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Moving country is up there as one of the most adventurous, exciting and thrilling things you can do in life, but anyone who has done it will tell you that it can be scary, nerve-wracking and bewildering at the same time. When the chaos of the move is over, the realisation that this is not a holiday but real life will dawn, and you may start to feel stressed, homesick and out of your depth.
Here are 10 tips to help you settle in fast and make the most your new life abroad.
1. Sort out the boring stuff !
As with any house move, there will be some boring stuff to do – opening utility and bank accounts, buying a mobile phone, registering with a doctor, sorting out work permits and visas. These administrative tasks can seem overwhelming, especially as things may be done very differently to back home. Make a list of everything that needs doing and tackle the tasks logically one by one. You don’t have to do them all in one day – give yourself a target of one or two a day to break the admin down into manageable chunks. Don’t forget to find out important things like where the nearest accident and emergency department is and how to call the emergency services.
2. Watch and learn
Take time to observe how the natives in your new country treat each other and react to one another. Even neighbouring countries can have very different customs and norms but by taking your lead from others you will soon start to understand these. Accept how things are done, even if you don’t like it. Comparing the way of life in your new country to your old one is a fruitless exercise which can only end in frustration as you are never going to change the habits of a nation !
3. Check your insurance cover
It is important to make sure that you have sufficient insurance in place in your new home and this is not limited to your home, contents and car. While back home you may have had access to free medical care, this is unlikely once you have moved abroad. Consult a specialist who can advise on a healthcare policy that will suit the requirements of you and your family.
4. Explore your surroundings
Take time to get to know your new home. The best way to do this is to spend time walking around. Shop in local shops, get to know the restaurants and bars near where you live, find out where the post office and bank are. Chat to people and ask questions. By being friendly and open to your new environment, you will find that you will quickly start feeling at ease.
5. Make friends
There is nothing worse than feeling lonely and isolated, which is why making friends should be a priority when you move to a new country. Without family to fall back on, your friends will become your support network.
Meeting people can be tricky but one good way is to join a club where you can socialise with others who share the same interests as you. You may also find it reassuring to seek out some of your fellow countrymen and you could start by looking on forums for expats living in your new country of residence. Beware of making friends just because of a shared nationality though. With nothing else in common, your friendship might flounder.
6. Get a grip on finances
Your cost of living and financial situation may have changed dramatically as a result of your move. It is essential to get a good idea of how much things cost in your new country and to budget accordingly. Moving country is hard enough without the added pressure of financial hardship.
Don’t neglect your long term financial planning requirements either, even though these may be complicated by the fact that you live abroad. A financial adviser in your new location will be key in helping you get a handle on your new situation and understanding the implications of your expat status.
7. Learn the language
Wherever you have chosen to live, it makes sense to learn at least a little of the local language. Start with the basics – greetings and simple questions and take it from there. Asking locals how to say things can be a great icebreaker and lead to interesting conversations and taking language lessons can be a good way of meeting other expats in a similar boat to yourself.
8. Accept that you will be homesick sometimes
Even 11 years on from moving away from the UK I occasionally experience waves of nostalgia for a lazy Sunday afternoon in a good old English pub with a group of close friends and the Sunday papers. These feelings were multiplied ten fold when we first moved and the homesickness was overwhelming at times.
This is a totally understandable reaction when you have left behind family and close friends, may be dealing with a drastic culture shock and trying to overcome a language barrier. Develop some coping strategies for those moments when you feel low – do something or visit somewhere that you love in your new country and remember the reasons why you moved in the first place whether it be for your career development or to experience a new culture. Most importantly….
9. Keep in touch with family and friends back home
It is cheaper and easier to keep in touch than ever before. Skype, Facebook, email or call your friends and family on a regular basis. Or write an old fashioned letter – everyone loves getting one of those and you might even receive one back.
10. Give it time
Settling in will not happen overnight. It takes time to build a new life but believe that it will happen. Embrace the experience and enjoy the ride!