What They Don’t Tell You About Living Abroad

“150kr for such an awful trim”, is all I kept thinking the first time I left the barbers in Aarhus. Imagine coming out of a barber shop looking worse than when you went in and paying double the price you would back home for the pleasure.

Ok, fair enough, it is a first world problem, but I can’t pretend this along with some of the other things I have had to face when moving to mainland Europe haven’t been hard. I am not really one to moan or even talk about things that bother me but since I started speaking out on certain topics I have felt better for it.

I have read a lot of blogs about studying abroad and the problematic aspects of it, but unless I have been reading the wrong posts, nobody really speaks the realness. I will elaborate. Often, I see cute stories about people getting the bus in the wrong direction, misreading road signs or having to pay a lot more money for alcohol than they would in their homelands, but I haven’t seen the real problems people face.

Standing Out

I won’t be too harsh because, to be honest, my situation is probably a little bit unique compared to others that study abroad in Europe. I won’t ignore the elephant in the room. I am a tall black guy living in mainland Europe – there aren’t many of us, and as a result, I stand out. And if I am honest, standing out was probably one of the harder things to adapt to.
The fact I stood out so much made for an uncomfortable situation when I first came to Denmark. I don’t mind it in principle I can understand why it happens, but when you’re made to feel some kind of way, it makes things especially awkward. You (I) could just be walking to on the street and feel eyes on you from all directions. From the people in cars passing by, from the people walking on the road, from people in nearby buildings. I am talking about everywhere – and I have never been one to be paranoid about these sorts of things. Then in other scenarios, you could also be out and about and just feel the fear people have towards you. I could be going about my business, and some people would cross the road when they saw me, some people wouldn’t give me eye-contact, some people would hold onto their belongings just that little bit tighter than necessary. Again, it is not something I lose sleep over, but when you’re a regular guy only here to study, live and embrace the culture of the country just like others, it does leave a bitter taste.

Over-familiarity

Over-familiarity was a big problem when I first came moved abroad, though it’s not so much a problem now. When I talk about over-familiarity, I am talking about the interrogation type of familiarity. I’ll give an example of a situation that happened during my first few months in Denmark. I had moved into a dorm, and in that dorm, they had a bar. One evening I went to check it out and see how it is, grab a little drink or whatever. So, I am in the bar, and obviously, at the time I couldn’t speak any Danish, so I order my drink in English. A guy from the other end of the room must’ve overheard my accent, so he came up to me and near enough word-for-word the situation went as follows:

Guy: (Walks up to me and looks over)
Me: (Looks back)
Guy: What are you doing in Denmark?
Me: On an exchange, studying.
Guy: Where are you from?
Me: England
Guy: No, I mean where are you from?
Me: London
Guy: I mean where are you REALLY from?
Me: (I now understand what’s going on, but I don’t say anything)
(Pause for 10 seconds)
Me: London, but I grew up around Essex which is a nearby suburb.
Guy: No. I mean where are you parents from?
Me: (I laugh but continue to play along) … Both born in England.
Guy: (Tone gets slightly more aggressive) Where are you grandparents from!?
Me: Trinidad & Tobago.
Guy: Oh ok.
(He then walks off)
You can draw your own conclusions from that scenario.

Friends

Another thing not many people speak about when moving abroad is the relationship that you have with both friends in your adopted country and the friends you leave back home. Since moving overseas, it’s the relationship with my friends back home which has been the most challenging. To put it bluntly, when you move away for any substantial period of time, it can be difficult to maintain a proper relationship with a lot of people that you had been tight with for many years. Not to get too deep into it, but you definitely drift apart and end up not being able to relate to things in the same way. Whereas, when you meet gain friends in a new country, it can be nice, but equally, they can’t relate to certain things in the same way that my people back home could. There’s just certain banter which cannot be translated. Once again, it’s not the end of the world, but if moving abroad, you should be prepared to lose some friends that you had back home. It’s normal.

Just on a side note on the topic of friends. In October 2017, I created my business http://www.facebook.com/TheProofreadingHub. This is a business that I run part-time alongside my master’s degree. I offer professional proofreading, CV editing, and Cover letter services, to students, companies, authors and other professionals. In December 2017, a person that I considered a friend asked me about my business. This friend wanted to find out how it was going, whether it’s successful, what inspired the idea, etc. We had an open chat about said business and the conversation was left there. It’s now January 2017, and this same friend has now set up a proofreading business, operating in the exact same area as me, targeting the exact same demographic as me and supposedly charging more competitive rates than me. This is not something that I would expect from someone that I have known for some years now and had a reasonably good relationship with. All I will say is that it is important to have a clean heart and good intentions.

Concluding remarks

I didn’t write this post to shit on Denmark or other European countries for that matter. I liked Denmark so much that I moved back just eight months after the first time that I left. If I am honest, the pros outweigh the cons. It’s a great place, I have met some good people, received a good education, made some decent friends, learned a second language, visited some incredible landmarks and most importantly have found an excellent barber. However, if I am going to create a blog and write about all the great things about studying abroad, I would be doing myself and my readers and injustice if I didn’t highlight the downsides too. My experience abroad hasn’t been hassle-free, but it has been 100% worthwhile and incredible maturing and fulfilling experience that I hope long continues.

 

There’s a lot more I could talk about, but I think this is enough for now. I am new to blogging, so I am going with the baby steps approach, but thank you for reading. Please signup to the email list, like, share, etc.

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9 thoughts on “What They Don’t Tell You About Living Abroad

  1. This is very inspiring and educative Shaun. Denmark is truly a great option for studies but not without its own issues, some of which you have clearly highlighted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yea it’s the sticking out over a long period of time that can start to take it’s toll on you. But great post! I totally agree with so much of this!

    Like

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