Moving back home after living abroad is always a challenge. For Alex, this is her forth time moving abroad (if you count study abroad). For me, it’s my second (again, if you count study abroad). But moving abroad on a budget has been fundamentally satisfying in a way that study abroad never could. When moving abroad, things are not arranged for you. Nobody acquired us a place to live or gave us a lifestyle to mold into. Instead we figured it out all ourselves. While that has been a challenge, perhaps the bigger challenge will be moving back home after living abroad.
Just as there’s no rulebook for moving abroad in the first place, there’s also no rulebook for moving back home after living abroad. Although we’ll only be back in New York for two months, it will be a significant cultural adjustment. I imagine that I’ll accidentally say gracias to thank people for their service, but it will of course go beyond that. Living in Southern Europe is very different than being in the US. From the lifestyle to the cultural expectations, everything is different. Some things — such as the more relaxed lifestyle — are unquestionably better. I’ve spent the majority of my time here sleeping in until whenever I want to. But there are some things here that are also worse. You have less options in everything, from eating and cooking to hygiene products, and there is that cultural barrier that is difficult to overcome.
Not having any mastery of Spanish, neither of us truly culturally integrated in the past six months. While we did take private lessons, those mostly served to buffer our serviceable knowledge of the language. This arms length approach will likely make moving back home after living abroad a bit easier. This has been particularly true when it comes to meeting people, who may not share a lot of the same sentiments as you — even if they are expats.
This has been a main reason why neither of us have made any permanent connections while being here. When we moved, we knew that we would only be here for six months. Also, one of those months was dominated by family. This means that we didn’t have a ton of time to acclimate and start making new friends. And we also didn’t have a strong inclination given the strong cultural barriers. In fact, both of use have made more new connections while traveling rather than while living abroad. Given that the lifestyle in Granada is fairly static, there also isn’t a ton of opportunity to meet others who are in a similar situation.
That’s not to say we haven’t gone out and met new people and couples. We have. But between being in contact with friends back in the US (who are normally busy anyway) and working, we weren’t really able to make any strong connections. While I imagine that will make moving back home after living abroad quite a bit easier, it will still be a challenge. From our apartment with its gorgeous view to our day-to-day lifestyle, there is a lot I will miss. But more importantly, there were a lot of memories that were made while moving abroad. And moreso than connections, those are the types of things that stay with you a lifetime.