“Geii duoh qin ah?” I struggled to understand the sounds being enunciated from the stranger. Yet another day in the bustling and busy wet market of Wan Chai, an iconic landmark in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
Welcome to the land of lost in translation. Thankfully, they spoke English and Cantonese was similar to Mandarin, so I could pick it up quite quickly. Living abroad is #107 in my Trevellers Bucket List, and #108 is to do it all over again.
The experience of living abroad is an experience unlike other. A foreigner landing in an even more foreign land, trying to fit in yet standing out so much, the adventures you will experience will be mind-blowing.
1. You Learn To Kick Asses
Oh yes, you learn to kick asses. Not literally, although I did learn that too. What I mean, is the fact that you learn to be independent. Yes, yes, that’s what everyone says about living abroad. It almost becomes a cliché. However, you learn to be self-sufficient and live on your own.
When I was living abroad, I learnt 3 main things: Time Management, Financial Budgeting and Taking Care of Myself.
Time management is such an important skill. You learn to stretch your time to discover the new country, while getting your job done. You learn to cook, do your laundry after work and make it in time for dinner with your new friends. You work hard in the morning, party hard at night and travel to new destinations on the weekend. Such things do not come at the snap of a finger. A little planning and time management is needed. You learn to prioritize and do what is important when living there.
Not only is this important in your schedule, you become a more productive and efficient person when you being to prioritize and plan. The ability to manage your time is a valuable asset at work, and you can hone your skills, starting with your life!
Money is a huge issue. But you know what? With proper planning, everything is possible. Depending on how you live your life, you can alter the percentage accordingly. Also, spend like a millionaire if you are one. It is easy to overspend when you are alone, thanks to the freedom that comes along. But you learn to control yourself, with the Needs vs Wants, the Necessary vs Nice To Have.
Division of money: 30% Living, 20% Social, 15% Learning, 10% Holiday, 25% Invest.
This is adapted from my Hong Kong best friend, Li Ka Shing. Remember to live a life (living), hang out with friends (social), improve yourself (learning), treat yourself (holiday) and grow that money (invest)! After doing this for 2-3 months, it gets a lot easier. You can add more categories and change the percentage to suit your needs. However, remember to save or invest the money, just for rainy days.
Taking Care of Myself
This comes with independence, where you grow up and learn to take care of yourself. As you learn to do that, you are able to take care of those around you and in the future, your spouse and family. Ps: you can kick ass then take care of them after.
About 3 weeks in, I suddenly came down with a very high fever. I crawled out of bed to make myself soups and vegetables and stayed in bed all day. I recovered the next day and realized that, “Hey, I am stronger than I thought I am. A sick soul but still able to cook herself a decent meal and recover the very next day, wow. +1 point to myself!” And it brings us to point 2.
2. You Find Out Who You Really Are
On that note, you learn to find out about yourself – about who you are, what you stand for, your values. As you meet more people and introduce yourself, you start to question many things. What bring you here? Why are you here? What are you doing? Why are you doing what you are doing? These questions assist in your reflection, as you wonder what is your purpose (there/in life).
I would not exactly say that I have found my purpose, but I hope to inspire people and help them to believe once again. I found out that happiness in many adults are rare, and after growing up form being a child, they stopped believing. It saddens me to see that society has turned many into cynical adults, losing faith and hope. I hope to reignite the hot burning red fire of passion in people again, because it is never too late to live that childhood dream and be as happy as they always wanted.
Another thing about finding out about yourself, is what you stand for, and why you are who you are today. I learnt more thing about Singapore abroad, than being home all the time. I know more places, heritage and history about Singapore when I’m not home half of the time. I learn more about my own heritage (Chinese) and culture, thoughts and beliefs when lived abroad. Identity is created through differences, and you being to find your own identity when you observe the differences; hence, finding yourself.
3. You Get Freedom
Freedom is the most understated thing ever. When you gain your independence, you also gain your freedom. The freedom to do anything you want, the freedom to go anywhere you want, the freedom to be anyone you want. Without the chains of expectations of society and people around, you receive this breath of life called Freedom.
With freedom, it comes with a huge Terms and Conditions that we do not read. Freedom means that you are free to do anything (and really, everything) you want. But it also means that you are responsible for all the consequences involved. Living abroad is an exciting experience. It is impossible to replicate each person’s experience. In whatever you do, consider the consequences before making a decision.
It is easy to go out of hand when you stop thinking about the consequences. Remember to “calm down” once in a while, with this new high from freedom. Nonetheless, always have fun and be safe.
4. You Become Appreciative
Remember how they always say that you take things for granted? As you live abroad, you learn to be appreciative of everything. Maybe we have to lose it before realizing how precious something really is. At the comfort of our parents’ home, we have our laundry done, hot food served during meals and cleaning is not compulsory. You begin to appreciate the little things in life that makes everything awesome.
Not only so, you begin to appreciate yourself, your culture, you. I began to fall in love with Singapore every time I leave, because I am reminded about the undeserving privilege I receive because I am a Singaporean. I appreciate the blue skies and green grass. The 365 days of hot summer means so much when you see the dirty wet streets of Zurich in winter.
Every single moment feels like a magical miracle. I never noticed how beautiful everything was, until I saw the beauty from another perspective.
5. You Meet The Best People You Can Ever Meet In Your Life
If there is 1 reason why my life is as awesome as it is today, it is because of the amazing souls that entered my life. When you are in a new country, everyone is simply friends that you have yet to meet! You never know who you are going to meet, how they will change your life and what types of adventures you can embark on.
I met the best people ever, when I was living in Hong Kong. Sometimes, I begin to doubt my reality because it is too good to be true! Do you watch shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S., How I Met Your Mother, Sex And The City, Seinfield, etc.? Where a group of friends are stuck together forever and grow old together? That is what my life was in Hong Kong. The memories, the connection, the miracles. You never know who you are going to meet! And I’m telling you, your life will change.
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So, before you leave, think about what you want to get out of this. To experience the culture, to be independent, to meet new friends, to find a partner, to go crazy and have fun, to benefit that country by volunteering? There are endless possibilities of what you can get out of this experience. Otherwise you would just go with the flow (which is not bad) but you don’t get to fully experience everything the way you want it to. Here’s to the next destination, a new beginning! See you in Holland.