1. Being a Native English Speaker is Both a Blessing & a Curse
- The Blessing: Basically everywhere you go, someone speaks english.
- The Curse: It makes it 10x harder to learn a different language
- This brings me to point #2…
2. Full Immersion is the Best Way to REALLY Learn a Language
- One of my favorite stories thus far: In the check out line at a store in Austria, two people somewhere around my age immediately started speaking perfect English, simply prompted by hearing my Dad and I speaking english. My Dad’s response: “You need to stay away from people like that.” Yes, yes I do, otherwise I would be downright impossible to learn German.
- Contrast this with my neighbors who speak almost no English. Communication turns into a mixture of hand motions and noises where you instantly start picking up German words.
- Long story short… opt for conversations where hand motions are required.
3. You May Think You are Packing Light…. You’re Not.
- If I had a dollar (or a franc for that matter) for every time I told my dad, “I promise I am not high maintenance, I only packed the essentials!,” then I would be rich.
- Moving to Vaduz I was faced with the challenge of packing business professional clothes, winter weather essentials, and some form of a casual wardrobe.
- My advice: Stick to neutrals and avoid patterns, then you can avoid the problem of having more clothes than you have space for.
4. Uncle Sam Follows You Everywhere, Even as an Expat
- You may think moving abroad means you are free from US bureaucracy. Wrong, wrong, and WRONG.
- Just try opening a foreign bank account, handing them a US passport, and the first words out of their mouth being “IRS,” “permission,” and “committee approval.”
- Reason being, for those of you who didn’t know, the US government is one of the only governmental entities that taxes US Citizens living abroad if they make over a certain amount of money. So much for “Land of the Free.”
5. You Will Miss Your Car. Inversely, Never Take Public Transit for Granted.
- Before arriving, my Dad swore up and down that we were not getting a rental car.
- The plot thickens. Turns out we had to rent a car to get to IKEA, then my Dad ended up loving the “freedom” of having the car so much that we kept the car for an extra day.
- In Europe you can get pretty much everywhere based on some combination of a bike, walking, bus, or train. But, having a car does make things infinitely more convenient, especially when you are an American who is used to it.
6. IKEA is Your Best Friend
- Are you a person who likes feather pillows and duvets? Well, IKEA is the place for you. At home in the states, good pillows can cost an arm and a leg, where as at IKEA you can get a MASSIVE feather pillow for 19 CHF.
- Thanks to this wonderful Swedish store I was able to purchase all the household essentials to transform my bed and the rest of my studio into my own cozy oasis.
7. Be Sure to Bring Things that Remind You of Home
- Speaking of cozy home oasis, don’t forget to pack things that remind you of home.
- In undergrad, I had hundreds of 4×6 pictures covering the walls of my dorm room. When I did a semester abroad in Italy, I failed to bring any photos with me and quickly realized this was a mistake.
- Thus, moving to Liechtenstein, my non-negotiable items included:
- Tons of photographs from home
- A poster of my favorite beer from my favorite hometown brewery, stolen from my brother (thank you Ricky, I love you!)
- A previously framed Mad Men Poster that adorned the wall of my house in Birmingham for the past 3 years
- My t-shirt quilt made out of my undergrad t-shirts which was a graduation gift from my brother and his wife
- Morale of the story, don’t underestimate how much these seemingly little things can help an international transition feel that much less intimidating.
8. Fiat Currency is a Royal Pain
- Liechtenstein borders Switzerland and Austria. Both Liechtenstein and Switzerland accept Swiss Francs, whereas Austria accepts Euros.
- Furthermore, large bills are convenient for travel, but it is almost downright impossible to use any bill larger than a 50 for day-to-day spending.
- Not to mention, most American credit cards are not contactless, meaning that not every machine will accept them. Us American’s may think that the chip cards are a big development, but living in Italy back in 2013 I had the same problem. Only back then, the problem was that none of my American cards had a chip.
- That being said, this mess seems to prove to point that it would be that much easier to scan a QR code in order to pay in BTC, ETH, or LTC than it is trying to operate on the basis of fiat currency.
9. Make Sure to Observe Local Customs
- In Liechtenstein, the customary greeting is “Hoi,” whereas the goodbye is “Ciao.” Contrast this with Austria, where you walk into a store and the greeting is “Grüß Gott.”
- It is amazing how much observing these differences makes, and how a little bit of effort goes a long way with gaining the respect of the locals.
10. Absorb the Scenery and Live in the Moment
- Why do you think I didn’t post on Instagram until yesterday, or write a blog post until now?
- For one, this tiny country is so beautiful that I am at a loss for words.
- On the other hand, it has been the special moments shared with my Dad at the start of this new adventure that have really made everything worthwhile.