How to settle in smoothly abroad.
You found your way to the supermarket without taking unplanned detours. Finally, you begin to recognize your neighborhood and you can find your new house without navigation. Your mailbox has your name on it and it’s all starting to feel familiar. You’re on your way to feel like a local and wish to call this your new “home”. You have started to settle in.
“Moving abroad allows you to bypass the window, and go straight through the front door!”
Settling into another country, especially in the beginning, involves a series of stressful events, crisscrossed by occasional periods of calm.
From minor, meaningless things to more profound and serious matters, settling in often includes the following:
• learning new ways of doing things
• learning to do things you’ve never done before
• stopping yourself from doing things you can no longer do
• adjusting to a completely new bunch of people
• learning to live and work in a location where you speak a foreign language
• getting used to various new and unusual circumstances
• learning to live without all kinds of familiar routines
After living abroad for many years, I can only see the positives and meaningful sides of the entire process of settling in. Looking back to my first move, I remember the stress I felt wasn’t so positive, to say the least. Not just the fear of the unknown, but also having to learn everything for the first time, from finding a house to learning the language to various registrations to getting to know the people. The process of settling in may feel fantastic on one day, and then anxiety creeps in on the next. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions on a ride that lasts for a while.
Here is a list of suggestions from actual expat experiences from around the world to help you settle in more easily and successfully:
Things you can do with other people:
- Invite people over to your house
- Go to a movie, cafe, etc.
- Participate in a team sport or fitness class
- Work as a volunteer for a good cause
- Find a cycle, walking, or running group
Things you can do on your own:
- Read books, newspapers, or magazines
- Cook a meal
- Take a walk outside
- Go see a movie
- Write in your journal
- Go to a restaurant or café
- Go shopping
- Exercise or join a gym
- Take a ride by bike, car, or bus
- Watch people while sitting in a café or a park
- Study a new language
Things to remember during difficult moments:
- This too will pass
- I came here to experience a challenge
- I’ve been through worse than this
- It’s natural to feel down from time to time, no matter where
- It’s not just me
- Things didn’t always go well back home either
- I have taken on a lot; It’s OK to feel overwhelmed from time to time
Patience is a virtue:
Settling in can be a stressful challenge; it takes time, effort, and patience, which for some of us is easier than others.
Also, your new house is your special place to come home to every day, so it’s extremely important to make it as homely as possible. At first, it looks somewhat bare and unfamiliar, so it’s up to you to decorate and make it warm and cozy. Put up pictures of family and friends, and add accessories that mean a lot to you.
A journalist once asked me, “What is the one thing that you are emotionally attached to and take with you in all of your moves abroad?” Within one second, I answered, “My big, brown teddy bear.” I’ve had it since I was sixteen-years-old.
As silly as it sounds, all of us have some item that we feel attached to, whether it’s a teddy bear, a blanket, a picture, or a painting, these objects are important to include, to make you feel home, wherever you are. The sooner your place feels like home, the easier settling in will be.
Be open, trusting, patient, and enjoy the unique experience. Have fun, listen, smile, embrace change and discover more about the world and yourself.
Find out much more tips, experiences, and checklists in my book Living Abroad Successfully.
If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you.
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