What’s really on your mind before you move abroad?

How annoying is it when people talk loudly on public transport? I constantly think “Can you just shut up!?” and am always relieved when either I or the loud talker gets off. This time however, I just wanted to go over to the seats behind me and tell the loud talker that I know exactly how she feels.

The loud talker, let’s call her ‘Emily’, was on the train and telling a friend how excited she was about moving from London to Tokyo (if I remember correctly), but as excited as she was, I could hear and understand every fear and doubt in her voice.

Moving from London to Tokyo is not quite the same as moving from London to Frankfurt and it didn’t sound as though she could speak the local language and had actually lived in the country on a temporary basis before moving there permanently, as had I. But moving abroad is moving abroad and hearing her words made me feel as though I was listening to pre-move Alisa.


As Emily spoke about getting her new job, I was flooded with memories of my oldest friend hugging me as we cried with happiness and sadness because I was finally relocating but we would no longer see each other at work and on the weekends, instead it would be 2 or 3 times a year. Emotions were high and I will be honest, this was certainly not my most productive day in the office. It all happened so quickly that I was in shock, delirious and a bit sad but also 100% confident about my decision as my dad asked me “Are you sure you want to do this?”

True friendships

I imagine that this is at the top of the ‘list of worries’ for most expats before relocating. “Will I lose touch with people? Will people still make an effort?” I wanted to tell Emily that for both questions, the answer is yes, but she reassured herself with “I guess I will find out who my true friends are.” I mentioned friendships in my One Year Since I Moved Abroad post. For me, rather than discovering ‘true friendships’, I’ve become more aware that different people stay in touch in different ways. Not all of your friends will constantly text you, but mean they’ll still be the first ones to turn up when you visit home and will be super excited to come and visit you.


After considering how friendships may change, Emily started to think about visitors. Once settled in, her loved ones could visit and she would be able to share her new life with them. Her friend then mentioned that she probably won’t have enough annual leave to take off work over the several times that she has visitors per year as well as having her own holidays, and especially if she wants to come home at Christmas too. This is very true. Once you move abroad, you take annual leave that you probably wouldn’t have used up whilst you were back home: longer periods over Christmas, a few days for visitors and then your own holidays too. People who come to visit can usually understand this and there is no harm in them having a day to themselves whilst you are in the office.

As we approached London Bridge, the final stop, Emily said that she “can’t think about the sad parts” and that she just has to “focus on the positive”.  At this point I thought that the positives always outweigh the negatives, no matter how daunting it may seem at the time.

Why didn’t I just say that to her? I guess it was kind of awkward to go round everyone just to say “you’ll be fine.” But hey, Emily (although I doubt that’s your name) if you do ever read this, I know you’ll be OK and will soon come to realise that this is one of the most enriching experiences of your life.  I never thought I’d say it but thanks for being the loud talker on the train. Enjoy Tokyo!

4 thoughts on “What’s really on your mind before you move abroad?

Add yours

  1. Alisa, an insightful, empathetic, reflective and compelling piece. Brilliant!! This will reassure all the other ‘Emilys’ out there! X


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