Moving to a different country is always exciting.
Personally, I always feel like a new life chapter is starting every time I move to live in another place.
However, sometimes in the excitement, we may forget to prepare ourselves for the transition and find ourselves shocked and ill prepared.
I found out about some of the things I should have prepared myself for the hard (sometimes-embarrassing) way.
Read about the country
I was 19 when I first had a chance to live abroad. I was too excited to move and ride an international airplane that I did not bother to know about the country where I was going.
In short, I was not ready. The moment I stepped out the plane, my mind cannot wrap itself from the cold. It was below 0 degrees! I never knew how cold that was before. Again, that was just the first step out of the plane. I knew then, concretely, that I have to brace myself for every new thing I would encounter in that foreign land.
Thankfully, the Internet has made it possible and easier to learn about different countries now (than back then). You can even watch videos of people in different parts of the globe and see their particular part of the planet for yourself.
Learn about the country’s climate and weather, culture and traditions, politics and government and the little quirks they have as a country as much as you can.
This will help you not to be too overwhelmed by how much different your country of origin is from theirs. Culture shock can be a beast, it might prohibit you from genuinely and seamlessly loving the new country you are in.
Learn their language and slang
It is common sense to learn about the country’s language including their writing system especially if you are moving to non-English speaking countries like in Asia. It would help you a lot to be able to order food without asking for a translator or for you to be able to read just what kind of product you are looking at in the super.
If you are moving to an English speaking country like Australia, find out about some of the slangs you may encounter especially words that you may need like when you hail a cabbie or rent a car from outside the airport to where you are staying.
Find a place to stay
Having enough funds is necessary when moving in a new country therefore staying in a hotel is not the practical way.
If you have friends or family in that country, ask if you can stay over for a while until you find your own place.
You may also try to browse online for house rentals available in the area where you are going to stay and see if you can reserve it online.
If you are coming in a country without a job contract or offer, at least find out if your skills are needed in that country. What skills do you need to improve on to get hired faster.
As soon as you get a visa, submit online resumes to job websites in that country and try to bag one before you board a plane.
Know how to go around
Try to learn about the community as fast as you can – or at least know your way around.
Find out about their public transportation and look for genuine landmarks. This is important especially for people like me who can get lost easily.
I was in a non-English speaking country when I got lost after an hour or so in a bus. I foolishly made a certain convenience store as a landmark for the university. I did not realise at once that the convenience store is in almost every street from my house to the university.
Looking back, I used the store as a landmark because it is the only store back then that I can easy read from my view from the bus without needing to check the dictionary.
It would also help to learn to read the map so you can check your location and find out if you are anywhere nearest a place where someone can help you.
Carry a phone with you all the time
My phone was my lifeline. Back then, there were no such thing as hot spots for internet connection and I only got a free mobile with call and messaging options from my employer. For internet use, I need to use the desktop in the office (that was 12 years ago, I am sure now they are all wired).
Still, my phone was something I need to bring with me all the time. I was able to go home that night I got lost because I called a friend to translate for me so the cabbie will take me home (sigh).
Now, of course phones are as indispensable as ever. If you are new in a place, you can use GPS to check location, browse online for restaurant and hotel reviews and connect to love ones you left behind.
Friends do not come easy
It is a good idea to be acquainted and make friends with the locals but making friends with them may not be as easy especially because you came from different cultural backgrounds.
In addition, the stereotypes you might have for each other and even a language barrier may be a problem for friendships to bloom easily.
I am not saying it is impossible, it’s just not as easy as it would have been if you were in your own country as there is a lot of connection and topics to talk about.
On the other hand, I learned that no matter how different you seem to be with another person from another country, there is such a thing as universal connections.
Learn about their culture
Learning about how they are as a people would help you assimilate faster.
It also helps you make sense of why they act a certain way.
Plus, it helps to gain you extra points in the likeability factor for the locals. When they see that you are trying to understand their culture, it translates to you having respect for their people.
The more you learn about them, the easier for you to understand them, befriend them and vice versa.
Homesickness can kill
This was something I fought with every time after the “honeymoon” period.
As soon as my excited feeling settled, I had feelings of being alone and wanting to go home (immediately).
If you are about to take a trip to your new country, bring a thing or two that would remind you of your hometown and of the people you love.
Fortunately, the Internet also makes this easier. You can talk to your friends and family overseas as often as you want without costing too much (not as much as an overseas call before). You can even have a video chat.
You can view pictures online and stream your countries songs and TV programs online.
Still, make sure to keep your old relationships by keeping in touch with them as often as possible.
Adjusting to a new environment is always difficult anywhere you are so do not blame yourself or the country you are in.
Take it one step at a time.
Remember to be grateful because not everyone has a chance to live in another country.
Embrace all experiences and welcome things as they come.
You’ll come out of the experience as a better person.
Special thanks to OnMogul for the main image.