By Joey Herrera on March 3, 2015
Congratulations, you've just accepted a job abroad! You’ve signed the contract and you’re ready to earn expat amounts of money. But, you will also have to live in another country for a few years.
As much as you hate Philippine traffic, politics, government, crime, entertainment, and Kris Aquino, this overcrowded country also contains the majority of your friends and family. And best believe as much as you hate the sound of your neighbor’s constant caterwauling with videoke every Sunday, you will miss it when you’re a few thousand miles away.
No matter how long you’ve wanted this job or how long you’ve planned for it, panic will inevitably hit. For some, it hits the minute you sign that contract; for others, it can hit when telling loved ones that you’re finally leaving. It can also hit when you’re alone, in the middle of the night, and realize that you have to leave everything and everyone you know and love behind.
Even if you’re just going a few hours from home or halfway around the globe, whether you’ll be speaking the local language or not, you’ll be gone. Your friends will do things without you. Your neighborhood will have new tenants and establishments that you won’t even know about. Everything will go on as usual back home and you will not be there.
This panic can lead to random googling of comfort items in your new country: whether Yakult is readily available and whether they have your brand of shampoo. You can also max out on Jollibee and Filipino foods like tocino and tapa even before you get your flight itinerary.
You’ll panic about having enough pocket money, getting your papers fixed on time, shipping your stuff or storing it in Manila. And mostly, you'll panic about whether or not you’re ready for such a big move.
This feeling will pass. If the company you’re going to is decent, they will help you with most of the panic. A mentor and supportive friends can easily help you cope. It’s not a different planet, it’s just another country. The Internet has been invented and flights are super cheap. Relax.
2) Advance Sepanx (Separation Anxiety)
Even the most hermit-like person will likely feel a twinge of despair at leaving. You will be sentimental and melodramatic and take videos and photos with most everyone you know. You may even tell that dude in the office you’ve been crushing on that you like him, YOLO-ing because you’re leaving. You will inevitably date someone you wouldn’t otherwise. Even the people you’re not particularly close to, you will suddenly think about missing.
Sweet text messages and desperate pleas to hang out will ensue. And for the most part, your friends will oblige you. You will be sweeter to your parents and finally accept their Facebook friend request. Suddenly, everyone will know your personal email address as you all promise to keep in touch. Even the most casual of acquaintances will get a coffee date and a promise that they can stay at your place when they visit your country of destination.
Just ride this emotion. It will pass. Sure, you’ll miss your friends and parting is such sweet sorrow. But you’re facing a new adventure and excitement should catch up soon.
3) The Doubt and Excitement Ping-Pong Game
You know you got the job for a reason, you know that you are qualified for it, and you are determined to make a difference in the company. But then you start worrying if this really is the right career move. Unless you have an extreme abundance of self-confidence, this is entirely normal so don’t let it faze you. You worry whether you’ll be able to acclimate in a new country, fit in with a new office, and find friends.
There are so many layers of adjustment to working abroad with the permits and the rules and the lines at POEA that you will be a rollercoaster ride of emotions most of the time. Just be prepared. Research everything and reach out to people you know who have done the same thing. Being Filipino, your extended network can probably connect you with someone in the same country anyway.
And you did get the job, so you probably deserve it. Don’t worry about that part. Just say your goodbyes and do your pre-work. You’ll be feeling excitement once the doubt fades. Or they make take turns, turning you into an emotional wreck. But that’s part of any change; that’s what makes it fun.
4) Packing Frenzy
For most trips, you’re just packing for a few days or maybe a week. But your job abroad could last years. How do you know what you’re going to bring? Which items are better to just keep or buy there? If you live in a place of your own, you’ll also need to give up your apartment and figure out what to do with your furniture.
Most people get emotional at around this time. Sure, a lot of companies hiring expats offer a budget for shipping items from the Philippines abroad, but how do you decide what to keep? What do you do with your books? Your office supplies? Are your clothes still acceptable in your new country’s weather, culture, or traditions?
Emotions run high during this time so it’s best to have friends over to help you decide. Ruthless friends who throw away things they know you don’t really need, like that ticket from that concert you went to five years ago or the stack of food delivery flyers on your ref. It helps to give some things as mementos to dear friends or hold a garage sale to help fund your first few days abroad. Turn packing into a group activity and it should go by easier.
5) Departure Time
You will have last minute goodbyes right after the first reminder for Web Check-In arrives. And some people who truly care will bend over backwards to spend time with you before you leave. These are the people you will truly appreciate because they probably will keep your spirits up as that departure time draws near.
There will be some tears at the airport, quite possibly from family members. You’ll realize belatedly that there were things you forgot to say and people you forgot to meet and at least 2 things you forgot to pack.
It will be bittersweet. You will ask your closest friends at least three times to keep their promise of visiting. And you may even cry yourself. The worst tears happen when you’ve already gone past the check-in counter and you’re just waiting at your boarding gate. There you are, alone, possibly with overstuffed carry-on luggage, waiting with other people who are traveling with friends or family. Then it hits you, you will be on your own for a good chunk time, in a new country. Tears may fall. There may be a frantic dialing of someone’s number.
But when you get on that plane and take your seat, you will be different. Because this experience will change you forever.