The first months after moving to a new country are always a whirlwind for me. Between finding a new house, getting services installed, and settling the furniture in, I have little time to think about the huge life changes. But, when that busyness is over, the void sinks in. I am thousands of miles away from family or friends, I do not speak the language very well, and I don’t understand the culture.
I think this is the hardest period. You start feeling alone, and lost. Your mind starts wandering and you stop living in the present (counting the days till your next trip home, or to a visit from family member) So, during my different moves – 6 countries and counting – I have found 5 different behaviors and actions that have helped me transition more smoothly. Helped me enjoy my new life, helped me find myself in a new place.
1) Disconnect from home twitter accounts, home newspapers or excessive information from home:
I find it very difficult to live the present, when I am constantly keeping updated about things back home. If you are living thousands of miles away, why do you care if it’s going to rain? I am not saying that I shut down completely from news from back home. But, I try not to let it overwhelm me, or to make it the focus of my day. Instead, I like to connect to local bloggers, tweeters and newspapers to start adapting to the city. Stop thinking like an expat-immigrant and start thinking like a local.
2) No comparisons:
I have found myself so many times saying: “The food here is not the same”, “The people are so unfriendly” and so on. Comparisons are vicious. I will always find something that is not right, or better back home. So I do my best effort not to compare, just to enjoy the experience, even if is not the best.
2) Keep in touch with love ones, but don’t be obsessed:
The first time I moved abroad by myself, I was 21 years old. I moved from Caracas to Bremen, Germany for a one year exchange program. I was so alone, and homesick, that I would spend hours on Skype with my family and with my boyfriend. Looking back, I know feel that I lost so much time in front of the computer. I never really disconnected.
Now that 9 years have gone by, and thankfully I have acquired some wisdom, I don’t obsess about staying in touch. I chat with my family members on a daily basis; we do Facetime a couple of times a week. But, I won’t miss out, by staying stuck to a screen.
4) Find your routine:
This is so important! Whether it is going to school, having a job, learning a new language or doing an exercise, I think it helps when you have a reason to get up every morning. Giving meaning to your day to day, setting goals and feeling that the time abroad was not a waste. Traveling and sightseeing is great, but if you want to adapt at some point you have to stop acting like a tourist. A routine helps you find yourself again in a new country. Copy. Paste.
No matter how many times I move, I will never be comfortable if I don’t have a support group. Normally, I tend to make friends with other expats, or immigrants. It is easier because they are in the same situation as you. They understand your troubles, they relate. Nevertheless, to build friendships or networks you have to do your homework. It does not come naturally, you have to call, keep in touch, and so on. For me all that work has paid off when I run into people on the street; like I did when I was back home. Best feeling ever!