How to Survive Living Abroad

How to Survive Living Abroad Jackie DeGiorgio
Evening light gilding the magical Duomo of Milan, my adopted city’s most distinct landmark.

How to survive living abroad? I get asked countless times by either friends, family, friends of friends who are considering expatriating themselves or just the blatantly curious about how to survive living abroad/what it’s like/is it hard to make friends/what’s the secret, etc.? To be honest, I love it here and sometimes I wish I didn’t love it so much because most days, it’s no cup of tea. But then again is anywhere? Absolutely not. So, this is how I always respond…

It’s the people with whom you surround yourself–the friends who treat you like family–that are the key to surviving living abroad and staying happy! Of course be warm and friendly to everyone, but be discerning, too, because as with anywhere, there are unkind people out there, which makes living abroad not that different from living anywhere else.

As with anywhere in life (high school, college, NYC, jobs, etc.), I have encountered some of the best people I have ever met in my life and some of the worst–some more surprising than others–and it’s imperative to surround yourself with good friends who support you. I wouldn’t still be living abroad if not for these people.

It’s funny here because sometimes I see tension among adults that recalls something you’re more likely to see among juveniles. There are some people who don’t want to support others and view all newbies to their respective cities as “competition” if you will (sounds like high school, no?) and while they might not outwardly do anything to “sabotage” you so to speak, they just won’t lend you their support. However, there are others–both expats and locals–who believe there’s enough room for everyone and will do whatever they can to help and support you….I would advise you to gravitate towards the latter of these two types.

There are the people whose primary life goal seems to be acquiring social media followers, some a little more shamelessly than others even going so far as to use one’s social media followers to determine whether or not that person is worth their time. I think some social media users also use an Instagram growth service so that they can compete with other users to determine who’s more popular. I social network so I’m not trying to diminish or insult the platforms as I believe they’re smart for certain things and I’ve met some great people thanks to them, but I’ve never been one of those quantity over quality people nor will I ever be. The stories I’ve heard are just downright silly! People get mad because they think others have copied their Instagram pictures which is just so silly because as big as Milan is, it’s still a small world after all. I hate to be the one to break this to them, but when the poppies blossom at Castello Sforzesco, everyone snaps a shot and posts it on Instagram. There are thousands of trams in Milan’s streetcar fleet, so plenty of people shoot the trams in action. It really makes me laugh. He copied my picture…this sounds like the fourth grade, no? Who has time for this BS? Not me! As bonkers as this may seem, it’s one of the realities of expat life.

So, to conclude, here’s my advice in a nutshell: Surround yourself with genuine, kind, supportive, drama-free individuals to survive living abroad and you’re golden. Buon weekend!

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