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It is a well known fact that moving to a new home is stressful. Moving to a new city multiplies that stress several times over, and moving to an entirely different country is similar to the stress which accompanies the birth of your firstborn child.
An event that is as life-changing as moving to another country can be overwhelming. Ensuring that all of the correct paperwork and visas are in order, moving your belongings, leaving friends and family behind is just the start.
You may also need to get used to a culture which may be very different from your own and to establish yourself in a completely foreign environment. It can be difficult, but there are steps you can take to reduce the stress you will experience.
Following the seven steps of P.R.E.P.A.R.E. can make your move and new life a little bit easier:
- Patience and positivity;
- Realistic expectations;
Instead of jumping in blindly or thinking that everything can be taken care of once you arrive in your new country of residence, take the time to prepare everything you will need before leaving.
Does the country you’re moving to require a visa?
Are there any permits required to work there?
Do you have any pets and can you bring them into the country?
In the 21st century, the Internet is your best friend and strongest ally. Every country has a website with information about immigration and the country’s requirements. Read all of the information you can find about your new host country and don’t forget to consult its government website to find useful emigration advice.
In the lead up to your move, do some research on the country you will be spending all of your time in the foreseeable future. Learn about its culture, history, and traditions, as well as its language. You don’t have to be a fluent speaker upon arrival, but familiarising yourself with (at the very least) the cultural norms of a different country can dramatically diminish your culture shock.
Visit websites that are aimed at tourists for the city or area you are about to live in. This will help you learn about local attractions, restaurants, bars, and other amenities. This information will also give you a nice confidence boost upon arrival.
Once you have arrived in the strange new land and have settled into your new home, it is important to engage with the locals and other expats as much as possible. You may not want to or you may believe that there is little to be learnt from this exercise because of your amazing preparation.
However, locals and older expats often carry a wealth of practical knowledge and experience that you can use to your advantage.
Their help cannot be understated. Whether it is something as mundane as knowing which supermarket offers familiar products or recommending which builder to hire, developing good relationships with local people is vital as you will be turning to them for help and advice more times than you may wish to admit. Plus, making new friends never hurts!
Patience and positivity
Living abroad presents its own unique set of challenges, which will pile stress onto your brain and make you question your choices.
There are times where nothing will go the way you expect or want, or you can easily get overwhelmed when attempting to learn a new language. Regardless of the cause for the stress, patience and positivity are the keys to overcoming it.
Developing these two traits will help you emerge triumphant, no matter what life throws at you. Thoughts, such as “nothing lasts forever”, “this will pass”, and “I may not be able to do X yet, but soon I will be able to” can stop you from succumbing to stress and self-doubt.
Another benefit of developing these two traits is that you can easily learn something from each new situation you encounter. This will allow you to confront even the most daunting problems with ease and confidence.
Humans are the dominant species because we are quick to adapt to new situations and surroundings. This is an inseparable part of our nature and it is imperative that you put it in motion if you want your life abroad to be successful.
Unless you live in an isolated community of expats, you will experience new foods, different traditions, new ways of approaching life. If you maintain a rigid mindset and expect for everything to be the same as it is back ‘home’, you are setting yourself up for failure. Learning to adapt to your surroundings and, in a small way, adapting your surroundings to you, will help you feel more comfortable and less of an outsider.
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Setting realistic expectations before and after your move is incredibly useful. It gives you goals to work towards and can stop you from feeling overwhelmed by trying to accomplish everything at once.
Many people feel that once they have moved abroad they have to stay there, forever, that the only way back to their home country is a path paved with embarrassment and disgrace. This could not be further from the truth.
Many situations are simply out of our control and we all make bad choices from time to time. So, if living abroad is not working out for you, there is no shame in returning home to rebuild and reflect on your gains and losses. It is only a failure if you perceive and present your experience a such.
Similarly, setting the right expectations for yourself while abroad can be of great help. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to try and become fluent with the native language, to adapt to the climate, or to become a member of the local community shortly after your arrival.
Remember to take things one step at a time and you are guaranteed to succeed.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself. You are (or are about to be) living in a foreign country with its own history, folklore, and culture. Take advantage of your free time to explore different regions of the country. If it has natural hot springs, take a weekend trip and relax.
You can also visit museums and art galleries, acquaint yourself with the local bars, or host a barbeque for your neighbours. It doesn’t matter what you do or what your interests are – take the time to indulge yourself and take advantage of what is on offer. Enjoying yourself from time to time is always a great way to reduce stress and refresh your mind.
So, there we have it, a simple seven-step plan to deal with the stress which follows after moving to another country. Remember P.R.E.P.A.R.E. if you are planning a move abroad.