Moving to a new country is super exciting because you have no idea what to expect. It’s the anticipation of all of the cool things you’ll do and see that gets your body buzzing and mind racing. However, it’s for the same reason moving to a new country can be difficult. Facing the unexpected can quickly derail your plan and jade your optimistic attitude.
I’ve changed my apartment, city, and country dozens of times, so I’m going to share my tips on all the things I wish somebody had told ME before I moved to a new country.
The Language Barrier is REAL
I can’t stress this enough. Unless you’re fluent in the language of the country to which you’re moving or the population as a whole speaks excellent English (i.e. Malaysia), communication is going to be tough. For me, living in Turkey, it has been my biggest obstacle to overcome. You HAVE TO make an effort to learn the language. Download an App to your device, sign up for free/cheap lessons at a community center in the country, or go old-fashioned and purchase textbooks. Or all of the above (like I did).
An easy-going attitude is critical
At first it can be cute, or even endearing, when people have a different way of doing things. As a tourist, observing a new culture is fascinating - but then you get to leave and return to your “normal” way of life. When you live somewhere new, you actually have to adapt to it – even if you don’t agree with it. It doesn’t mean you have to change the way you do things, but you do have to accept that this is how things are done in your new country. A good example is customer service, which is highly regarded in Western countries. The further east you go, the less customer service you’ll see. If it rubs you wrong, don’t dwell on it. Your opinion of how things should be done aren’t going to change an entire population. Let. It. Go.
Plug adapters – You’ll Need Them
This sounds like a no-brainer, but trust me, it’s a big one. Depending on the country, you may also need a voltage converter. Otherwise, you might damage your electronics. Make sure you research the type of power sockets, standard voltage, and the electricity frequency and buy the right adapters. Nothing’s worse than landing in a foreign land with no way to charge your phone.
Mastering the transportation system = freedom
If you don’t have a car in your new country then you need to be able to get around. This can be tricky, especially if signage isn’t in English and you can’t communicate with the general population. It may come down to trial and error, but learning the metro, train, tram, or bus system in your new place is imperative to your freedom. There may be an App for your city’s transport system, which is a good place to start. Ask the locals or the driver how to get to “xxx” and they’ll certainly help you out. It’s easy to be intimidated and frustrated in the beginning (and it’s normal), but you’ll slowly start to remember the stops, understand where to get off, and soon you’ll be zipping around the city in no time.
A Social Life is Crucial
In the beginning, you’ll definitely encounter loneliness when you move to a new country. Having no friends, family, and little ability to communicate can make it easy to stay holed up in your apartment. Instead of isolating yourself, it’s important to put yourself out there – even if it makes you slightly uncomfortable. Say “yes” when your coworkers invite you for a drink after work (even if they’re not your favorite people in the world). Sign up for local tennis lessons, language courses, or yoga classes to meet people who have similar interests. Check out local attractions in or around your city. Join an expat community page on Facebook and participate in conversations and go to events. The more you get out, the bigger your chances of meeting interesting people.