Settling in (Updated for 2018!)
Welcome back to our blog on settling in for expats! We decided to cover some more topics than out last edition to help out our readers! We will go in depth on things such as dealing with culture shocks, making friends and generally just getting settled into your new home from home.
1. Stages of settling in
We will begin with what you can expect when you first arrive, more than likely you are going to experience both a culture shock and homesickness for a period of time. For most expats there is a "settle in" period which usually can be at first, fun. Then it soon moves along to anxiousness, which leads to fear ,fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate! leads to usually over drinking and eating...
Early stages of relocation, excitement and positive feeling around your move from friends and family (we hope) this will lead to feeling positive about your new surroundings.
This however is only temporary, you WILL eventually hit the 'nerve wall' whether its triggered by bad news, your partner not settling in as well as you or even your children if applicable. Whatever the cause, the shock that you’re living somewhere different can soon get you looking for tickets home.
However, it is important that YOU DO NOT PANIC! most if not all expats go through this stage of relocation. Saying that, It’s always helpful to have a plan in place with your employer and family to address any persistent problems if you really feel the expat life isn't for you.
Blocking the culture shock
Culture shock can either go one of 2 ways, you either take it in your stride or you struggle, It is one of the more challenging aspects of moving overseas for the first time.
To prepare yourself for this experience, you should do as much preparation as you can before you move abroad.This can can include anything that will familiarize yourself with the culture in advance. One way you can do this is reading about the traditions and people you will find when you move. Publications, blogs and social media pages can be very helpful on the do’s and don’ts of your new home.
Arrival in your new home will be exciting, yet unnerving, remember to keep Good Communication in your head at all times. Misunderstandings and miscommunication will occur, it is par for the course the best way to move forward is to take a moment and think rationally. Local people in most countries are very understanding when it comes to culture changes. Just make sure you make an effort, are polite and have a sense of humor and you will be fine.
Here are some ways to cope with culture shock and ease yourself into your new world
- Keep in touch with your friends and family on a regular basis. This is one of is not THE most important thing, a email from your parents can really lift your spirits.
- Make sure you get plenty of exercise and keep your body and mind active. There's nothing worse than being stuck in a rut, exercise helps keep you calm and fills in spare time you have.
- Go join social groups and expat clubs; If your new home has a dense expat population go and meet them. These people have gone through what you have, arrange social events that allow you to enjoy and experience the new culture as well as events that allow you to do things you loved back home.
- Learn the local language. Another REALLY important one, if you don't know the language, make this one of your top priorities, it will help you so very much living there.
Coping with culture shock is a challenge and it can make it hard for you to deal with day-to-day life and any problems that may arise. Be open and honest about your feelings and remember that it is completely natural to feel homesick. In fact, homesickness is one of the main signs that you are experiencing culture shock.
Being homesick when you reach a new country will affect the vast majority of people, it’s all part of the settling in process. You will miss family and friends.
This is only a phase and it will pass, soon you will be excited for your new future instead of wanting your old life back. You can battle homesickness by arranging regular catch-ups with family and friends via phone or skype as frequently as possible. Having regular contact will maintain a strong relationship with your family and friends.
2. Making and keeping friends
Making friends abroad will be one of the biggest challenges you face as an expat, however the sooner you find friends and a friendship group, the better you will feel about your new home.
If you move to a expat hotbed you will usually find expat clubs you can join to help you make friends, their is also groups and forums online you could also use. We would also highly recommend you try to form meaningful relationships with the locals, they will give you the opportunity to experience different things whilst you are living in their country. Also having strong social circle that consists of people both from your home country and from your new home can help you to settle in quickly.
Making friends abroad can often be easier if you have children and are sending them to international schools. There usually is a busy social scene revolving around the school, parents and children. If you have children of course they will eventually make friends and the likelihood is that you will be introduced to their parents.
If you are moving with work, you will be able to socialize with your work peers. If however you are a trailing spouse or setting up your own business, you may find it a lot harder.
It can be hard to make new friends wherever you are in the world, but on the whole, expat communities are very welcoming and, providing you make an effort to get out and meet people, you should find that it won't be long until you have a whole new circle of friends.
Here are a few general tips that will help you with your move
- Communication between everyone. If you or your partner are moving for a job, make sure you or they are aware of all work obligations as well as any perks you will be receiving, (job role, duration of contract, etc) Involve them in selecting benefits (if any)
- Use every resource on offer for your move. Accept all help and advice as this will make everything so much easier for both of you. Your moving company will be able to help with the packing and may also be able to provide practical assistance to help you settle into your new life. Friends and family will also be on standby to help with anything that may need it.
- Remember that if you have a partner with you they are your friend. Support each other and try and make light of even the most stressful situations. Never forget your sense of humour.
- If you are feeling particularly stressed, do something you love. By enjoying yourself, you will forget the daily stresses that you have been through.
- Learn a new skill and use this time to focus on something other than stress. There are many opportunities when you live abroad. Make the most of these opportunities and do things that you never would have had the chance to do in your home country.
- Network with expatriate clubs and other expatriates. They will become your new friends and can offer you both support when you need it.