘coz it is never about the city/country, it is about your energy and space. And the voila! the moment I had this awareness, everything changed for me. I was happy again and loved being here.
Every time I’ve moved to a different country, I’ve embraced a new lifestyle and culture. While I was in Dubai and Singapore I still felt closer to India. But moving to Hong Kong pretty much feels like I’m living in China and it required allowance and getting used to a completely different set of people and culture. I started doing things differently, eating different kind of food, learning new table manners at chinese restaurants etc and I felt like I am a completely different person. With every move you begin to lose all definitions you have of who and what you are and how you are supposed to live based on your past. You lose all reference points.
I suddenly felt like I am this blank canvas and I can create myself as someone completely different. In this process, I began to see those part of me that I had never really allowed myself to see. For example, i always thought I hated walking around and that I was lazy to take public transport. But when I had to actually choose that as that’s the best way to get around in Hong Kong, I noticed how much my body enjoys walking. There are also these amazing hiking trails and mountains and running tracks around the coast, all of which I love. Trekking, hiking, running, walking have all become my new passions. New found interests (things I had never considered before!). There are new priorities in life now as I begin to adapt to this new environment.
So I am extremely grateful for this entire experience as I started discovering new things about me that add more joy to my life and I’ve grown as a person, a lot!
How does it get better than this?!