Moving is a fun and exciting time. But it can also be stressful and anxiety inducing. All of these things are amplified tenfold when it’s a move abroad — and sometimes you’ll be in love with your new home and other times you’ll be questioning your sanity wondering why you even moved in the first place. If you’re a new expat or you’re about to be one, I have some tips for the newbie you need to check out.
Tips for new expats
Get out of the house!
Remind yourself that expat life is what you make of it and everyone is going to have a different experience. And that’s perfectly fine. Two people living in the same country as expats won’t have the same life, so put your energy into your experience abroad and don’t compare yourself to everyone else. There’s no one “right” expat experience to have so do what feels right for you and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. If all you do all day is stay inside, your new home probably feels just like your old one. Get out of your house and neighborhood, see the sights and take in your new surroundings. Which leads me to…
Talk to everyone.
From the cashier at the grocery store, to the neighbor with the cute dog to the waiter at the cafe, getting to know people in your new land is a must for becoming integrated and to build a network. Take it one conversation at a time. You never know where a simple conversation will go… but you have to make an effort!
Get rid of any preconceived notions and just live your life.
It’s hard not to have impressions of a place. Paris is all about romance and charm, NYC is the city that never sleeps and LA is all about freeways and celebrities. And of course there are the obligatory things to do in each of these cities. But before you embark on a new life abroad, I invite you to let any preconceived notions you have fall by the wayside and just take each day as it comes. Don’t try too hard to have a particular experience or fit into a box that’s full of things you should do. If you let anyone but you dictate your experience, you might wind up disappointed if things don’t work out for you the way you had hoped. Acknowledge your new home for what it is and then set out to find your place in it by experiencing all it has to offer.
Be ready for culture shock.
Even if your new home seems a lot like your old one, there will undoubtdly be little (and big!) reminders that you’re somewhere new. It’s only natural to experience culture shock. Prepare yourself and then let yourself be shocked. Pretty soon, these “weird” things will become the new normal.
Keep an open mind and keep things in perspective.
Things will absolutely be different in your new home — little things you may not even notice and giant things that figuratively punch you in the face. Letting the little things get you down might be automatic but remind yourself to fight that and try to laugh it off. Focus on all the positive things around you and just let the negatives fall away. Sometimes a simple mental shift is all it takes to see a place with a new set of eyes.
Allow yourself to have bad days.
We’re all human and no one expects us to be happy about everything all the time. So if things aren’t going your way and you’re homesick or upset about something, let yourself feel the emotion and don’t force yourself to put on a happy face because others expect that of you. Also, don’t guilt trip yourself for feeling down. When something puts you in a bad mood, it’s OK. Cry, go for a run, de-stress and do whatever you need to feel better. Trust me, you will feel better.