Whether you’ve moved to a new country temporarily or you’ve made a permanent relocation, adjusting to life in a new culture can be difficult – and exciting. Here are some tips for expatriates looking to ease the transition to life overseas.
If you’re living in a country with a different language than your home country, it will be very beneficial for you to learn the language (or at least some of it) as you transition to life in a new place. Finding your way around town, browsing listings for apartments, ordering at a restaurant, and having casual conversations with your new co-workers and neighbors will be much easier if you know a few words in the local lingo.
Join meet up groups, where you can language exchange for free, and practice your new language.
Expats often flock together in their foreign country, brought together by common cultures. While it’s healthy to make friends in this capacity, it’s also important to branch out and get to know some locals. If you only socialize with people from your home country, you’ll never experience your new country! Search for local groups centered around common interests. Try taking a cooking class, joining a hiking group, attending church, or signing up for a community sport to meet people.
You’ll need to overcome some degree of culture shock, even in countries where the language is the same as your native language. From slang and cuisine to daily habits, clothing, and holidays, you’ll experience all of the fun, different, and sometimes unusual aspects of the new culture. In much of Europe, they have siestas. In Latin countries, you’ll notice religious influence in behavior and architecture. In Asia, you’ll taste some flavors you’ve never heard of! And most countries practice bartering instead of set-price retail. It’s all totally normal for the natives; you’ll just need to dive in and learn the customs. Be open to everything, and they’ll soon seem normal to you.
It’s hard not to equate all currency to that of your home country. Keep in mind that there is a different rate, and that you’ll have some unexpected costs. Relocation often comes with hidden fees or delays that can get expensive. Give yourself a bit of a cushion (more than you think you’ll need) so you don’t get caught without money.
When in an unfamiliar environment, it’s important to take extra safety precautions. Don’t travel alone at night if you don’t know the area well. Make sure your alarm systems are properly working in your car and home. And never use an unsecured computer network. VPN’s (Virtual Private Networks) are a helpful tool for encrypting your IP address and keeping your personal information and browsing history away from prying eyes. They also bypass censorship filters and firewalls placed by some governments, and give you the fast connection you’re used to.
Stay In Touch
Just because you’ve moved doesn’t mean you can’t keep contact with friends and family in your home country. In fact, it’s a great way to help combat loneliness and even depression associated with separation and culture shock. Call, email, and video chat to maintain those relationships, and you’ll find that you’re happier and more open to new relationships.
As soon as possible, try to accept the differences of your new home. Start thinking of it as “home” instead of a vacation. The harder you try to hold on to traditions and customs of your home country, the harder it will be to enjoy and experience your new country. Unpack as early as you can. You’ll feel more comfortable in your new apartment or house, which will help ease the stress of a new environment.
You’re starting an exciting new chapter! These tips will help you be happy, smart, and safe as you find your footing overseas.