So you made it to your new home abroad! Everything is so exciting, new, and you can’t wait to explore!
Life is grand, isn’t it?
There are so many things to explore that you care about:
– Insta-worthy locations
– New fun things!
(And maybe you already made a checklist of what you should do during your first week abroad…)
There is truly nothing like the honeymoon phase of being in a new place.
Even though it’s exciting to get to know a new place, there are certain things that many, many new residents – especially Americans – accidentally screw up whilst abroad.
Prepare yourself in advance – not all of these mistakes might be true in your particular situation, but any of these might happen to you!
Taking out the trash… incorrectly
Sure, you’re taking out the trash like you normally do because #adulting.
But are you following the local laws for separating your waste?
In most places across the United States, there are two bins to take out – trash, and single stream recycling. Whatever isn’t single stream goes into the general garbage.
… and maybe you collect plastic bags from stores when you unwillingly receive them and then return them to the stores. You know, like cool kids do.
Outside of the United States, there might be more bins, including for compost and natural waste, separated recycling, and stronger laws regarding how to properly discard items.
Additionally, in some countries you must purchase specific trash bags that have the cost of waste removal embedded in the price of the bags (here’s looking at you, South Korea!).
Wherever you are, make sure to learn the local waste management rules as early as possible to avoid making mistakes (and possible run-ins with law enforcement over trash).
Not weighing fruit at the grocery store
This is probably one of the more entertaining things to screw up.
You go to the grocery store, load up on fresh veggies, fruit, bread, cheese, and maybe some really cheap wine.
Then, you wait in line like a local, exuding confidence.
You set down your items.
The cashier looks at you, looks at the produce, and looks at you again… and then sends you away.
All you can think is “BUT WHAT DID I DO?”
Truth be told, you probably just forgot to weigh and price out your produce.
In many countries, there are digital scales on which you can place your fruit and veg and type in the individual product numbers. Then, the scales spit out a sticker or receipt for you to present the cashier when you cash out.
Everyone goes home happy!
So, this is something that happens to Americans a LOT more than anyone will admit.
Sure, study abroad students and travelers love going to Oktoberfest, Carnaval, international festivals, and any other number of huge party events. Who doesn’t love posting pictures of you in your lederhosen and quart of beer?
Let’s be real – drinking abroad is fun and, sometimes, cheap.
However, the culture of binge drinking affects Americans abroad more than most other cultures, and has some significant potential ramifications.
On any given evening in many countries, people enjoy beer or wine with their friends. However, drinking to the point of blacking out is viewed as sloppy in many cultures.
Make sure to drink responsibly – it’s a lot more enjoyable to remember your time abroad!
Having unrealistic expectations of the logistics of getting around and staying connected
After seeing the Instagram feeds of your friends who studied abroad, everything will be awesome all of the time, right?
First of all, there may be shitty days when you’re abroad (yep, even if you’re only traveling for a short period of time!).
Second of all, some things may grate on your last nerve for any number of reasons.
Transportation might not be as reliable or straightforward as you anticipated.
There might be fewer signs in English than you thought.
You might get jostled at the store and lose your “spot” in line… wait, wasn’t there a line? What in the actual crap THERE IS NO STRUCTURE IN THIS LAWLESS LAND!
In these situations, just take a moment.
Here are some realistic expectations to have:
- Transportation is important to research in advance, but know that it will likely frustrate you.
- Your phone might not work as much, or as well, as it does at home.
- You will need to learn some key phrases in the local language.
- While your visit is welcome, you will need to adapt to the local customs (no, you won’t change the local queuing culture in the time you are there).
All of these mistakes are avoidable, and will ultimately improve your experience abroad – just think of all of the fun in your future!
What mistakes have you made while abroad? Share below in the comments! For more travel tips, follow me on Pinterest!
The “What the Hell Have I Done” Moment
An Open Letter to Students Departing for Study Abroad
7 Habits of Successful Study Abroad Students
11 Things You Need to Research Before Traveling
Why You Should Use the STEP Program