Hey you! So I’ve been cooking up a creative storm in the last few weeks and I can’t wait for you to join me on my journey!
First of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: I no longer have a job … technically. However, I am a blossoming freelancer, so let’s see how long I can go on for with that income …
Phew, now that’s done, let’s talk about my newest creation, which I hope to use to inspire other badass females such as myself (yes, I consider myself BADASS, #sorrynotsorry).
So, yes, I am starting a podcast called ‘Badass Female Podcast’, and I’m sure you can tell what kind of content will be involved, right? I aim to talk with my other friends and acquaintances about anything and everything … but from the female perspective. Us women go through SO MUCH every day, no matter our background or status. Being a woman in today’s society is still so hard, and I think it’s only right that we get a space to discuss this. No matter how big the issue, we want to TALK about it. By we, I mean me and the friends I’m going to drag into this. We’ll discuss everything from culture and society to relationships, gender equality, our childhood dreams VS. our current reality, financial worries, female health, and just everyday thoughts and comments tbh! My guests will mainly be women of course, however I won’t say no to a few men joining if they want to!
I have only just recorded the trailer so hold your horses, folks! But do give the trailer a listen and subscribe to the YouTube channel if you fancy – I’ll be posting the podcasts there too. You will also be able to find them on Spotify and hopefully on the purple Apple podcast app in the near future.
I also have a designated Instagram page for the Badass Female Podcast too! You can follow us at: badass_female_irl.
Today the Polish government announced that it’s compulsory to wear a face mask anywhere outside, even in open air. And I can’t help but wonder if the measures will get even stricter and we’ll end up in another lockdown. Of course, these measures are there to protect us. But I can’t be the only one that is just feeling meh, can I? In an ideal world, a scientist would come up with a vaccine tomorrow and we’d be sorted, but obviously it’s not that straightforward. COVID-19 aside, I have not had a good year at all. A global pandemic is bad enough but when stuff happens on top of that … well, it’s hard to keep going. If you’ve had lots of bad stuff happen to you this year, my friend, I’m sorry. I dedicate this post to you.
A positive start
At the beginning of this year, I was bursting with positivity. I had just left a job that was draining me and I had managed to get another one very quickly. I was ready for a new chapter. I had so many travel plans (as I’m sure we all did), and so many ideas of how I was going to be living my 2020. Even the number sounds like a good number, right? 2013 sounds rubbish but actually I had a good time that year on my year abroad. 2020 sounds like an amazing year, yet … here we are.
I don’t want to give many details to protect my family’s privacy, but basically cancer hit us like a tonne of bricks two years in a row. In January 2019, a close family member got cancer. Then almost the same time in 2020, someone else very dear to me got the dreaded disease. So my whole family didn’t start off the year with the most positive of vibes. It just sucks. What are the odds of this happening twice?!
Before the pandemic took hold, my mind was occupied with thoughts about my beloved family members, praying that they would be okay. At the same time, I started a new job, which was very challenging and came with all the stressors you’d expect. And of course I had to pretend nothing was happening outside of work and just get on with it.
The pandemic hits
About six weeks after I started my new job, Poland went into lockdown and we were to work from home immediately. To be honest, I was one of those people that welcomed lockdown; I love working from home anyway, so this was a great excuse for me to isolate in my little flat and not see anyone but my boyfriend (we isolated together). For a while, life was okay – a bit stressful due to getting to know a new job, etc., but generally speaking I was okay.
In the height of summer, you wouldn’t have know there was a pandemic in Poland. We started going out to our favourite hangout place – the zoo – and going out for the odd meal. Of course, it was strange not being able to just go on holiday because the uncertainty of the coronavirus was still very much present. Still, my boyfriend and I had quite a nice summer, playing mini-golf outside, going swimming, and going hiking in the Polish mountains. Like most people, we made the most of what we could do.
Family stuff in autumn
The thing with being abroad is that I have only been hearing news about my loved ones’ health through WhatsApp and phone calls with my Mum. If I lived nearby in normal circumstances, I would’ve been visiting them all the time. But even in COVID times, that wouldn’t have been possible. I truly feel for anyone who is sick themselves or knows someone who is sick during quarantine. Knowing someone is ill and you can’t go see them is the worst.
On August 30th, one of my family members passed away from lung cancer and it was the hardest moments of my life. This person had always been there for me – from birth up until the moment they died. It was just so hard to comprehend. Up until that point, I had never experienced death. I’d seen it on TV, heard about it on the news, sympathised with friends about their experiences, but in my 27 years, I had never experienced the pain. It was and still is so hard, not only due to the fact that a person you loved so much is no longer there but also because you feel for other people who the passing will affect. It just sucks. The whole situation is horrible. I raised a glass of wine to them that night and cried a lot for the next few days.
Flying home for a funeral during a pandemic
A week later, I flew home to London to be with my sister who was alone at home while my Mum was helping out with the family. And of course I went home for the funeral too. Funeral. It’s funny; nobody really expects to ever have to say the word ‘funeral’, do they? We never think about death. So to suddenly be confronted with it is hard to take. I tried to not think about it and just focus on being there for my sister, but every night I went to bed, there it was at the back of my mind. You’re going to their funeral next week.
Being home was nice in someways. I got to hang out with my sister (and drive her crazy), I got to see my best friend and her baby, I got to have fish and chips and also got to sleep in Mum’s comfy bed while she was away. But I will never forget the day of the funeral. It’s a day I will never forget, and I just hope that my loved one, let’s call him David, is still with us somehow now.
Although nobody can ever be glad to have a funeral, I am glad that it happened during a time when we could have up to 30 guests. It meant that we could give David the send-off he deserved. I will forever be grateful for that.
After going home during the pandemic, saying goodbye to my loved one, going to my first funeral (I hope I never have to go to one again), and working remotely while at home in the UK, I just wanted to have a couple of months of c-a-l-m. Was that so much to ask? How much worse can it get?! It seems it could get worse, and it did …
I lost my job
When I came back from the UK, I had a couple of days of normality. Then I was told that my job would no longer exist from November. Great. Straight away, a number of questions cropped up in my mind. Will I get another job here? Will I have to move away from my boyfriend? Will I have to go home and start from scratch? Will I get another job in this economic climate?!
I don’t know the answer to these questions yet and it’s scary. I hate not knowing anything! But what I do know is that something positive has to come up. It has to, right? How can one person experience so many bad things in one year that was set to be so positive?
I’n writing my 2020 experience because I feel like there has to be many more people out there who have also had a rubbish year. Has anyone actually had a good year? When I think about it, I don’t know a single person that hasn’t had something go wrong for them. Is it COVID-19? Or is 2020 just cursed? Whatever it will be, I just want you to know that, if you’re having a tough year, if your life has been turned upside down, I feel your pain and I sincerely emphasise with you. Keep going. You are strong.
Right now, I don’t feel strong at all. Part of me wants to run away and hide. But the other part of me knows that I am a strong, badass woman, and I will come out of this horrible time stronger. And you will too!
Also, if you have lost anyone this year due to the coronavirus or otherwise, I’m so sorry for your loss. After going through it myself, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
My boyfriend bought me a blender in the summer, and boy oh boy, did he get his money’s worth. My Instagram must’ve been so full of images of the same glass bottle filled with various colours of thick, luscious drinks …
Perfecting a green smoothie has been on everyone’s cooking bucket list lately. And I rather feel it’s like marmite – you either love it or you hate it. Some people don’t think a smoothie should be green. Others love the colour because it makes them feel healthy! I was just curious what all the fuss was about, and it turns out that I quite enjoy a green smoothie.
You see, you look at a green smoothie and instantly think of Shrek, am I right?! But, it sure is tasty! And Shrek’s not very scary anyway, is he? I have used several combinations to make a green smoothie. And I think this is my favourite!
Green smoothie recipe
Serves 2, Calories: no idea but it’s healthy
1 cup of pineapple or mango
1 cup of spinach
Approx. 200 ml almond milk
1 cup of ice cubes
1) Put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine. Gradually increase the speed until it reaches the highest setting and the smoothie is all nice and blended. If it’s too thick, add some more almond milk or water.
Try adding pea protein for an added punch of protein.
Try adding spirulina or chlorella powder. They’re both full of nutrients and anti-inflammatory stuff. I won’t bore you with the details – just google it, my friend.
Instead of a nut milk, you could use aloe vera juice. It adds to the overall sweet taste and maybe your drink won’t end up so … Shrek-like.
Why I used the ingredients I did
Banana: for the sweetness and creamy texture
Avocado: for silkiness and also a healthy source of fat
Mango/ pineapple: for sweetness and vitamin C
Almond milk: I just think it tastes better than normal milk. Also adds to the creamy consistency.
Spinach: well it’s a green smoothie … no but seriously, because it’s healthy AF and we should all be eating it
Ice: to make the drink nice and frosty and also to thicken
My boyfriend bought me a blender in the summer, and boy oh boy, did he get his money’s worth. My Instagram must’ve been so full of images of the same glass bottle filled with various colours of thick, luscious drinks …
My boyfriend bought me a blender this summer for my birthday, and boy oh boy did he get his money’s worth! My Instagram must’ve been filled with countless images of the same glass bottle filled with various colours of lusciously thick, healthy drinks. Well … healthy in general. I did make the odd frozen daiquiri or ice-cream milkshake too.
I promised myself that I would write the recipes down for the smoothies I mastered/ wung. So here goes the first one: my chocolate smoothie recipe.
Serves 2, Calories: no idea but it’s kind of healthy
200 ml almond milk
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tbs cacao nibs
1 tbs cocoa powder
1 square dark chocolate (80% +)
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup ice cubes
1) Put all ingredients in a blender. Pulse to combine the ingredients first of all (this prevents the blades getting damaged). Next, pulse on a low speed and gradually increase the speed. If it’s too thick, add more almond milk or a dash of water. Taste before you pour the smoothie out and sweeten more to taste if you want. I recommend using a reusable straw – it feels more posh and you’ll be saving the environment.
If you like this smoothie let me know! For me, it tastes more like a milkshake! But it’s way healthier. Win, win!
In case you wonder why I used the ingredients I did, here’s why:
Banana: for sweetness, a thick texture and the health benefits of course
Avocado: for a silky, smooth consistency and a healthy source of fat
Almond milk: because I find normal milk in a smoothie mellows out the flavours a bit.
Chia seeds: for fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, iron, calcium and protein
Cacao nibs: to add to that chocolate flavour, provides antioxidants and boosts mood!
Cacao powder: same as above
Dark chocolate: (just a square) to add real chocolate flavour and also little chips of chocolate in each slurp of the smoothie- delish! Same benefits as above.
Honey: to add sweetness – the dark chocolate ingredients need just that little touch of sweetness to take the edge off.
Ice: to make the drink frosty cold, also adds to the thick consistency
This month, I went home to the UK for the first time since before COVID-19 set in. And, oh boy, was travelling on a plane straight-up weird. If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be flying home wearing a face mask and gloves the whole time, I would’ve said they were crazy. Well, well … it just goes to show you never know what can happen. As well as COVID-19 affecting literally everything right now, the idea of going home for an expat is a strange concept. Let’s talk about it.
Being an expat is like being a chameleon
When you settle abroad, that place then becomes your home. But the best part about it is that you also have this other original home that’s just a flight away. And when you go to said place, everything is just as you left it. The food you so miss when you’re away is there. Everyone’s speaking your language. Your family and friends are there – the best part. But then after a few weeks ‘at home’, you then leave to return to your other more exotic ‘home’. It’s like having your cake and eating it too, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I first started living in other countries, my idea of ‘home’ was my home in the UK. And I think the reason behind this was that I was always abroad temporarily. When I went to Greece to study, I was there for half a year, when I went to work in Austria, again it was only for half a year. Then I went to Brussels for an internship and, you’ve guessed it, I was only there for a short time. This time, in Poland, I am here indefinitely, and I have a settled life here more so than what I had in any other country. So since I’ve lived here, my idea of ‘home’ has changed for me. I have my own apartment, my own balcony, a job, an actual legit Christmas tree (that was a big adult moment for me last year), and I also have a boyfriend here too (this list is not in order of importance). All of this is the kind of life stuff you expect to have when you’re settled somewhere. And if you were to ask me if I feel like I have a settled life here? I’d say yes. Now when I go to the UK, it is still like going home, but I do end up yearning to be in my little space in Poland after a few weeks. And now, as I write this blog post in my comfy clothes, on my bed in my little apartment, I’m having that ‘agh, I’m glad to be home moment’, which I never thought would happen to me abroad. My life here is small, strange, unique, amazing and stressful. But it’s mine, and I love it.
This is a reason why people shouldn’t be afraid to move abroad
One of the main excuses people might give for not moving overseas is that they’d miss home. But they forget that, actually, your idea of home changes as you progress through your time in a foreign country. They forget that they will set up their own digs abroad and maybe they’ll start comparing what they have abroad to what they didn’t have ‘at home’. They forget that they can come home anytime they want! So, you can reap the rewards of a life abroad and also enjoy the perks of going back to your place of birth? Yes! What’s not to love!? This is the reason why people shouldn’t be afraid to move abroad. People get so anxious about the distance they’d be away from home that they end up thinking it’s a permanent thing. But once you calm down and embrace the opportunity, you become aware that there are regular flights to your home country and it really isn’t that far. Also you don’t have to live there forever. People move around all the time.
being physically far away from your home country helps you grow the heck up
One thing I’ve noticed about being physically far away from home is that I have grown up. A lot. When I was a child, I used to cling to my Mum’s leg. I was a real mummy’s girl and I’m pretty sure that the last thing my family expected me to do was move abroad! Yet, here we are.
When you’re abroad and your Mum can’t just pop over for a cup of tea or your Dad can’t just come over to fix your washing machine, you start to rely on yourself and only yourself. And that can only be a good thing! I think one trait shared by all expats is independence because you have to be independent to survive living abroad. Then when you go home, you go home feeling accomplished. Repeat after me: I am a badass woman who can handle living abroad and that’s pretty cool. This is what I think every time I go back to the UK.
Then when you finally get to that stage of calling your place abroad your real home, that’s a sign you’ve truly grown up. You no longer rely on your parents for support, and you no longer need the home comforts to make you feel whole. However, I do appreciate an order from the British Corner Shop every now and then. Hint, hint, family and friends.
And when you finally call your home abroad your ‘actual home’, you start to notice the difference between ‘going home’ when you head to your home country and ‘coming home’ when you return to your hub abroad.
I learnt something in my working life lately. I have not been working with my worth in mind. And only after being burnt do I now realise my mistake. And it’s not the other party’s fault as most people would say. As a freelancer, it’s so important to have standards and know how much your work is worth. Earlier this year, I failed to do this.
So earlier this year, I took on the biggest job I’d ever gotten from the app Fiverr. The task at hand: to edit a book of 100,000 words for $1,000. But then Fiverr takes 20% so I actually only got $800 – I didn’t think of this before. And even though I googled what I should be charging for such a big editing job, I still accepted the job. Because it’s ‘better than nothing’, right? Wrong, Kristina, wrong!
Why was I wrong to accept this job? Because the money I received did not equal the time I put into the project. Because, by accepting such a low rate, this tells the client they can get away with anything – not that my client did. They were lovely throughout. However, when you charge a low rate first of all, it’s quite awkward to ask for more when the edit takes longer than you thought.
So why did past Kristina accept such a low rate? Because she thought that, seeing as it was her first experience editing a book, she couldn’t possibly charge full-price rates. Because I was blindsided by the four figures. Because I thought it would be worthwhile when my work was published and my name was written under the contributors section. Because she had no respect for herself. Because she was stupid. Because she was naïve. Because she simply didn’t stand up for herself.
tHE ISSUE WITH fIVERR
My, oh my, where do I start? As helpful as apps like Fiverr and Upwork are for freelancers to get work, this does not counteract the sheer amount of people that turn to these apps to try to get a cheap deal. I’m sure other freelancers can resonate with this. If I had a penny for every person who has messaged me asking for ridiculously cheap prices, I’d be a rich lady. I recently had some guy contact me to request an edit of 22,000 words for $50 – minus the discount, that’s be $40! I said heck no!
I wouldn’t say that my client requesting the book edit was being that cheeky. Do I think they could have offered more money? Yes. Do I judge them for requesting 30% of a normal price? Yes and no. At the end of the day, I accepted the suggested price so it’s all on me. I also don’t want to completely bad-mouth Fiverr. It really is a much better app than Upwork because it puts the power in the service provider’s hands. With Upwork, I found myself writing essays for every job I applied for, basically pleading for the work. And most of the time, you don’t even get a reply. And when I did get a job, it was obviously ridiculously underpriced – this time it was a cookery book of over 50,000 words for $50. I know, I don’t know what I was thinking. So I’ll be staying on Fiverr for the time being. I’ll just ignore the idiots you get on there sometimes.
Now doing a job for a low price but with a high reward sounds okay, right? If my work gets published, then that’s something I can add to my CV, right? But what happens when you do a job for a cheap rate and then that work isn’t even used? Yeah, you guessed it, that happened to me. So not only did I work tirelessly for hours on end to get the language quality of this book (written by a non-native speaker) to a good standard – basically rewriting mass chunks of it – but now it’s not even going to be recognised. What happened was the book was supposed to be self-published, hence I was hired. But then a publishing house got involved with the original language version and decided they wanted to translate that as opposed to use the existing English version that I so tirelessly edited. Great. It’s not the author’s fault because I don’t think they could have predicted this would happen. But it still sucks. Why does it suck? BECAUSE I HAD NO RESPECT FOR MYSELF WHEN I ACCEPTED THE JOB. If I had been paid the rate I deserved, would I be as sour about the situation now? Probably not!
So, I’ve learnt a valid lesson from this ordeal. I have to know my worth and not let dollar signs sway my judgement. Yes, $1,000 sounds like a lot, but for editing an entire book? No, Kristina. That is not enough. And I shouldn’t work for less in the hope I will be recognised because the events I describe above could always happen.
My advice to anyone reading this: If you’re a requestor on an app, don’t ask for stupid prices. Have some respect for the skill you’re requesting. Sit and think for a second if your quote is enough. If you wouldn’t work for that, it’s quite likely that you’re being an a**hole and not offering the price your service provider deserves. Also, while I’m on this topic, have some respect for the field of editing and translation people! Everyone seems to think it’s easy and not much effort. But it really is! It’s just as hard as writing the original source text. If you, like me, are the person providing an editing service, don’t accept less than you deserve, make sure your name is mentioned when you deserve it to be, and have some respect for yourself. I know I will from now on. Also, if you’re my client reading this, I don’t mean anything personally. But next time, I will ask for more money from you.
So, I live alone. I haven’t felt like I have for a long time seeing as me and my boyfriend have been self-isolating together for over six weeks. But, I got a litte PMSie and decided to withdraw myself from our cute living situation for a week. I just didn’t think it was fair to him, poor guy. And now, I’m sat in my apartment by myself watching How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days with the gorgeous Matthew McConaughey and I’m wondering why I got so mopey and sad by myself before. For some reason, it suddenly hit me this week just how empowering living alone is. The fact that I’m also living by myself ABROAD adds another layer to the whole situation, which I’ll explain below.
WHY LIVING ALONE IS GOOD
1. Hello, independence!
The obvious reason why living by yourself is the best thing since sliced bread is the sheer independence you get. Like all the time. You can do what you want in your own space whenever and however you want. You can do the classic walk around naked. You can cook what you want, or just eat cereal for dinner with no judgement. You can actually date without having to skulk around any nosy housemates or concerned parents. You can bring said date back to your apartment if that’s your vibe. You can stay up late and get up late. Whatever you want, pretty lady!
2. Your mind has space to think
Sometimes, when your surrounded by other people, it can be hard to actually think. It sounds silly, but do you remember the last time you were in an empty room with no music on? The silence feels so empty, right?! That’s what it feels like living alone. Suddenly, your brain isn’t taking in the normal noises that come with a busy household. Instead it can focus on what matters to you. Since I’ve been alone in the last week, my creative juices have never been more juicy. I’ve had ideas about my career that I’ve never even considered before. And, my mind has just been more chilled.
3. You don’t have to talk to ANYONE
Of course, when you live by yourself, it’s just you. If you switch off your phone, you only have yourself for company, and it’s weird at first, but it really is great. When you live with someone, there’s always this readiness you have to have to talk to your partner, family, housemates, etc. But I noticed, after a day of being home alone, that I no longer had that hyper-alert feeling that I had to interact with someone. This might not be a good feeling for extroverts, but for introverts, it’s bloody lovely. The only interactions you have to decide about is if you answer a phone call or a text. The ball’s in your court.
4. Your living routine is under your control
The one thing I hated about living with housemates was people not cleaning their dishes ALL WEEK, leaving food in the fridge until it started to smell like death, people stealing my food from the fridge, people using the oven when I wanted to use it, people using the bathroom when I wanted to use it, and people just generally being in the house when I wanted to watch Friends and chill by myself. I feel like you have to go through this at university and early in your career to fully appreciate the freedom of having your own place later on. And oh man, do I appreciate it now. I can go to bed at night knowing that I won’t wake up to a sh*tstorm in the kitchen in the morning. Likewise, if I leave my plate on the side, I won’t have anyone complaining about it the next day. Would I go back to sharing? Only with my boyfriend. You’re welcome, babe.
5. You have your own sense of home all day
There’s nothing quite like having a sh*t day and knowing you can go home and vegetate in your natural habitat with no disturbance unless you request it. For me, as an expat, having my own place has been like a home away from home. You can fill your cupboards with treats from home, put pictures up wherever you want, even photos of landmarks from your home city. You can even put a flag up, why not? And now, sorry Mum, but my flat has been bumped up the list to be considered my actual home. I used to always think of my Mum’s house as home. But now, when I go back, it doesn’t feel like that anymore. And when I get back to my flat in Wroclaw, I’m like ‘ahhhhh, my own bed’. I never thought this day would come, but it has.
6. You learn things
When something goes wrong, only you can sort it out. Power goes out? Get those candles burning, girl! Got a leak? Call a plumber! Since living by myself, I’ve learnt things because I’ve had to. For example, the dishwasher. This is something I just thought you put dishes in and then took them out when they’re clean. I didn’t even realise you had to clean the thing! And oh wow, is that a gross job. I’ve found myself Googling how to get stains out, how to clean an oven and how to clean a mattress (don’t ask).
WHY living alone is weird
1. Nobody is there with you
Similar to number one above, you have independence but the trade-off is that nobody is there. Nobody! And it is weird. After a while, you start craving social connection (even if you are an introvert) and you talk to yourself sometimes. I definitely talk to myself, but hey, if I can’t talk to myself, who can?! I also struggle at night when I’m done with work, and I’m watching TV by myself. I grew up chilling in the evenings with my mum and sister. So when I’m sitting alone watching TV at night, I can’t help thinking about what they’re doing. And it’s a sad moment.
2. Your mind has TOO MUCH space to think
That’s right. Having space to think can work wonders, but it can also make you think about things unnecessarily. I liken it to when I was a lifeguard: When you spend eight hours a day on the lifeguard chair watching an adult swim class in a baby pool, meaning there’s pretty low risk of anything bad happening, your mind tends to wander. And, let me tell you, when you shout at kids to stop running and clean changing room floors for a living, you question your life choices a lot. Similarly, when I’m filling in my Passion Planner, I find I have so much free space in my week that I start to add unnecessary, unattainable goals. Why don’t I do yoga three times a week? Why don’t I have more things to do, dammit!? Then I fill out the whole week from Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and I’m disappointed with myself when I didn’t do my laundry between 3-4 p.m. on a Sunday. Why do I do this? Too much space! The quietness of an empty apartment has the same effect. Thinking about one thing quickly spirals into a whole internal debate in your head, and it gets weird. When you’d normally think your consumption of ice cream is just fine, you might start worrying about it unnecessarily when you live alone. Add in hormonal birth control on top of that and you have a cocktail for crying episodes and anxiety right there. While you eat said ice cream.
3. Nobody is there to hug you
This is a hard one, especially if you grew up with daily hugs from your mum like me. When I was younger, I used to crave having my own place so much that I didn’t stop to think about the fact that I wouldn’t have anyone to hug. Obviously, I got over it. And now I have a boyfriend, I have more access to hugs now than I used to before. But now I’m alone for the week, I’m starting to miss those cuddles.
4. You’re actually in charge of your routine
As I mention above, not living with anyone means everything in your place is just as you want it because you left it like that. At the same time, you have the freedom to use every room in your house whenever you want, however you want. This poses a problem though. Because I have this freedom, sometimes I get a little lazy. I might leave dishes on the side longer than usual, I might not hoover for weeks, I might not shower for days (don’t judge me), and I feel kind of crummy when I succumb to these habits. It sucks. And then I have to find the motivation to get back on top of my game with the chores and self-care. When your mum isn’t screaming at you to wash up, motivation is looooow. And do you know why I feel crummy when I turn into a lazy hermit? Because I love having a clean, organized house. So when I’ve been too lazy to clean it and put my damn stuff away, I start getting anxious and snappy. Mostly directed at myself.
5. Sometimes your own place doesn’t feel like home
Although my place feels more homely than any shared house I’ve lived in, it doesn’t quite have that 100% homely vibe, mainly because there’s no family there. It’s just me. Most of us grow up in some kind of family unit, and we take all those cosy moments for granted; playing board games with your siblings, watching TV with everyone in the living room, cooking together, eating together, etc. It’s magical stuff. So when I eat dinner alone these days, it feels weird. To make myself feel better, I watch family vlogs on Youtube.
6. You realise you don’t know anything
So you have to learn how to do something, whether it be fixing something or how to pay a bill, but first you have to get over the anxiety of realising you don’t know how to do it in the first place. And that can be annoying, especially when you’ve been working all day and can’t be asked to think about anything more than a glass of wine. This is where phoning your mum, dad or grandparents can really help you out. As much as we try to show the older generation that we know what we’re doing and we don’t need their help, sometimes your grandmother might know the perfect cleaning product to clean your shower door. You can offer an iPhone masterclass in return.
So there you have it …
That’s my view on living alone. There are pros and there are cons, and it really is down to the individual whether it’s for them. For me, living abroad and living alone really helps to seal the deal on the whole ‘independence’ thing. Not only do I have my own place, but there is also a significant distance between me and my family. Although it saddens me to know that I can’t just pop round my nan’s for a cup of tea or to my mum’s to watch Neighbours together, I think about how this distance has made me grow as a person, and I wouldn’t take it back for the world.
Just like I think everyone should try living abroad, even for a short time, I really think everyone should try living alone. Even if it’s just for a couple of months to test it out, you need to know what it feels like. You might hate it, or you might think it’s the most empowering thing you ever did.
Whatever you call it, ‘contraception’, ‘birth control’, ‘family planning’, ‘anti-baby stuff’, it’s a real pain for most women. When you find the right method, it’s amazing! But the whole decision process that some women go through before they find their method is a real ball-ache. Or ovary-ache, I should say. Here’s my story.
Before I got my first boyfriend at the age of 25, I’d never really given a thought to ‘choosing’ a contraceptive method, not a long-term one anyway. Before that, I just relied on the traditional condom (yes, I just said ‘condom’). And condoms are great; plenty of couples just use these by themselves and don’t give it a second thought. But after it became clear that my boyfriend and I were going to be together for the foreseeable future, I decided that I wanted a more foolproof method – or Kristina-proof method. So like any unsuspecting woman, I went to the gynaecologist and asked for the pill.
Oh boy … was I about to become a way bitchier and depressed gal. I legit don’t know why my boyfriend didn’t dump me.
The pill and the tears
In the summer of 2018, I went to the gynacologist and was prescribed Symbella, a hormonal birth control pill containing oestrogen and progestogen. Soon after I started taking this pill, I started getting headaches along with that nauseous feeling that makes you lose your appetite but not actually throw up. I was taking this pill during my friend’s hen do, and I had to just sit and just look at my burger and chips on a night out instead of demolishing it as I normally would. It really sucked.
On top that, I got real touchy with my boyfriend. I would flip out over the tiniest things. On a week day, he’d call and say that he was too tired to come over. In a normal world, that’s acceptable; he’s tired, so let the guy rest. But hormonal Kristina was like ‘Uh NO, F*CK YOU BOYFRIEND!’ So in a way, the hormonal pill is a kind of contraceptive because, if anything, it should make your boyfriend want to break up with you and your chances of getting pregnant zero! All jokes aside though, I don’t know how he coped with such a moody girlfriend. The thing is, he knew that it was the pill turning me into a monster. But when he said “don’t worry, it’s just your pill”, hormonal Kristina wanted to punch him in the face. I’m sure a lot of women can resonate with that. Looking back, he was being pretty reasonable and I was bat-sh*t crazy. I was also very depressed. I’d come home from work and feel a sense of hopelessness, and living abroad made it a whole lot worse because it wasn’t like I could pop to my mum’s for a cuppa. So I’d sit and cry, and call my boyfriend and cry. And I was pretty pathetic to be honest.
After about five months or so, I tried a different pill called Dionelle containing ethinyl estradiol and dienogest. This had the same effect, if not it made me even more depressed and hormonal than I already was before. I continued this one until late January 2019 when I had an enlightenment.
One dreary January evening, I was crying on the phone to my boyfriend. Again. And I didn’t know why. I mean, there probably was a reason but it didn’t warrant a bucket of tears. Suddenly my boyfriend said:
“Just stop the pill, honey. It’s making you crazy.”
The penny dropped. This tiny pill I was taking every day was indeed turning me into a little psycho and on that depressing January evening, I just wanted to be happy. So the idea of having my own natural hormones telling me what’s what instead of these artificial ones really appealed to me. So I said:
“YOU’RE RIGHT. SCREW THE HORMONAL PILL!”
And that was the moment that I gave up on the pill for good. I was DONE. At the time, I just wanted to get back to me for a while, which is something I’ve seen quoted in many other articles about getting off of hormonal contraception. A lot of women also say that when they stopped taking the pill, they felt ‘so much better’. And it’s true! I got my appetite back, my headaches went away, and I could tell if I was actually p*ssed at my boyfriend or not without having fake hormones doing the work (badly) for me. Just to clarify, I’m not often annoyed at my boyfriend – he’s a sweetheart.
I soon got to thinking about what my options were. I knew I didn’t want anything hormonal for the minute, and thanks to MTV’s Teen Mom, I’d heard about the copper IUD. People moan about that show but I actually love it. Those women bravely show you what happens when you don’t use birth control and how to be kick-ass mothers despite their circumstances. And both ’16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’ have been shown to reduce the teen birth rate in the US (see : https://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/13/health/16-pregnant-teens-childbirth/index.html). And those shows definitely had an impact on me as a young woman across the pond in Europe. One day, I was stumbling around the internet when I found a short video of the Teen Mom women discussing their birth control stories. And all of them were so different, which also blew my mind. Then when Catelynn Lowell mentioned the ParaGard and what copper IUDs do, again, my mind was blown. So after I was done with the pill and looking for a non-hormonal option, a copper IUD seemed to fit the bill quite nicely!
Have you heard of the IUB BALLERINE?
I made yet another appointment with my gynaecologist to discuss my options, but really I just wanted to ask for the copper IUD. I wasn’t even sure if it was a thing in Poland where I’d been living for 18 months by this point. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?
During my appointment, my lovely doctor asked me if I’d consider the NuvaRing, a ring you wear inside your vagina that releases hormones. I remained firm on my non-hormonal idea and asked about the copper IUD. It was at this point she dropped a complete game changer into the conversation. She asked: “Have you heard about the IUB?” I very politely said “no” and asked for more information.
Essentially, the IUB Ballerine is a string of copper beads or pearls, coated with polymer, that is inserted into your uterus and then coils up into a ball shape. Like the ParaGard T-shaped device, this one works as a contraceptive due to the copper; it’s basically toxic to sperm and therefore prevents an egg from being fertilised. The video below from Ocon Healthcare (who makes this device) displays what it looks like.
After researching a bit about the IUB, I decided to take the plunge. My reasons were:
It’s small; smaller than the normal T-shaped devices.
It’s a long-term option that is reversible; the IUB lasts 5 years.
I wouldn’t have to take a pill every day.
My periods weren’t too painful already.
Let me tell you, I felt like a legit adult when I made the appointment to have my IUB inserted. I called my best friend immediately and was like “OMG!”
This is the part I was dreading. Like any normal woman about to have something pushed through her cervix, I googled it and YouTube’d it, and it was the worst thing I could have done. I mean, there were some positive videos about it. For a positive video about getting an IUD, try Hannah Witton or Alayna Joy on YouTube; they tell the truth but they don’t scare you! But do NOT watch videos with titles like “My IUD Horror Story” or “I Got Pregnant on the IUD”. Just don’t do it to yourself, and remember that the things that go wrong only make up a teeny tiny percentage.
The long wait
So it turns out that you need to be on your period to have the procedure. Some doctors might do it if you’re not, I suppose, but I was told it’s easier to do on your period because your cervix is already a bit dilated from your monthly flow. But getting my period to align with when the doctor was available to insert my IUB was another story. Back then, I was with a different medical provider and there was only one doctor in my town that was trained to insert this particular IUD. And he was only ever available on a Friday. But did my period cover Fridays? Hell to the no! She’d come on Monday and be gone by Thurday or turn up on Saturday and say ‘later aligator by Wednesday. It was so frustrating! The one time that did coincide with a Friday was right before I went on holiday. Both me and my sister agreed it might not be smart to get an IUD before I went on holiday …
After I came back from my trip, once again I found that my flow coincided with a Friday! And I freaked out. I started googling and researching about ‘just how painful is an IUD insertion’ and ‘how to prepare for an IUD insertion’. Most of the material I read and watched freaked me out, of course. Then the day of my appointment rolled around and I decided to woman up. I told my boyfriend to meet me at the doctor’s office for moral support. Fun fact, it was his first visit to a gynaecology department. You’re welcome babe!
Months after trying to get my period to coincide with my doctor’s availability, on the 26 July 2019, I had an IUD inserted into my uterus. This is when my expat life took a real juicy turn … here’s what happened.
It’s absolutely boiling weather outside; at least 30 degrees. I had to sit on a tram with no air-con for half an hour, with my IUB Ballerine sitting pretty in my tote bag (weirdly in Poland, it seems that when you’re prescribed an IUD, you actually buy it like you would pills at the pharmacy and you get to take it home with you – it sat in my cupboard for months).
My boyfriend met me there and he accompanied me to the gynaecology department of the doctor’s office. After a few minutes, the doctor came out of his room and greeted us in Polish. We said politely that we didn’t understand and he made some kind of nice gesture to us, smiled and walked away.
“Oh my Godddd,” I sqeaked. “How is this going to work?”
It was typical that, for such an important appointment, I’d get a doctor who didn’t speak English. Noooooo … I’d been so lucky for my wisdom tooth removal …
My boyfriend calms me down and says, quite rightly, that he is a doctor and he knows what he’s doing, language barrier or not.
I calmed down a little, and when the doctor called me in, I tried to channel tranquility as I went in to have my birth control story changed forever.
First of all, we establish the language barrier. He asks me what I assume was ‘How can I help you today?’ in Polish and I whipped the IUB Ballerine (in its packaging obviously) out of my bag and placed it on the desk. At that, he seemed to get very excited. Maybe he’d seen too many cases of thrush or done too many pap smears and he was excited to do something different, I don’t know. In any case, he was very friendly about the whole thing and asked me all questions you’d expect. It’s actually amazing what I understood in Polish. Basically, he’d ask me a question in Polish and I’d answer with the Polish I knew or English, and we both understood each other. The language barrier wasn’t really a problem.
He was also very happy that I was on my period, which is also quite surreal. Most of the time, I’m only happy to get my period if it’s late and I think I’m pregnant (albeit obsessively); the rest of the time, I could live without it. And it was lucky I was on my period that day; I really think he would have turned me away if I hadn’t been.
I asked the doctor how long the procedure would take and he estimated five minutes or so. The thought struck me that in five minutes time I would be 99% protected against pregnancy and have a device inside me. It’s quite a happy and ominous thought really.
Shortly after a round of questions about my general health, periods, pregnancy history, the doc pointed toward the table and my heart started pumping. There’s a fine moment in New Girl where Jessica Day says ‘It’s happening!’ before she falls over. I felt like that.
The procedure was fine. The pain that so many women threaten about on YouTube and random forums was more an intense cramping. I did swear. A lot. And the doctor simply smiled and reminded me to relax, otherwise he couldn’t put the device in (all in Polish obv.). But I think it was more the shock of the cramp rather than the cramp itself. It’s no gradual period pain, that’s for sure. I’m not sure if it’s when the instrument holding the device went through my cervix or when the device was pushed through its tube and started coiling up in my uterus that I felt the pain. It’s also a strange pain because apart from dull period pains, I never really had any indication before of where my uterus is actually located. When the IUD goes in, you know where your uterus is, that’s for sure! Hello uterus! In any case, the cramping lasted all of 30 seconds before the device was finally in and the doctor went about trimming the strings attached.
When my IUB was in, the doctor left me for a minute to relax. My body was in shock at what had just happened. In 2020 language, I was ‘shook’. Before I left, the doctor did a quick ultrasound to check the device was in the right place. I remember joking with him asking: “No baby?”
He confirmed: “No baby.”
A minute later I walked out to my boyfriend, heart still pumping from the adrenaline of the whole thing, and his face was a picture. It had seemed that he and everyone else outside my doctor’s examination room had heard all of my ouches and loud cursing. Weirdly, I didn’t feel embarrassed. I felt empowered … and also that I’d have one hell of a story to tell my girlfriends.
As soon as I started walking, I realised the impact that the procedure had had on my body. I felt a bit weak and sick. Luckily I’d thought ahead and brought my heat pads with me. Top tip: Take heating pads to your insertion appointment. It really helps!
I will admit that I felt a bit delicate after the insertion procedure. I took the rest of the day off work and laid low over the weekend. After an IUD insertion, it is normal to get cramps, and I sure did, but they were the dull, period kind. I chilled at my boyfriend’s place and he did everything for me. We watched Netflix and ordered Chinese food and it was good. A few days later, I was ready to get on with life. I think the recovery period varies from woman to woman really. Some women can just get it done and go back to work. Others, like me, need to rest for a few days.
After a couple of weeks, I was feeling so empowered that I’d made the decision to go non-hormonal and to go for a different IUD to the normal T-shaped device that I made a YouTube video about it (see above). My main reason for making this video was to give a positive yet truthful review of the IUB Ballerine in English. When I was looking for a review of this IUD, there were no videos in English about it – probably because it’s not available in the US yet, nor is it available on the NHS in the UK (but it is from private practices, I believe). So I thought, if I was looking for information in English, there must be other women out there looking for the same thing! And my YouTube channel and my IUB Ballerine video were born.
One of the questions I was asked in the comments of my YouTube video was about my periods since I’ve had the IUB. I’ll be honest, they are heavier than they used to be and the cramps last a bit longer, but as long as I have access to a hot water bottle and paracetamol, I’m fine. I’m also quite lucky that I have an office job with access to remote working, so I’ve made use of this when I really just want to stay home in my PJs and eat Nutella out of the jar – all whilst working of course!
Yes, there are times where I question my life choices; when I’m cramping for the third day in a row or when I stand up and it feels like a waterfall between my legs. But I remind myself that it’s not as bad as some women have it. Some women with endometriosis can’t even walk during their periods due to the crippling pain and some women change their pad ten times a day or more. My period is heavier these days but it is manageable for sure. Plus a week of a slightly heavier period versus five years of 99% protection against unplanned pregnancy? I know who the winner is! And I’m no longer a hormonal monster – hurrah!
Birth control has been a significant part of my life in recent years. In tackling my own situation, I found stuff out about myself and I grew as a person. I realised that I’m a strong, confident woman who can make a decision about her own body. I realised that the pill is not the answer to everyone’s problems. I realised that when I’m a hormonal b*tch, I want the hormones turning me into a monster to be my own natural ones. Most importantly, and I think all women should be aware of this wherever they are, I learnt that we have options – more options than ever before. You don’t have to accept the hormonal pill if it doesn’t agree with you. You don’t have to get a copper IUD if you have heavy periods or any IUD at all if you don’t want anything in your uterus. You don’t have to get the Depo injection if you hate needles, nor do you have to get the NuvaRing if you can’t be bothered to fiddle with inserting it every month. You can just stick to condoms if you want. We live in the 21st century and we have a plethora of birth control options available to suit our needs. And this is something awesome. To brainstorm your own birth control/contraception plans, Bedsider.org is a great place to start: https://www.bedsider.org/methods#effectiveness
Getting sick any time sucks. But feeling like sh*t when you’re abroad and having to fight the trials and tribulations of expat life while you’re sick sucks harder. Here’s a picture of my latest meds from the pharmacy:
You see, I was having a lovely little Easter weekend with my boyfriend (albeit in isolation … #stayhome #coronavirus), and then after I went to the loo, I felt that dreaded tingle ‘down there’. I tried to brush it off in the hope it would go away. But oh no, my friends, this Easter gift was here to stay. Yes, at the grand age of 27 years old, my body had finally succumbed to a UTI infection. The worst thing was that it started on the Easter Sunday and of course the next day was a bank holiday. So I only managed to get a doctor’s appointment and some medication for my little ‘down there’ problem TWO DAYS later. But at least I could suffer at home, and I had my boyfriend for company.
Fast forward two days later, I had a phone consultation with an internal doctor. I must admit, I’m so impressed with how my medical provider suddenly made lots of phone consultations available during the upheaval of the coronavirus. Good on you, guys! So, anyway, the doctor confirms that it’s probably a UTI infection and gives me a prescription for the meds you can see above. Oh and she said I also needed to ask for a sample cup for a urine test. And that’s when I had my first expat worry. How am I going to ask for that?! Will they understand me?! Oh mannnn …
So I pop along to the pharmacy, jiggling as I go because, you know, with this ‘down there’ situation I needed to pee literally all the time. The ten minutes that I was out, walking to the pharmacy and back, was THE WORST. I don’t know if this is accurate, but I felt like standing upright made the ‘I need to pee right now’ sensation even worse. Of course the first pharmacy was having technical issues with their tills, so I needed to walk a little bit further to get my meds. As Janice on Friends would say, OH MYYY GOD!
When I arrived at the right pharmacy, I was greeted with no queue (praise the Lord), the obligatory red tape on the floor, and staff in masks. These are strange times we live in right now, right? Luckily, I had an e-prescription, which meant that all the pharmacist had to do was scan the barcode on my phone. Wahoo! Then came the time I had to ask for the sample cup. It went like this:
“DO YOU ALSO HAVE A SAMPLE CUP?”
“(Blank look) Sorry, I don’t understand.”
“You know, for a test, a beaker?”
“(Blank look) No, sorry, I don’t understand.”
“OK, SO I NEED TO PEE IN A CUP.”
“OK, SURE (LEANS DOWN BELOW THE COUNTER TO GET THE CUP)”
So the poor pharmacist that had to serve me understood me eventually, but I had to get real crass with my language choice for sure. I cringed internally, but listen, as long as the communication is made and nobody is offended, it’s all good. I just wanted to get the hell out of there so I could get home quickly without peeing myself or embarrassing myself by jumping up and down on the spot.
I feel bad that after two years living in Poland, I still can’t speak Polish. Believe me, I tried. I did a course at the beginning and everything. But for some reason or another, Polish just hasn’t sunk into my brain. I’ll write about that whole fiasco another day. But, generally speaking, I’m a great believer in speaking the language of the country in which you live. So every time I go to the pharmacy and speak in English, I feel guilty about it. But here is my point: In sh*t situations when you’re ill and a bit worse for wear, it’s OK to speak English. If the people serving you eventually understand you in English, there’s no harm done, right? If they don’t, that’s where a good translation app comes in. No worries. Don’t stress that expat brain! By the way, I did ask the pharmacist what the name of a sample cup was in Polish; now I know for later. Though I hope I don’t need one later …
What to do when you fall ill as an expat:
Getting ill whilst living abroad can be more stressful than if you were in your home country. You have to organise a doctor’s appointment (I’m lucky enough to have a provider with appointments in English, but I know some people need interpreters, etc.), then you have to go to the doctor’s appointment and hope that the doctor understands you and your problem, then you have to go to the pharmacy and speak to the pharmacist, then you get home and take the medicine – and of course you don’t know what the hell you’re taking until you google it and translate the patient leaflet.
Or if it’s something that can be treated at home without seeing a doctor, you might not be able to find the products that you used to rely on in your home country, so you have to go to the pharmacy anyway and ask for an alternative. Or if you’re feeling daring, pick up something in the shop that seems remotely suitable for your ailment and risk it (don’t do that)! I sometimes stock up on some products when I go home to the UK; having familiar products like Lemsip, Tyrozets, etc., can be really reassuring!
So what should you do when you get ill? Here’s my fool-proof plan so you don’t add freaking out on top of your headcold:
Take it easy. If you don’t feel good, just relax and watch Netflix. Have a soothing herbal tea.
Consult a doctor. As awkward as some expats may find seeing a doctor abroad, it really is for the best. If it’s something you can’t treat at home or have no idea what the problem is exactly, GO TO A DOCTOR.
Trust the doctor. Sometimes, language barriers don’t fill expats with much confidence in foreign doctors. But, listen, they all trained the same way for one purpose: to help you! So trust the doctor and do what he/she advises.
Think about what you’ll do when you feel better. It really helps me to remember that I won’t feel like this forever – one day I will be able to pee normally dammit!
Call a friend/loved one to take your mind off your problem, or text them if you have a cough or lost your voice!
Eat soothing foods. Normally, I find that whatever I fancy when I’m ill is normally what makes me feel better – sometimes it makes no sense why it helps, but it does. The times when you’re sick are opportunities to revisit the childish foods your mum used to give you like Angel Delight, jelly, pudding, custard, yogurts. Anything nostalgic! If you can only get a certain food in your home country, I recommend ordering a bunch of things from home specifically for times like this. You don’t want to be feeling like sh*t and wishing you’d ordered Butterscotch Angel Delight or Reese’s Pieces beforehand. It’s just crushing not having what you want when you need it. Though if you have a stomach bug, you probably won’t want to eat at all.
Have a herbal tea. You can’t go wrong with herbal tea. Add Netflix or Amazon Prime if necessary. Now is the time to watch the trashy TV you secretly love. For me, that’s Teen Mom, and I’m not ashamed.
Take a moment to say to yourself: “I’m not feeling well right now, so expat life can wait”. It really can!
So there you go. That’s my plan for when you get sick as an expat abroad. The most important thing to remember when you’re sick is to give yourself a break and tell expat life to take a hike for the week. Your body is feeling stressed out and can’t handle that right now, and that’s just fine.
OK, so now I’m gonna go pee again … this bloody UTI, ahhh!
I remember when I was a young, ambitious languages student at uni. I was full of hopes and dreams and idealism. I thought if I could just move abroad, my life would be so much cooler. I’d be care-free like the ladies on Sex and the City. I’d go out for cocktails all the time, laugh a lot like those girls in perfume adverts and wake up every day with a zest for life.
Well, some of that stuff came true. But mostly, the same sh*t happens abroad as it would at home. I don’t mean to deter you at all from living abroad (I still love it), but it pays to remember that you can’t escape the mundane and downright irritating things in life. Here’s my list of sh*t things that still happen when you live abroad …
1. You still have to pay bills, rent, etc.
Believe it or not, when you move abroad, you’ll still have all the usual boring expenses that you had to pay back home. Before I can even think about buying something for myself, I have to make sure I have enough for rent, internet, my monthly phone top-up, Netflix, Skype (to call family back home who don’t use WhatsApp), Amazon Prime, my student loan and anything ‘extra’. When I say extra, I’m talking about those times my landlady tells me I’ve underpaid my utilities and have to pay her X amount of zloty. You know, things like that. And those moments always sneak up on you when you’re least expecting it. For example, today I opened a letter from my previous company asking me to pay them back 300 PLN because they overpaid me! I absolutely resented paying my old company money back for their mistake but hey ho, that’s the beauty of this life, right?
My advice to you: Keep your monthly essential expenses in mind when you get paid and ALWAYS assume something unexpected but obligatory will come up. Also pay your bills; it’s tough but just do it.
2. You still have to go to work
Now I’m not complaining about this at all. After all, without a job, I couldn’t afford to live on my own and I’m so glad I’m not studying anymore. Now I work a job in a field I’m interested in and I get paid for it. I can buy my own food or treat myself to a holiday now and then. But when I was so caught up with the glamour of moving abroad, I never stopped to think about the reality of the day-to-day life I would have when I arrived. Spoiler alert, it turned out to be exactly the same as at home. A normal working day for me is: I wake up, I get dressed, have breakfast, go to work for 8 hours, come home, eat fish fingers and chips, and watch Netflix. The thing is, after a while, I started to resent this routine (OK I varied the dinners a bit). I started to think: “I’m living abroad, shouldn’t my life be more interesting than this?!” But no, young Kristina, oh no. A 9-5 job is the same wherever you live, whether it’s in London, Paris or New York. Everyone has to do their job at the end of the day to get paid so they can do cool things at the weekends. Working full-time kind of gets overlooked when you’re planning to up sticks and adorn your mask of the mysterious foreigner in some far-off country. But, yeah, sorry to burst your bubble, but even expats have to work!
My advice to you: Find a job you enjoy and/or that suit your profile. If you’re interested in your work, it’ll feel more fulfilling than if you aren’t. But regardless of whether you like your job or not, be proud of what you do. Someone somewhere appreciates what you do, whether you’re the UK Prime Minister or working in a fast-food restaurant. Everything we all do counts!
3. You still get sick
In all the excitement that comes from moving abroad, you can perhaps forget that your body isn’t by any means invincible, especially as you get older. I swear I’ve gone to the doctor more in the last two years while I’ve been living abroad than in my entire life! I put it down to the stress of starting the 40-hour week in a foreign country, which was a completely new experience for me. Also, don’t quote me on this, but I feel like as you get older your body just isn’t as strong anymore. You get the flu or a cold much easier, maybe some acid reflux, migraines, maybe a strange skin condition, etc. Honestly, if you’re sitting back questioning what’s wrong with you, don’t worry, I’d say it’s completely normal. I mean, I’m no doctor, so please go see one for your issues. But if you’re feeling down in the dumps because you have a health problem that just won’t quit while you’re trying to enjoy your expat life, babe you’re not alone!
My advice to you: Try not to let health issues affect how you enjoy living in your new abode. When you have a problem that just won’t bugger off, I know it can get really annoying. But say to yourself: “F*ck that [insert health problem]! You shall not stop me enjoying myself!” Obviously if you have a cold, stay home and rest. But if it’s something that means you’re otherwise healthy, go with the first option. It’l be OK in the end, and you will feel better dammit!
4. You still have to buy your own food
Only when you live alone, do you realise just how much food costs. Honestly, it’s shocking! I almost feel guilty for the amount I spend on food. But the cost of living is getting higher and higher wherever you go. It’s just obscene to be honest. If you thought your shopping bill was huge in the UK, it’s not really any cheaper in Poland (well, I don’t think so anyway). I can’t speak for every country, but trust me, when it’s you buying the monthly food shop and swiping that credit card at the till, you will suddenly become very aware of how much food costs. And it’s not only the cost that’s an issue, but carrying the shopping home! When you live by yourself and pop to the shop for ‘a few bits’ and then come out with four big bags, you soon regret not ordering online. You see, when I was planning my move over to Poland, I imagined myself eating in the nice restaurants on the market square; I didn’t really imagine myself lugging bags and bags of shopping home from the supermarket. But there you are -the glamour of adult life, eh?
My advice to you: Order online every now and then, especially for things like big bottles of oil, tins, cans, bags of flour, etc. You can thank me later.
5. You still question your life choices
Just because you appear to have sorted out your life – moved abroad, got a job that pays somewhat decently and got a little apartment – it doesn’t mean you’re not going to QUESTION EVERYTHING. In fact, I think I question my life choices even more because of the fact I moved to Poland. First of all, I never planned to move to Poland. I actually came here for a job offer in the field I was interested in. So there you go; isn’t it strange where life can take us? So because I did the unexpected, my brain is always panicking, asking: “WHAT NEXT? OMG, THIS IS THE WORST! WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NEXT!?” Now I ignore my brain when it goes down this path and I embrace the choices I’ve made. I believe everything happens for a reason. For example, If I hadn’t come to Poland, I never would’ve met my lovely boyfriend! So if you’re sitting in your cute apartment in Barcelona freaking the f*ck out about your life choices, take a chill pill. It’s all good.
My advice to you: There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ life path. Things happen and that’s OK. Actually, it’s better having a blank page than a full-on detailed landscape painted out for you! Know that you can try different jobs, you can move to different places, have a baby even if you didn’t plan to for a few more years, not have a baby even though you planned to, get a tattoo just because you can – this is your life and you deserve the freedom to do what you want with it. Just don’t do anything tooo stupid. And don’t freak out. It’s just life.
6. yOU’RE STILL BROKE
If you’re in your mid 20s and panicking about the fact that you still haven’t started saving for retirement (just me?), don’t worry. When I first got my job offer to move to Poland, I imagined myself living it up on an amazing salary, going out for cocktails all the time, buying the premium products from the top shelf in the supermarket and generally not having any money issues. Well, it turns out managing your finances is not that easy! Saving money for a rainy day is hard, and using your credit card for that random purchase is all too tempting …
So your finances don’t look that great right now, it’s cool. They’ll eventually look great! And who will be the one remembering those times you only had £20 left in your bank account and feeling the benefit? You will! You see, there’s a silver lining to every poor and broke cloud. Financial worries is something that plagues everyone, even expats! Honestly, if you just bring up the topic with your friends, there will be at least one person who will understand what you mean.
My advice to you: when you first start your job in your new country, experiment with your budget for a couple of months to get an insight into what you can afford, what you can save, etc.Try to pay your credit card bill ASAP and try not to use it unless absolutely necessary (trust me on this one, credit card debt SUCKS). Pay your rent as soon as you get paid and also transfer a bit of money into your savings account. Oh yeah, and set up said savings account. And just use your common sense; if something feels too expensive or a risky move, don’t buy it yet. Oh and one more thing, do not let your money situation get you down. Literally everyone has this worry; don’t let it eat you up!
7. You still have to clean
You know that cute apartment in Barcelona you just moved into? Yeah, you’re gonna have to clean that sh*t. I remember being so happy to finally have my own place that I forgot about the annoyance of having to constantly clean it. I mean, hoovering/vacuuming isn’t too bad, nor is cleaning the bathroom because that’s a once every couple of weeks situation. But I absolutely despise doing the dishes. I have a dishwasher and I despise doing the dishes. I feel like it’s a constant rain on my parade. Just when I’ve given the kitchen a good sort out and all the dishes are clean and the sink is empty, I have to cook dinner and the cycle starts all over again. I bloody hate it. But it’s life, my friend, and living abroad won’t save you from it. Fun fact, I only recently learnt that you have to clean the filter of your dishwasher. Wow, Kristina, good one. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by cleaning your own place all the time on top of coping with the other stressors that come from living abroad, you’re not alone. Just think, even expats in the most exotic places like the Bahamas or the Maldives have to do their chores. And if you’re an expat in such a tropical destination, at least you’re in the tropics!
My advice to you: Don’t feel guilty if you can’t be asked to clean your house. Leave your dishes until the next day or clean the floors tomorrow. If you live alone, the only person who’s going to know you didn’t do it is you. So relax! I find it helps to spread the chores out over the week so you don’t feel exhausted after a day of cleaning. I remember when I was a student and I first learnt how to clean the bathroom, I used to spend 2 HOURS cleaning the bathroom. Seriously. Now I can do a thorough clean in 20 minutes or less. It’s no big deal. Normally what happens is: I spot something while I’m in there doing my makeup or whatever, and I think to myself: “Oh, I’ll just give the sink a wipe down”. Then 20 minutes later, I’ve cleaned the entire bathroom! But I’m so quick at it now, it’s really no big deal. But the dishes … OMG! I hate them sooo muchhhhhh …
So that’s my list of sh*t things that still happen when you live abroad. I don’t want to scare anyone from becoming an expat. Honestly, apart from the above-mentioned things, living abroad does bring so much joy to my life. I get to experience a different culture in my spare time, different food, different architecture, different weather. It really is great. But I just wanted to write this list as a reminder to all that moving abroad doesn’t take you away from the mundane issues that all adults face. But to every dish we clean, every hour we work, every bill we pay, there’s a new place to discover, new foods to eat and a new foreign language to learn.