10 Ways That Living Abroad Will Permanently Change You

In the past ten years, I’ve lived abroad in three countries: Argentina, France, and most, recently, Uganda.

As a result, I’ve learned that moving to another country will change you, in ways big and small. From what you to eat to how you see the world… and possibly even your accent.

Here’s how living abroad has permanently changed me.

1. I’m grateful for the little things…

Drinking from the tap. Having air conditioning. Not needing a VPN to watch TV. Using a dishwasher. After living in Uganda, I will never take these luxuries for granted again.

2. …But I’m kind of a snob.

I blame this on living in France. Call me a snob, but I still hate seeing runny cheese served cold. And don’t even get me started on the quality of bread in America.

3. Apparently, I have had a weird accent.

Thankfully, this problem has long since gone away. But when I was 24, after two years of living and traveling abroad, I’m pretty sure I had a weird accent.

After one trip, I was staying with a friend of a friend. After FOUR DAYS of staying with her, I mentioned I was from Michigan. She replied, “Oh, I thought you were Australian!”

Needless to say, I was mortified. Had I really turned into one of those pretentious Americans who sounded vaguely transatlantic?

Guys, it’s a Michigan accent, I swear to god. I’ve never even been to Australia.

4. I still think everything’s expensive.

The Rock Restaurant on ZanzibarThe Rock Restaurant on Zanzibar

Do you know how much a ten-minute Uber costs in Uganda? $0.80.

5. I’m a whiz at converting currencies.

I was terrible at math in high school, but after living abroad three times, I’m now a pro at converting currencies on the fly.

6. I know how to make a proper cup of tea. Kind of.

When I was younger, my family didn’t have a kettle. So when I made tea, I used to “boil” the water in the microwave and then add the tea bag.

After living amongst many Brits over the years, I have since reformed my ways. At the very least, I now put the tea bag in the cup before I pour in the water. Which is… something?

Definitely still a coffee drinker though.

7. I bake using the metric system.

First of all, let me say that I love the metric system. Efficient, universal, easy to compute… what’s not to love?

But I especially love using the metric system for baking. Instead of fiddling around with measuring cups, you simply weigh the ingredients in one bowl using a food scale. The result? Almost no dishes to wash.

8. I try to talk to everyone in foreign languages.

If I find out you speak Spanish or French, I will probably approach you with a lame line and try to talk to you.

And if I’m drunk and you’re Brazilian, I apologize in advance for my broken Portuguese.

9. I miss a lot of places, all of the time.

This is definitely a first-class problem to have. But having lived and traveled a lot of places, I’m nostalgic for a lot of places at once.

In the course of a week, I’ll miss eating noodles while sitting on six-inch plastic stools in Southeast Asia, riding on the back of a motorcycle taxi in Uganda, walking home from the bakery with a still-warm baguette.

While missing lots of places (and for that matter, people) can make me feel melancholy at times, it also reminds me of how lucky I am.

10. I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy in one place.

20 unique photos of Scotland

I’ve moved a lot in my twenties. The longest I’ve lived anywhere, Colorado, was two years. Now that I’m nearing thirty, I wonder if I’ll ever feeling content in one place. I’m honestly not sure yet.

Have you lived abroad? How did it permanently change you?

P.S. 10 Ways That Travel Permanently Changed Me and The Truth About Dating as an Expat.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

16 thoughts on “10 Ways That Living Abroad Will Permanently Change You”

  1. I’ve lived in three different countries–including the US, my country of origin–and I’ve also moved around a decent amount within the United States. And I can definitively say that after about three or four years, I notice that I get pretty restless and start looking for the next place. Whether that’s a good or a bad trait, I don’t know.

    We moved to Switzerland a year ago and I’m happy and have no plans to move at this stage… But I do wonder if “at this stage” is the operative phrase. We’ll see!

  2. I can relate to most of these, especially those Uber prices — they’re so cheap in India!

    I especially empathize with the not feeling at home in one place. I’ve been back in Memphis for a little over 3 years, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since 2011, and my feet are beginning to get a bit restless. I’m trying to slow myself down to figure out if it’s because friends are moving away, if it’s because I really hate Memphis summers and it’s still supposed to be over 90 degrees for the next two weeks, or if it’s because I am legitimately ready for a change of scenery. These next few months are going to consist of a lot of pro and con lists :)

  3. I couldn’t agree more with all of these. I like/ hate having friends all over the place, I miss them dearly but hardly get to see them all regularly! I am also a metric uni snob now… it’s especially hard at my job where we catch fish in pounds and fish at depths in fathoms (1 fathom = 6 feet), it’s all so backwards!

  4. Ashley, you do such a wonderful job expressing how many people feel. I don’t have the wonderlust that you do, but have much of the gratefulness for small things and appreciation for other cultures and people. Your mother brought up an insightful strong woman. If your feet get antsy, you can join us for tennis!

  5. We definitely feel you on #10! We’re really focusing on saving up money this year to move abroad or elsewhere in the US. We’ve been in Milwaukee for the last 3 years and have never felt settled. We really want to move and can never seem to feel completely settled in one place, especially after having lived in and traveled to so many different places. Feeling totally content in one place is a totally foreign feeling and one we’re not sure if we’ll ever have.

  6. “Grateful for the little things.” This so much.

    I was recently in Turkey and just was so appreciative that I have a/c where I live and copious amounts of ice cubes whenever I want (the lack of ice cubes in Turkey when being served a tepid drink was semi-torture ha ha).

    As for the accent, my Turkish guide in Cappadocia thought I was an Aussie. That was definitely a new one!

    Living abroad anywhere definitely makes you appreciate and value so much of what we often take for granted living in a developed nation.

    • Haha I’m glad I’m not the only one! And I so agree that travel helps you appreciate your home country. When I was in Uganda a lot of Ugandans I spoke to said they wished they had freedom of speech there – something I’ve taken for granted my whole life.

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