Three Lessons I Learned from Moving Abroad that Can Help Any Entrepreneur

Four years ago, my boyfriend and I packed all of our possessions in our car and drove from London, England to Barcelona, Spain, leaving behind our jobs, friends and family.

We didn’t know a soul in the city and neither of us had jobs, but we were hungry for adventure and in search of better quality of life.

Barcelona is a fabulous city combining historical architecture with beaches and mountains, but even the most amazing place in the world can be dull without friends to enjoy it with. My boyfriend was lucky enough to get a job within weeks of arriving so I was left alone to hustle, make friends and find a job.

My experiences in these first few weeks taught me three valuable lessons in life which have since helped me enormously in running my own marketing consultancy.

Lesson 1: Fake it til you make it!

I’d heard of networking groups before I moved to Spain but I had never attended a meeting. Out of desperation for someone to talk to I went along to my first event. Walking in to the crowded room that first day I was full of doubts and insecurities.

What do I say?
I wish I had someone to introduce me.
I wish I were more confident.

I decided to use the old “fake it ‘til you make it” principle and considered what a confident person would do in this situation. They’d walk up to someone with a smile, hold out their hands and introduce themselves.

How hard could that be?

I found a couple of people that looked approachable, held out my hand (trying not to smile too maniacally) and introduced myself. Within minutes I had forgotten all about being nervous. The people I spoke to were incredibly friendly and they introduced me to others in the room. I left a couple of hours later with a handful of cards from nice people and I’d had a fun time.

After that first positive experience I went to several other networking events. I soon realised that everyone was shy and nervous and so they were grateful that I approached them first.

This is something that I’ve used many times since when trying new things. I look at how the ‘experts’ do it and follow their cue. Rather than copy them I search for the underlying principles that I can apply in my own way.

Lesson 2: Feel the fear, and then carry on anyway

Even with practise, the fear of putting myself ‘out there’ hasn’t gone away, but I have learned to not let that stop me. This habit of feeling the fear (of exposure, of insecurity, etc) and carrying on anyway has helped me since in so many ways.

I used it when I quit my well paid job so that I could help my mum set up a holistic wellness centre in Barcelona; then again when I later began my own business helping entrepreneurs to market their services, and I now use it every time I’ve had to do something which takes me out of my comfort zone.

When I first started my business, “going out of my comfort zone” meant pretty much everything: reaching out to groups to offer free talks and mini workshops; asking for the sale at client meetings; and ‘going pro’ and hiring my first external support. I’ve felt nervous every time but I’ve reframed it as a positive thing, an adrenalin rush without having to go to a theme park or jump off a tall building!

Lesson 3: Don’t be too hard on yourself

Moving to a new country is difficult. Even when things were going according to plan it was still difficult. I realised that there will be times when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted but it’s important to try not to let things overcome you. The same applies when running your own business. Don’t be shy about asking for help or support, there are plenty of people who have been there before and can help.

The small amount of effort that I put in to getting to know others in the area when I first arrived, proved vital as source of support and tips on local customs and culture and later proved to be the main source of clients.

What is the big picture I want you take away from my experience?  Don’t think that socialising (online or in person) is time wasted; it’s what makes a new country/being an entrepreneur feel like home.

Why don’t you?

These lessons have really helped me. I’ve settled in Barcelona, I have loads of friends, my business is growing day by day and my boyfriend is now my husband. I learned the lessons the hard way by moving abroad, but you can put them into practise in your business without having to pack your bags!

As you know nothing happens unless you take action. So, to conclude I’d like you to think about how you can apply one (or all) of the lessons to your own business. Leave your comment below or contact me directly. I wish you the very best of luck!

Need more actionable advice?
Get your FREE weekly marketing “to-do” list
straight to your inbox every Wednesday:
Djanira CortesaoDjanira Cortesão helps extraordinary service providers reach their ideal clients, unlock hidden revenue streams and grow their businesses organically. She offers group workshops and 1-on-1 mentoring, as well as insightful marketing newsletters and articles. Design a life of abundance with Djanira — online at: + @djaniracortesao


  1. Loved this Djanira!

    I may need to make another effort at networking locally, so far it’s just been boring old dudes in suits – so NOT my ‘tribe’! I have to say I much prefer networking online, just seems like a far easier option…

    • Thanks Genna

      Having been to quite a few events now I’d say it really helps to pick your group. Sometimes its hard to tell from the website as to what it will be like and you just have to pitch up and see who’s there.

      It’s well worth the effort when you find a gang of people that you connect with.

      Good luck!

  2. Love this Djanira!!! I used to always be that shy girl at events. Then after awhile I realized that no one’s gonna bite or be rude and socializing is SOOO much fun, especially when you’re around people that inspire you.

    Starting a business has also been teaching me the “feel the fear and carry on anyway” lesson. New things are always going to be scary, but that’s probably because they’re that magnificent so you just gotta march forward anyway!

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Hey Djanira,

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve made a big move…from Oregon to NYC and I had never before thought of the parallels you mentioned. Thank you…I’m going to have to mull this over, it’s so interesting. Oh, and btw, the move was the smartest thing I could have done…not easy…but tons of rewards!

  4. Great post – I love how you’ve been able to apply the challenges of moving to a new place to growing your business. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” is huge for me – I realize I keep repeating this to myself before I make any huge leap in my life. Thank you so much for the inspiration to get out there!

  5. Great post Djanira! I love how you break things down so beautifully and simply ~ it makes challenges seem so doable! Thank you!

  6. Hi Djanira! Great post! Thank you!

  7. You’re welcome Jolina!

  8. Great post Djanira! I’ve got to find the right group for me. I tend to get cornered by an older man who says I remind him of his daughter! ;P I can say that pushing through the fear is necessary and it’s never as bad as you think it will be! I take a deep breath, suck it up and walk over to a random group or person and say hello! You’re right, they are probably glad you did it and they didn’t have to! xo

  9. I still need to find the right groups here to attend. All the groups that I have attended where about people trying to sell their services/products to me “NOW” and not really concerned in building business relationships. Now you have giving me the permission to go and try again :)

    • Finding the right group makes a huge difference Pat.

      I have a group that is just a blast and its like going to a party full of mates that also like to talk business.

      Definitely keep trying…Good luck!

  10. Djanira, this was such a great reminder for me to stop making excuses and get out there already! i’ve made a few major moves in my lifetime and although making friends has never been too difficult, i often find networking with those in my industry a bit intimidating. i usually use the excuse that i don’t have much in common with a lot of people in my industry and feel like i’d be faking it, if i actually did go to that event. and although that may be true to some degree, i’m sure if i just gave it a shot, i’d find someone in the crowd that i would have a genuine attraction to. thanks for this!

  11. Great article Djanira!

    I think asking for help is something that many of us women biz owners do not do enough. I know I’m guilty of not reaching out when I should.

    Pat, I’ve had similar experiences with networking groups. Lately I’ve been branching out to different types of groups that are more “mastermind” orientated and have found them to be much more productive.

    • Thanks Heidi

      I agree totally with your comment about women not asking for help as much as we should. The great thing is that when we do ask, most times the answer is yes!

  12. It’s not rocket science, but it’s good to hear these kinds of reminders. Thanks, Djanira, for writing this, and thanks, Laura, for hosting it!

    • I agree. In fact I’ve noticed that most of marketing is more common sense than rocket science…one just needs to remember to apply it!