Today, Valentine’s Day, reminds us all, wherever in the world we are, that love is something to be celebrated.
But we often forget about forms of love other than the romantic.
Any of us with pets, children, or friends—even places or inanimate objects—we love know that love can take plenty of forms.
It’s all about chemistry.
Whether it’s making friends or looking for love, there’s usually something that draws us to another person that we couldn’t put into words. Connecting just feels natural and you enjoy yourself effortlessly in their company.
The same goes for locations.
I Call It Location Chemistry
You’ll never be happy living somewhere that you just don’t take an immediate, ineffable liking to.
I’ve fallen in love with places based on the scent that hit me as I stepped off the plane…
Of course, chemistry is something that can work against you as much as for you—if you’re forced into close quarters with someone who just doesn’t jive with your rhythm, it won’t work no matter how much you want it to.
I’ve been places that I was sure I would love on paper, but, then, when visiting in person, I felt let down. I may not have been able to put my finger on it in every case, but there was something about the place that just didn’t click with me.
We often talk about the heart versus the head when it comes to moving overseas. Each plays an important role, but I’d argue that, as in all things in life, heart has to trump head if push comes to shove.
To take my own example, I live in Paris because I love Paris. The head played no part in my decision to move here. It was 100% emotion based.
Now that I do live here, the head has had to catch up. While Paris can be more affordable than many would think, it is an objectively expensive place to live. And the tax burden can be onerous depending on your situation.
These are realities that my husband and I have had to deal with… but they haven’t convinced me and I’d say never could convince me to move somewhere else.
When it comes to choosing a new home, no reason is too small to fall in love. Likewise, no downside is too trivial to be ignored if you know you could never live with it.
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Knowing Your Dealbreakers Are Key To Understand If Living Abroad Will Make You Happy
Compromise is always going to be necessary, but you should choose carefully what you’re willing to budge on. Make a list of a few dealbreakers and think on it for a few weeks. Add things and remove them as you marinate on the list. And make them as silly or as grand as they need to be.
Some dealbreakers I’ve heard (or had) in the past include…
The ability to own an American-style washer and dryer; someplace within a certain radius of family back home; proximity to museums; someplace where you could not hear the ocean; someplace where you could hear the ocean all the time; ability to play golf regularly; someplace with singles to mingle with; someplace they could import their vintage car; someplace you don’t need to own a car…
This list should be intensely personal, but, if you’re moving with others, you’ll need to merge lists at some point. This might mean further compromises, but you need to be strict with your serious dealbreakers. If you know, for example, that you never want to see snow again in your life and that’s the primary motivation for your move, then you probably won’t be happy if your partner convinced you to move someplace with a serious winter.
I’ve been speaking about a kind of love-at-first-sight experience up to now, and we can extend the love metaphor even further. Because we all know that instant attraction doesn’t equal a lifetime of bliss…
How To Discover If Living Abroad Will Make You Happy In The Long Term
You should certainly take your first impression to heart. If you don’t immediately feel a kind of a spark, there’s probably nothing in this place that will keep you invested no matter how long you stay.
And if you do feel that je ne sais quoi—I think of it as a kind of kick in the pants, I feel energized and revitalized with a new hunger for life—then you should stick around and see what it’s all about.
But, as in any relationship, you need to dig beneath the surface to know if it will work long term. I may have fallen in love with Kenya, Nicaragua, and the DR at first scent, but I knew that they wouldn’t keep me happy in the long run.
The only way to truly know whether you’re looking at a fling or a serious commitment is to give it some time. You need to stay for more than just a couple of weeks to know whether any place could make you happy full-time, and you need to try to live like a resident, not a tourist, in order to do that.
Not every place you try it out with is going to work… some might turn into favorite vacation spots, others you might never see again… But after some experience playing the field, you’ll get to know yourself better. Your list will change—some dealbreakers will cease to be such sticking points, and you’ll doubtless discover new ones to replace them with.
Sooner or later, you’ll find the one.
You’ll fall head over heels and dig in to find that this place checks every box on that list—and no matter how long you stay, you never want to leave again.
You might even find more than one place that strikes your fancy and split your year between them…
I can promise that it feels just as fulfilling to find the place where you belong in the world as it is to find the someone you belong with.
Editor, Live and Invest Overseas: Confidential