This past year I was intensely studying Mandarin Chinese in Taipei, Taiwan when love came a knockin’: I met my Israeli partner, who was doing a three month work project in Taiwan.
During this time, we built a love and friendship that neither of us wanted to end when his project was over.
So, we decided to go the distance.
We saw each other every two months, for the remaining six months of my program, and then—having a bit more flexibility in my life—I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel.
It was not as easy as I may have implied, but with our joint efforts, we made it happen. Moving caused a lot of stress and anxiety. Although I have moved across the world several times before, it was always to the same region: East Asia. When I moved to The Middle East it was a whole new ball game and I wish someone had given me the advice that I needed.
So, I decided to compile a list of advice to survive the move for love.
1) You will not fit in, so make it work for you.
When I moved to Israel, one thing became quiet apparent to me: I am not Jewish. When introducing myself to others, they could hear my Kansas-American accent and would ask excitedly: “Are you here to make Aliyah?” I would reply, “No,” and the typical response would be “What are you doing here then?” I would usually tell them the story and we would go on with our lives.
At first, I was really upset when people would ask me why I came here, then. I later learned that, while open and warm people, Israelis level of tact is not on par with what I am accustomed to. But, because of their warmness, Israelis are very accepting of new people into their pack—shiksa or not. Also, because of my foreignness, I have found many unique opportunities here that probably would not be available in other parts of the world.
How many 6’0″ tall, blonde women live in Israel and have a degree in Fashion, speak Mandarin and English and teach yoga? Discover your niche and roll with that!
When living in a new country as a foreigner, you bring a fresh prospective to any unique opportunity you may encounter.
2) Your partner is not necessarily going to understand what you are going through, so find people who do.
When I moved I would get emotional, a lot.
My partner could not understand why. He was so happy that we were finally together after six months apart. While, I was very happy to be back together with him, I also realized that to be in this relationship I had to leave behind everything that I ever knew, and was comfortable to me, and live in this foreign place where I did not speak the language, literally and culturally.
It is very hard to be thrown into a new environment, whether you have experienced it before or not. As the first few months went by I discovered a few friends who were going through similar situations as me. It makes it a lot easier to have peers who understand your situation, so find them!
Take a language class in your new country and you’re bound to meet the people who are most like you.
3) You are not going to understand what your partner is going through, so extra communication is crucial.
Some days are way harder than others living in a foreign country. Aside from missing family, not knowing the language, and figuring out modes of transportation, I am also trying to navigate this new level of relationship with my partner. Moving to a new country to be with your partner is serious business. And, when you are moving to your partner, they are going to feel a deeper level of responsibility for your safety and happiness.
Do not take this lightly, I will be the first to admit that I have my crazy times when I come home having some jerks cut me off driving 50 times and I could not find all of the ingredients at the grocery store because I cannot read the labels. During these events it can be easy to throw blame at my partner, that this is his country and this would never have happened in my hometown. This is something that I am working on doing when things go awry: do not thrown yourself and cast blame.
It is already hard on your partner to see the person they love go through something that they cannot experience and help with. Instead of blaming, explain to your partner how you are feeling and why you are feeling this way.
It feels good to get things off of your chest and your partner will appreciate the communication.
4) It is going to take a lot longer to adapt than you think, so have patience.
When I got to Tel Aviv, my partner already had an apartment for two years that I would be moving into. We bought new linens in The States and I thought that I would get here and with one trip to Ikea, we would be all done. But, between my limited Hebrew, work, school, holidays and life—we are not done. We still need a new washing machine, shower head and more. It is not as easy as you would think.
The language and lack of buying knowledge make home assembly that much harder for me. My partner is great and has done what I have asked with his time at home, but time is limited. So, I have learned to be patient with our low-pressure shower head and taking our laundry to the cleaner. In Chinese there is a saying: 慢慢来 (man-man-lai), which means it will come slowly.
So, let it come slowly and enjoy the process of building your home together. Be patient and new purchases and completed projects can become a great accomplishment.
If you have decided to move for love, enjoy the process of self-discovery and partnership. This journey together will make your partnership stronger and your view point of life more broad. Learn to embrace the change and the challenges that come along with it.
Remember, 慢慢来 (man-man-lai), it will slowly come.
Author: Reagan Hart
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: author’s own