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Moving overseas is a great, big undertaking! Accordingly, we are frequently asked by people who are preparing to move overseas for the first time if we’ve garnered any wisdom we can share with them. The short answer is yes! We’ve definitely got some tips for new expats moving abroad to help you be prepared for your new life.
Our Traveling Zoo’s Top Tips for New Expats
1. Don’t take too much stuff
We know people who moved for the first time with their favorite sheets, pillows, and more. They had to haul 6 or 8 huge suitcases, plus carry-ons, and so forth PER PERSON. Don’t do that. It’s simply unnecessary. Just bring clothing and shoes that are appropriate, and maybe a few small reminders of home. With a few exceptions, the things you’re accustomed to having are available where you’re going. Besides the physical hassle, carrying too many belongings creates psychological stress, too, as you fret over what to take. Keep it minimal and uncluttered. Relax! If you are really worried about missing certain things, talk to the expats in area to find out what they bring from home.
2. Know about culture shock
It’s real, and it has stages! Typically, when you arrive, you’ll love your new home. It’ll be fantastic, exciting, fresh, new, and endlessly interesting. Right up until suddenly it isn’t. That’s normal. The cycle is love-hate-enjoyment, more or less. You’ll do well to know ahead of time that you’ll inevitably find yourself wanting to go home at some point, and you’ll hate most everything you liked at first. Give it more time, and you’ll end up enjoying the culture again, probably in a somewhat different fashion. For more about the stages of culture shock, and how to cope, click here.
3. Remember that where you’re going is not necessarily better or worse, but it is different
It is tough for first-time expats to put their fingers on this at first. It’s only natural to compare your home culture with the culture you’ve joined, but beware of taking that too far. Saying, “Oh, gosh, blasted (insert appropriate country’s name here) is so terrible at (insert noun)” may reflect how you feel at the moment, but it won’t do any good. It also makes you sound like a jerk, which you aren’t. (We hope.) The reality is that things are done differently from place to place, and although that may be aggravating from time to time, it’s just the way it is.
4. Understand that bureaucracy is generally the worst part of any place
Doing paperwork is always a hassle. It’s no fun in your home country, and you can expect it to be equally irritating wherever you’re headed.
5. Set strong, clear goals
Moving overseas can be a great way to achieve your goals. If you want to get out of debt or change your spending habits, living abroad (especially in a position which provides your lodging) can provide a great springboard. If you want to quit a bad habit or improve your social circle, this is a wonderful time to do that. You can literally leave your past behind. However, it’s very easy when everything around you is new to seek comfort in familiarity. To prevent yourself from falling back into your old, comfortable ways, keep your goals in sight and adhere to them unswervingly.
6. Plug into a community when you arrive
Being lonely is no fun. If you’re a church goer, find out where a church meets and join it. Seek out those who enjoy your favorite hobbies and pastimes. There are often expat groups that organize social events, as well. You might try InterNations, for example.
7. Take advantage of Skype
Phone home regularly. We are afraid the kids might lose their sense of family and belonging, so we’ve made it a point to schedule Skype conversations with grandparents. There’s no real reason to lose touch with family just because you’re far away.
Being a first time expat isn’t necessarily easy, but we think if you bear these tips in mind, you’ll have an easier time transitioning to life in a new country. As you are preparing to move overseas, know that we heartily encourage it! Moving overseas and living abroad is rewarding in a great many ways.
Are you a seasoned expatriate? What are your thoughts? Any other tips you’d like to add to help other be prepared to move overseas? If so, let us know in the comments below!