I was always aware that moving abroad was going to have its challenges- there was a reason we had weekly lectures leading up to the end of second year based on the culture shock or “choque cultural” as it was helpfully referred to in Spanish seminars. However, no amount of lectures and activities based on the change will truly prepare you for a year in a foreign country. Because everything is different.
My biggest shock so far has been the food and transport here in Madrid. I was lucky enough to have my Mum help me move abroad, who then stayed with me for three nights while I settled in. For those three days, we tested out the routes to my workplace, so I could get used to the buses and metro. On the first day, it took me two hours to successfully catch a bus to my desired location because I was largely unaware of the differences to England. Firstly, the bus won’t stop unless you physically wave it down, jump in front of it and shout at the driver, they will just keep driving to the next stop. Also, I was unaware that it was the most common thing in the world for buses to not turn up at the time they are meant to. In fact, on many occasions, the bus has rounded the corner five minutes earlier than predicted and I haven’t been ready to catch it. Buses never arrive early in England.
On the first day, it took me two hours to successfully catch a bus to my desired location because I was largely unaware of the differences to England
The food in foreign countries is also extremely different to home. I find this particularly prominent in Spain where the European culture hardly overlaps with the culture I’m used to. I’ve found that a lot of the food or home comforts I would ideally purchase simply aren’t on the shelves or they are, but priced extortionately. Things like my beloved PG Tips tea or branded shampoo are very hard to come by and it’s difficult to adjust to.
Moving abroad has been a whirlwind of emotions so far, there have been many ups but there have also been many downs, which is to be expected with such a massive change underway. Aside from these culture shocks, having to deal with Spanish bureaucracy and the general slow work from the Government means that I’m struggling to get my legal documents in check at the same time. To be successful on a year abroad, you have to be extremely resilient!
It’s important to note that all of the stress of the first few weeks of moving abroad is worth it when you can look back at the end of the year and see how you’ve immersed yourself in another culture and developed your language skills. The settling in takes time but it certainly pays off.