Whether it’s for work, to be closer to family or simply for a change of scene to create a new chapter in your life, lots of people make the decision at some point in their lives to move to another country and start a brand new life away from everything they know. This can obviously be very intimidating and scary, especially if there is a language barrier or a big cultural difference, and you might struggle to cope at first.
The key is to throw yourself into your new life. It is no good sitting indoors scared to do anything or go anywhere. Start exploring and getting yourself integrated into your new neighbourhood as soon as you arrive, as it’ll be harder and harder to do the longer you leave it. Meet your neighbours and visit some local shops and cafes, and before long you’ll start to recognise people which will make you feel more at ease.
Don’t feel as though you can’t contact home. Get friends or relatives to send you your favourite things from home every once in a while if you can’t find them where you are. For instance, if you move to South Africa, you’ll struggle to find your favourite chocolate bars, so ask someone to send you a parcel when you need a little taste of home. Use Skype to stay in touch with friends, and if it helps, you can always have a date in mind for a visit home so you don’t feel trapped.
If you don’t know the language, it is well worth investing in language lessons, whether it’s online or at a local language school. Not only is this a useful skill generally, but it will also make you feel more at ease if you can communicate with the locals, and you will gradually find your confidence grow as you learn from normal day to day conversations. You will also find it easier to get around and carry out normal tasks so that you can function properly on your own.
It can be worth speaking to other expats in the community, or connecting with those who have made the same country to country move as yourself on online forums to get practical advice or pointers about integration into the community. The key is to be friendly and polite and to learn the local customs and etiquette so that you don’t inadvertently offend anyone, and if you are nice enough people should be more than willing to help you settle in.
Esther Wellington left the UK for Finland six years ago and offers her advice for those who might be considering living abroad.