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Let’s Talk Mental Health — Preparing Yourself for Expat Life

Becoming an expat can be a bit of an overwhelming roller coaster — a mix of excitement while simultaneously asking yourself, “what am I doing?”. Starting a new job or moving to a new house can be stressful at the best of times but combining this with trying to adapt to new surroundings and a different way of life can result in added pressure. Here are some useful tips to ensure that you’re prepared, so your time abroad can be an enjoyable and (mostly) stress-free experience.

Use Your Support Network

Moving abroad can feel lonely at times without your loved ones close but that doesn’t mean it always needs to be this way. Having a strong support network can help you settle in faster and feel more comfortable by creating a “home away from home”.  Whether that be your new coworkers or people that live in your neighborhood, putting yourself out there may be daunting at first, but you can develop strong worthwhile friendships that can help you throughout your journey.

As well as meeting new people, your support network back home will still be there for you, so open up and talk to your family and friends about anything that may be worrying you about your move. Speaking out loud about your concerns can help any situation — “a problem shared is a problem halved”. You don’t have to carry all the stress on your shoulders, it’s normal to feel nervous, you’re not alone. Making the move abroad is a big step and takes a whole lot of courage, so be proud of yourself!

Seeking Professional Help If Needed

Do you already see a therapist or counselor at home? If you do, talk to them and keep them updated with any worries or concerns you may have about your move. They can help support you throughout your move and could provide suggestions on how to best cope with the experience. For example, you could suggest a monthly phone call to talk about how you’re getting on, or they could help provide you with information about the professional help available in your new home. Whatever it may be, it’s best to get as much help as you can so you feel stable and comfortable about your move.

If you are not already seeing someone but find yourself struggling with your mental health once abroad, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There is no shame in seeking professional help when it is needed! If you are worried about the language barrier, you can try checking with your embassy; they often have lists of local doctors and services that are available in English and/or the respective language of your home country.

Don’t Let Any Medication Run Out

Similarly, if you are currently on any individual prescriptions, talk to your doctor well in advance to ensure you are prepared and stocked up for your move, though make sure to also keep in mind that laws and availability regarding some medication can differ from country to country. Planning this beforehand will save you a lot of stress, as you don’t have to worry about finding the different medications abroad. Falling short of essential medication can be a stressful experience, so make sure you know well in advance what you need. Also make sure to find out what to do and where to go if you need new medication or extra support abroad.

Give the Language a Go — You Don’t Have to Be Fluent!

Starting is always the hardest part, but learning a few essential phrases in the local language before you go abroad can help you settle in quicker and feel less isolated. Of course, you don’t have to be fluent before you go but knowing things such as how to ask for directions or some key words won’t hurt you. Learning a new language isn’t easy, and everyone makes mistakes, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Just keep practicing, people will appreciate you for making the effort! To help with your learning and make it more fun, why not research courses in your area where you also have the chance to meet and interact with people in the same position as you!  

Research. Research. Research.

Planning your trip will bring up so many questions. What kind of clothing is appropriate? What is the public transportation like? How much are groceries? There are so many things you’ll want to find out that you should definitely not wait until you arrive — research as much as you can before you even board the plane! Read expat blogs, find out the “must see” locations of the country, or research the general culture — whatever it may be, all of this will help you feel a little more prepared for the journey that lies ahead.

There is no such thing as doing too much research prior to leaving! Finding out about your home can give you insights into what it will be like to live in the country and make you all the more excited about your stay abroad. Why not make a list of the places you want to visit?  It will not only be fun, but it also gives you a chance to stay busy in your first few weeks and have things to look forward to!  

Get Your Paperwork Done Early

Doing paperwork can be a dull and time-consuming task, but it’s just another one of the things to tick off the lengthy moving abroad list — and the sooner the better, too! Being one step ahead and having important documents such as health insurance or housing contracts all ready and signed off can really take a big weight off your shoulders before the move and prevent the last-minute stress! You’ll have enough on your mind without the added strain of these documents, so stay organized and get them done early. This will mean you can just focus on the little things to ease yourself into your new home.

Nobody said moving abroad would be a breeze, it can be a challenging time, but sometimes you have to just step out of your comfort zone, feel the fear, and do it anyway. It may seem overwhelming now, but it will all be worth it and allow you to go to new places, experience new things, and create lasting memories. Plan ahead, be prepared, and take your first step towards your new adventure! 



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Jacques Paillard

"All expatriates in my company joined InterNations because it really helped me get accustomed to my new life in Manila. "

Mathias Döringer

"Thanks to InterNations, I have now made some new friends, who taught me a lot about the expat experience in Maputo. "

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