5 Things I Learned From Living Alone in a Foreign Country

I still remember the day of my flight to China. It was my first time to travel abroad alone, let alone to a place where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language. Surprisingly though, my worry at that time was not about how I was going to cope with living alone in a foreign country, but whether or not I will get through immigration without any hitch. I was not afraid of going; I was afraid of not being able to go. And that’s what my first realization is about.

1. All it takes is courage to go where you have never gone.
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Every day in China is a lesson in courage – from overcoming the language barrier to exploring places I’ve never been.  It took massive amounts of courage to leave the comfort and safety of home, and now that I’m here, it is courage that gets me through unfamiliar situations. Believe me, I am not a brave person. I have many fears that cripple and prevent me from being the best I can. Yet here, I am challenged to be bolder to get what I want, because no one else will do it for me.

2. Good relationships are essential to a happy life.
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My life in China would have been miserable without the supportive community of fellow expats who are my family here. Being away from my family and friends in the Philippines is very difficult. Yet, it is important to leave the nest so one can discover one’s place in life. The key is in learning how to maintain old relationships and develop new ones. Being away from home gives me a better appreciation of my family and friends and also challenges me to be more open and accepting of new people and relationships. As long as you have people around you who truly value you, then you will be fine.

3. Although it’s not the be-all and end-all of existence, money (or should I say good money management) should be a priority.

Saving for me is a constant struggle due to my shopaholic tendencies. When you decide to live alone, however, you also have to be financially independent. Thus, learning to properly manage your finances is a must for survival. You don’t need to deprive yourself of all luxuries and save all your money, but at least you should have a cushion to allow you some mobility when you need it. I can imagine how being stuck in a foreign country with no money can be an absolute nightmare!

4. To survive, you need to adjust, adapt, and be flexible. image

You wouldn’t believe how many cultural and social differences you need to overcome once you step out of your own country. Guangzhou is only 2 and a half hours away from the Philippines, but the cultural gap can definitely be felt. For many expats (myself included), there is a tendency to complain too much about these differences. In fact, during my first few months here, all I did was compare how things are in China versus the Philippines. This is natural, but there should come a time when you realize that these differences are there to stay. You either move on or deal with it. Complaining and lingering on these differences not only gives you a negative experience instead of an exciting one (come on, you’re in a new country that’s full of new possibilities), but these may also hinder you from forging new, meaningful relationships.

5. The world is smaller than you think, and it’s waiting for you to conquer it.
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Before I left the Philippines, the idea of traveling the world and living in different countries seemed far-fetched. When I left, I realized that it was all a matter of perspective. When you’re in a bubble of familiarity, you are lulled into thinking that the world is limited to the borders that are within your view. Once you step out of your bubble, however, you begin to see that the rest of the world is just a step away! The possibilities open before you and you realize that all are ripe for your picking. Today, China. Tomorrow, the rest of the world!

I hope this inspired you to pack your own bags and seek an adventure in a foreign country. Good luck!

What I’m wearing: white button down from Zara, jeans and ballet flats from H&M, coat from Banggood.com

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