The first challenge when settling abroad…

The first challenge when settling abroad…

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Are you thinking to study abroad or experience a foreign culture? Settling abroad in another country may bring many challenges and they are not always easy to overcome. If you want to know what is the first challenge that may occur when living abroad and how you can overcome it, this article might be for you.

I traveled around the world in more than 22 countries, and I studied abroad in both Netherlands and Portugal. These 2 countries are in complete opposition. One has very strict and organized people who are fluent in English, and the other one has laid-back people, who don’t always speak the best English. Did you guess which one is which? I had many challenges in understanding them, especially the Dutch people who pronounce the “G” as an “H”. And trust me, it is not a solution to talk in German when you are in Holland, or in Spanish when you are in Portugal. Even though you might think you can get around with these “easier replacements”, it is not advisable to do so.

The first thing I did when studying abroad was to blend with locals. This meant joining their study groups, joining their parties, bike with them or eat out with them. Being in school gives you the best opportunity to find other Erasmus students (who are on the same page as you), but also locals, who are not on the same page with you, but are usually interested in getting to know new “foreign” people.

In my opinion, you can only start learning the language when you feel comfortable enough and you start recognizing the customs from the country you live in. For example, after living in Portugal for 2 months, I found myself getting coffee in the middle of the day for no reason. Also, I was not punctual anymore. That’s when I knew I blended in, and the next stage would have been to start learning the language.

 In my opinion, learning the language can’t happen without professional help. Usually, as a foreign student, you can take classes in school that makes things way easier. After learning the basics in school, you can practice with locals. Learning their language can impress them. Just put yourself in their foot. Imagine you meet a nice guy/girl in your Portuguese town, he/she is French, but he/she speaks Portuguese? How awesome is that?

As I said, being an Erasmus student brings in front of you many people. And many people equal many names. When you see yourself surrounded by colorful people from all over the world, keeping in mind all the different names can be very overwhelming.

By my opinion, the biggest challenge when settling in abroad is…


Names are the sweetest sound for one’s ear. Messing it up or not keeping it in mind can cause embarrassing situations. So how can we overcome these situations? What if we did not keep the name in mind from the very beginning? How do we ask that person again the embarrassing question “Excuse me, what is your name again?”

Another way to say it is…

How should I pronounce your name correctly?

This question allows you to be polite because your intention is to correctly pronounce the name of the other person. What happens is that the person in front of you will repeat his/her name, without thinking that you have forgotten their name.

Moreover, he/she will feel respected that you want to pronounce their name correctly without making any mistake. Also, many times the discussion will become more relaxed and funny. That’s because you start repeating the name with a weird accent and the person in front of you will correct you smiling. You’ll both start laughing and having fun, easily being the start of a long lasting friendship.

Hopefully, this tip will help you get around more easily and you’ll get to know more valuable people in your travels.

Travel passionately,


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BSmyth August 22nd, 2017

I absolutely love Portugal! Specifically Lagos, Portugal :)

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