How to adjust to your new Expat Life fast
Expat life is wonderful, always full of surprises and new things.. Mmh… Wrong! At least for part of it! Expat life can be wonderful and full of surprises, but you also need to know how to face it in the right way. That’s why I decided to write an article about it. You have to take into account that sooner or later ALL choices have a price to pay. And it’s okay! But if we’re ready it’s better, right? You never know how or when the uncertainties will crumple on you, but being prepared will help you out.
Those who think that leaving your own Country seeking a better life somewhere else it’s easy haven’t quiet made their math right. They don’t consider tons of extra responsibilities, a never ending flow of tears for leaving family and friends behind, having to learn a crazy amount of new things, re-invent yourself from zero and much more. Do you agree?
Sure, some situations that pushed us far away are so stressful that, at the moment, you feel relieved, even though it’s tough to leave your family, friends and traditions behind you. Believe me, I’ve been there!
But then homesickness comes..
.. Heavily! The kind that makes you wonder if you actually made the right choice! And not necessarily because your new expat life is horrible, not at all! Simply because you can’t control your heart. When you think about your parents who, such as in my case, can’t see their grandchild grow. Or about your brothers and sisters who, besides the very same reason, are also your best friends and between jet leg and the busy life, it’s a miracle if you make it to video chat once a month. And your friends, the food, even the cafè place where you used to go get coffee.. You miss them all. Sounds familiar?
And on top of that..
.. Add up all the new things to learn. Here’s some examples from my personal experience:
- Language. Even if you already know the language, you’ll face daily life doubts, misunderstandings, nuances, not to mention accents (some are totally incomprehensible) or local dialects. Having to ask everybody to repeat things all the time or stumbling on your words during an important conversation, such as for example, a job interview can be frustrating.
- Customs and traditions. Ditto.
- Bureaucracy. Understanding the local laws, health system, where to find or update specific documents (such as driver’s license, passport, visa, etc). If you consider that this kind of very specific terminology is usually pretty complicated in your mother tongue, you can imagine in a foreign language.
- Even daily life things such as figuring out where to go grocery (and possibly find some good Italian food in my case), choosing the best phone plan or open a bank account can be stressful, ruining your joy for the new adventure.
But we are EXPATS! Have you already forgotten? We’re the ones who can adjust to (almost) everything and everywhere!! So don’t worry. If you feel lost sometimes, first of all know that it’s totally normal. And secondly, I’m here to give you some great tips on how to adjust FAST to your new expat life. So let’s stop overthinking and let’s dive in!
How to adjust to your new Expat Life FAST
There are many things that you can do, but first of all we need to figure out how to handle the damn “distance anxiety”, better known as homesickness. This one, unless you’re Hannibal Lecter’s illegitimate daughter, sooner or later will show up in form of a hammer on your big toe when your feet are cold. Ouch, right?
That’s why I wrote an article on how to deal with homesickness. Don’t expect it to magically teleport you into your loved ones arms, but I promise you’ll be surprised for how easily it’ll allow you to enjoy your days instead of feeling trapped in your emotions. I suggest you read it.
If you’re dealing one of those bad nostalgia attacks that make you want to curl up on your couch all day listening to depressing music, then you reached the bottom. I can tell you that it doesn’t matter how late it is, you need to call or video call one of your loved ones. But not randomly. One that you know will remind you that you made the right choice, that will warn you that you won’t find the solution shoving down a whole jar of Nutella and that will encourage you to keep going while making you smile a little. And since you’re there, delete the depressing playlist, please! 😉
When you’ll know how to handle your emotional side, you’ll realize that you’ll be able to see with new eyes and appreciate better what’s around you. But we’ll go deeper into this later.
Create a priority list
First thing first, there’s a bunch of chores to take care of. Priorities are different for everyone. For example if you have kids, the first things you might want to think about are Health Care, schools or driver’s license. For others it could be find a job or learn the local language.
All this assuming that you already found a house or at least a place to stay before moving into your new home. Adjusting to your new expat life involves ton of factors that need to be considered so sit down and put down a list of the things that are most important for you.
To go better into details, I created a short but very effective free resource that you can download filling out the form at the bottom of this article. I put together my 5 Survival Tricks for Expat Mamas in one single file that you can download and read every time you need to.
And speaking of getting ready for moving abroad, I also wrote an article that, in case you haven’t left yet, might be very useful. It’s called What to do BEFORE moving abroad with kids. It will tell you step by step what you need to prepare before the big day and it also contains a practical checklist. Even if it’s specifically written for mamas, you’ll find some great tips suitable for anyone.
This being said, let’s go back to your list. Not long ago I found out that writing everything down not only helps me remembering all the things I need to do, but also to get better organized. If you create a do-to list and then you assign numbers in order of importance, you’ll see that it’ll help you put order in your head. And it’s a great satisfaction every time you can check things off of the list. That’s how a to-do list becomes a priority list.
An overloaded mind is, in my opinion, the principal cause of stress and anxiety. When you try to keep everything in mind it always seems like it’s too much to do, or too much to think of. Download your brain on a piece of paper, your planner or your phone calendar, or whatever works better for you and free it from this useless burden.
This way, you can check all the boring chores off of the list, one at the time. Adjusting to your new expat life doesn’t seem so impossible now, does it? 😉
Now it’s time to get out of your shell
Yep, my dear expat! Maybe at the beginning you gave yourself some time to look around and wander. But then you got caught in your daily routine of appointments, bureaucracy, mama or spouse life, work and you got lost on the way.
The only free time you have, you spend it at home because you have no idea what to do or where to go. But most importantly whit who! This are the moments in which you miss calling your friends to catch up for a coffee or a dinner out. Well, let’s solve this problem, right?
1. Find new friends
We all know that real friendship is not easy to find or nurture, especially when you already have a busy life. But please, for good of mankind and for yourself, find the time to make new friends.
If you can’t go to the gym, find a book club, a church, a group of moms from school. Whatever. Go and socialize with someone. This is so important because even the most introvert people are still humans and they need socialization.
Isolation is probably one of biggest punishments for a human being. Please, don’t do this to yourself. I know it’s easier to maintain a distance friendship through messages, email and video chat. But it’s not the same. Other people’s company it’s a completely different story and one thing doesn’t exclude the other.
Nothing works better than friends when it comes about adjusting to your new expat life. I promise.
2. Go out and explore.
Find some time in your agenda to go see place you’ve always wanted to visit and, as soon as you have the chance, just go! Whether you have a partner, a family or you’re single, don’t let life stop you. Every Country has its own beauty to explore.
3. Learn customs and improve the language.
Now that you have some friends you can ask questions to and you can dialog about culture differences, embrace the customs and the language in all their nuances. Remember what the tradition requires when you explore a new place or when you socialize and don’t let diversities be a frustration, but new food for thoughts. If it helps, keep a journal or a diary or the new words and practice as much as you can until they become part of your vocabulary.
4. Share this path with your kids
It well know that children have incredible adjusting skills and you’ll be surprised to realize how many things you can learn from them. Avoid open criticism in front of little one because they’ll absorb them like sponges. Try instead, when you have to face something new or different, to use phrases such: “interesting how this is so different from what we do/say in [your Country], right?” This way it inspires curiosity instead of skepticism or mistrust for cultural diversity.
5. Enjoy the beauty of Expat life
You moved abroad for a specific reason, whichever it might be. Keep in mind what pushed to make this choice and savor every day what you achieved instead of thinking what you left behind.
6. Find a job
If initially you encounter issues in finding a job, you can always try to find a online job, thing of which I’m a huge fan. How? I’ll tell you right away: read this work from home article where you’ll find how to find reliable online jobs. Your knowledge of your mother tongue sometimes is a required skill and it might also be enough to find a well paid job. But I also suggest to put yourself out there and find a job, even if part time or volunteering, for the above mentioned socializing reasons.
7. Find your favorite food stores
Trust me, enjoying a good meal just like your mom used to make it will make you feel at home like anything else. And it’s also a good way to teach your kids, if you have any, an important part of your own culture.
I’m Italian so clearly food and dining culture are very important for me. If you’re Italian too, or you like Italian food, I suggest you read my article on where to find Italian food in the US. You’ll find out that some store are not necessarily specific for Italian food, but more like international food. So you might find your own Country as well. And prices are decent.
But besides specific products, I recommend to find the places that you like the most where you can find the right ingredients to cook your own food. The US are great in this because you’ll find stores of any kind and nationality. Fed expat = adjusted expat. Okay, it sounds horrible like this, but you got the point 🙂 With a belly full of good stuff, it’s way easier to adjust to a new expat life.
Ultimately you’ll soon realize that most of these things are doable from the very first week, while for others it takes time and consistency. But if you start early, you’ll feel more confident knowing that you’re on the right path.
Uncertainties will disappear, replaced by the will of giving yourself some time, to expose yourself and discover new skills you didn’t know you had in yourself. And that’s how expat life magically becomes wonderful and full of great surprises.
But there’s one more important thing to do to adjust to your new expat life fast. My advice is to expand your horizons. That’s right! Let your eyes and heart explore with new curiosity everything that surrounds you with no preconception or discrimination. You can’t always pretend to be on vacation (you wish huh?), but you can decide to commit a couple of days a month to this important step. The neighbor’s grass isn’t always greener, who says the opposite is delusional.
Until next time, Happy Expat Life!!
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