Moving homes is considered one of the most stressful activities to undertake; moving to a different country altogether will only increase the risk of a negative experience. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a fully-functioning support system in place when we move away from the country of our birth. It requires some hard work to adapt to a new climate, job, social scene, laws, and even a language barrier!
One of the most important things you can do to lower stress levels during and after your move is to make sure that the whole thing is very well organised. Things will still go wrong, but if you have thought things through carefully, the chances are good that you’ll be able work around the problems with some ease.
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Will you move with the contents of your home or sell everything and start over? Weigh up the costs and find out what you will be able to afford in your new country on your new salary. If you know you will only be staying temporarily, you might prefer renting a furnished home while your belongings are in storage at home (but this can be rather expensive).
- Will you ship your car or sell it and buy a new one? If you are moving to Europe, it might not be helpful to take your enormous SUV that guzzles considerably more (expensive) fuel faster than the smaller fuel-efficient vehicles that are the norm there.
- Find out what you need to do to get an international driver’s licence and start the process way in advance. The more you can do in advance, the less stressed you’ll feel when the inevitably overwhelming move arrives.
- Find out what you need to do to get your visa/working permit ready. In some cases your prospective employer will do a lot of the paperwork for you, but in other cases you will have to do most of it yourself. Either way, ensure you know what to do in advance. Sometimes you’ll need a document that you may have lost, like an unabridged birth certificate. Reapplying for these can take time and delay your visa application.
- Find out whether you’ll need travel insurance or whether you’ll be covered for health emergencies by the government of the country you’re moving to. In England, you are allowed to make use of NHS services if you are a resident (have a resident’s visa), but in the US you will always be asked to pay for any hospitalisation.
If you know you want to move and are looking to find employment overseas, make sure you use reputable job sites. You can ensure an easier time of it by first finding out what skills are considered scarce in the country of your choice. Medical practitioners, artisans and IT specialists are among the most common. Ensure that the contact you make with your potential employer is legitimate – there are many scammers out there!
Culture shock is a phenomenon characterised by feelings of homesickness, depression, and negativity towards the culture, language, and customs of your adopted country. These feelings do eventually subside after some time, but you can make it considerably easier for yourself by doing a number of things. For example:
- Take some language classes. Not only will you learn very valuable language skills, but you are also likely to get to know other foreigners who are as eager to make friends as you are.
- If you have a favourite hobby or exercise, find a way to continue doing it in your new country. It will help you to feel grounded, and also help you make friends with some locals.
- Get organised. It is okay to feel sad and lonely at times, but it is better not to indulge in it too much. Set reachable goals for yourself like getting a mobile phone, exploring a certain area of your city/town, and opening a bank account, etc. These small feats can lift your spirits immensely whilst improving your quality of life
- If you know that you won’t adapt well in an environment where English is not spoken with ease, choose to work in a country like Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, or the United Kingdom, amongst others, where this won’t be a problem.
Before you leave, make sure you have certain friends and family who will be supportive and stay in touch with you. This will go a long way towards helping you cope during your first few months in a new environment.
Louisa Theart is a freelance musician and writer who spent two years studying in a foreign country. She knows all about the excitement and heartache of leaving home.
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