How to keep busy abroad whilst your partner is working
If you've read my last post, 7 free museums in Paris for Europeans aged 18-25, you will know that I moved to Paris after graduation when my partner took a job there. What you don’t know is before I applied for a job as an English Language Instructor (yes, I’m sticking to my fancy babysitter job title), I spent the first few months exploring the city on my own whilst Michael worked.
At first it was great, I had made a huge list of things I wanted to see and I was quickly making my way through it. After a while though, I got bored of being on my own all the time - Michael worked in advertising which meant very long hours and often working weekends. So, as amazing as solo site seeing was, it became a bit lonely (if anyone has seen the last couple of episodes of Sex and the City, when Carrie moves to Paris, you’ll get a pretty good idea of how I was feeling). I started looking into more social ways to spend my time, where I could meet new people and add more structure to my week. This eventually led to me getting my job at Babylangues too.
A dear friend inspired me to write this post after asking how I stayed busy during my time alone (specifically before getting a job - some countries don’t issue working visas straight away). Having seen how my advice has helped, I wanted to share with you all good tips on what you can do. Just because you’ve moved abroad for your partner, it doesn’t mean you are expected to be a fully fledged solo traveler overnight.
You might not even have moved country, I still follow Michael on work trips so I can explore somewhere new for myself. Last year I spent a week in Dubai on my own whilst he was working there, and right now, as this post goes live to you all, I am in a hotel in London whilst he is working in-house. For this reason, my advice below has grown to what it is because I have added to it with experience. You’ll be able to do one of these whether you're living or just visiting somewhere whilst your partner is working.
Now then, let’s get into it!
Museums, galleries, exhibitions
Though you can consider these as site seeing, exhibitions are ever changing so you won’t necessarily be seeing the same thing again and again. You don’t have to go for the sake of it, just keep an eye out for ones that interest you. I went to numerous fashion exhibitions that popped up across Paris whilst I was there, my all time favourite one was Cartier: Style and History at Grand Palais.
There’s no need to rush through these either, take your time to read the little plaques to understand what you’re looking at instead of walking past them. They’re a great place to visit when the weather is bad and you don’t want to spend too much time outside.
Provided your visa allows this, look into volunteering. It’s rewarding, social, a great thing to put on your CV and it gives you the same structure that a job would.
Learn the Language
This won’t apply to everyone everywhere because you might already be fluent in another language or you might be lucky enough to not have a language barrier. However, if you will be in a country where you don’t speak the local tongue, look into language classes. Or if you want to save money, download an app. My top choice is Duolingo #unofficialad. Obviously speaking a second language is a huge benefit so if you’ve got the will power, give it go!
Whether you are a master chef or frequently burn toast, cooking is a great outlet no matter your skill level. There are two ways to go about this; cooking classes or cooking at home. Cooking classes will be more social, provide structure and offer a helping hand if you are a novice. Cooking at home means you can do it at your own pace, cook what you want and avoid possible embarrassment if something goes wrong.
Try picking up a new recipe book, maybe even a local one, something that takes you out of your comfort zone, but contains things you will actually eat. Instead of just going to your local supermarket, research and take yourself off to a food market somewhere you haven’t been before so you can visit somewhere new with a purpose.
Try a new hobby
Take a look at the classes on offer in your local area, maybe something athletic such as yoga or crafty like pottery - whatever takes your fancy. It will be a social experience where you will learn new skills and hopefully have fun!
Join a gym
Get yourself a gym membership or even just try some fitness classes. We’re finally seeing the real potential of living a fit and healthy life and gym culture is bang of trend, so most of you are more than likely already hitting up the gym. I was too busy feasting on pastries and cheese in Paris to ever consider going to a gym, but these days my gym classes add structure to my days at home when I’m not travelling, and I’ll definitely find a gym when I’m away from home.
Join an expat group
This is a really important one if you’ve moved to a country where you don’t speak their first language. Language barriers are very restricting and though you will feel pressure to speak it, you won’t grasp it straight away, so daily conversations will be limited which can be isolating. Expat groups are a great way to socialise and meet likeminded people who, just like you, have moved to a new country away from home. Look for groups on social media as well as googling it. General ones will do meet ups at coffee shops and bars, but there are themed ones as well - I remember when I was in Paris I found a Glee one on facebook, I was talked out of that one by many, MANY people, but it’s a good example of what you can find.
There’s absolutely no shame in seeking out home comforts after a while. A couple of friends and I found an English Pub - I forget the name now - down some backstreets around Pathéon which served fry ups and a pretty decent Sunday roast. Another, fairly embarrassing one I might add, was Starbucks. It sounds stupid when you think of all the beautiful little café choices across the city, but sometimes if I ever felt a little overwhelmed, it was an easy place to be because it was familiar.
Make Skype/facetime dates with friends and family as often as you can. I always feel more connected when I video chat with them rather than just messaging or speaking on the phone.
Invite friends and family to stay
What’s even better than video chatting? Seeing them in person! Be a tour guide to your new home, showing them the best parts of where you are living.
You’ll probably have noticed running themes of social activities and learning new skills. The best way to beat boredom is to meet people, make friends, add structure to your days and do things to make you feel good about yourself.
Make the most of this time you have when you’re not working, it might not last forever and though you might not see it now, trust me, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.
Where have you moved to be with your partner, I’d love to hear from you and all about what you’ve been doing to keep yourself occupied. If you’re about to move, I wish you the best of luck in your new home!