Packing up your entire life and moving abroad to a different country can be quite daunting. Each phase of starting a new life abroad holds its own challenges, but the first one you have to overcome is setting up your new life. Here are 10 tips to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed:
1. The Moving Basics
Just like any move, make sure you have let everyone know that you are moving and where/how they can reach you in the future. This means anyone from your family, friends to your former employer or university, the tax office and any companies with which you still have ties back in your old country (bank, insurances, anything you are holding onto for now).
Check that your health insurance is set up, that you know what the numbers and protocols are for emergencies (police, ambulance) and ideally, have a person you can call if you need help. This can be a friend who lives in your destination country, your partner and his family if you are moving abroad to join your spouse, or someone at your new job.
Learn as much of the country’s language as you can. In many places you can get pretty far with just English, but I strongly recommend learning at least the emergency basics such as “I need help” or “Where is the next police station?” etc. Additionally, it is useful learning a few simple expressions such as hello, please, thank you and excuse me. You’d be surprised how much people appreciate foreigners making an effort!
Having just moved abroad, you might be keen to fully immerse yourself in the culture of your new country. Go ahead! But also remember to make your home your house/flat. Bring some keepsakes and pictures from your home country. These will not only cheer your up should the dreaded homesickness hit, but also make great conversation starters for guests who know little about your home country.
Have an idea of how you’re going to stay in contact with friends and family back home. Skype works amazingly for this! I made sure to install skype on my grandparents’ computers before I left, so I could still call them from time to time. If there is a big time difference between your old and your new country, make sure you let people know when would be a good time to call you… or be prepared to be woken up at 4am!
You would be surprised by the kind of things entire countries manage to do without. From certain types of medication to cotton buds or advent calendars, many things that were part of your life might not be available in the country you are moving to. Try to bring what is absolutely essential to you, and/or ask someone to send things over. Personally, I find it hard to go without Galaxy chocolate and fluffy gowns.
Speaking of chocolate… food! Exploring new dishes can be one of the most fun things about moving abroad, but it also takes some time to get used to preparing unfamiliar food items and working with very different types of kitchens and kitchen utensils. You might want to join some cooking classes, as they are a great way to learn about your new country’s cuisine and meet people at the same time!
Go out and meet people. It’s scary to meet people when you don’t speak the language very well, but new friends are the best way to feel at home abroad. Join a hobby group, volunteer, go to office parties. Try to familiarise yourself with the social customs so you can reduce the number of “awkward foreigner” moments, but don’t worry too much about making mistakes, most people are very forgiving of foreigners who make an effort to appreciate and learn about their culture.
Most likely you have just moved not only to a new country, but to a village, town or city you are entirely unfamiliar with. Go out and explore your new neighbourhood! Make sure you check which areas are safe to explore alone, or consider taking a friend or guide with you. If you can, discovering new favourite spots by yourself can not only be very fun, but also help you make a new place “yours”.
Last but not least, have patience. You might feel overwhelmed, excited, scared or happy – or go through all of those emotions within a few days after arriving in your new home. You do not have to put down roots and set up a new life overnight, and many things might not work out at first. Give it time!