Six Ways to Mentally Prepare Yourself for an Overseas Move
Moving abroad will undoubtedly have a huge effect on your mental health and emotions. There are bound to be times when you miss home dreadfully, when you are struggling to cope with your new work-life balance, or when you feel stressed about your inability to converse with those around you.
You’ll be happy to hear that you’re not alone — nearly every expat faces similar problems which get them down from time to time. The good thing is that some of these issues can be avoided before you even hop on your plane to move to another country. Here are six ways you can do to mentally prepare yourself for expat life and avoid feeling down in the dumps once you’ve reached your new destination.
1. Do Plenty of Research
There are plenty of practical topics you’ll need to research before moving abroad. First thing’s first: accommodation. What are the costs? Are furniture and bills typically included? Are some neighborhoods safer than others? Finding out as much as possible about the housing market in your new country or city will set your expectations straight and hopefully make it easier to find somewhere to live. Further practical research topics might include visas, taxes, utilities and transport. Knowing about these logistics before moving will help you to fit in with the locals and will mean that there are fewer things to organize while you’re also trying to adjust to a completely new lifestyle.
You may also find it helpful to learn about the cultural differences between your home and host countries. This will help you to understand what to expect from the locals; for example, you might find that they are a little blunter and more direct than your friends back home. Knowing this in advance will help you not to question yourself or your ability to make friends once you’ve moved, and will make the settling in process much easier.
2. Visit Before You Move
If money, time, and COVID-19 restrictions permit, it’s a great idea to visit your new country or city before you permanently move there. By doing this, you’ll be able to understand how the locals live — do they shop in large stores or at local markets? Do they get around by foot or car? Do they observe any traditions that you should know about? Answering all of these questions in advance will help you to fit in and make friends as quickly as possible.
Visiting before you move can also help to avoid stress when it comes to logistics and practicalities; for example, you could talk to the staff in a local bank to get some information about account options. You can also check out local neighborhoods to see which areas are safest, most welcoming and would be best for you and your family. You may even be able to find a place to live, by contacting some real estate agents in advance or arranging viewings with individual landlords or roommates.
3. Plan a Trip Home
While researching and arranging practical things such as visas, jobs, accommodation, and a bank account will help you to avoid stress, they won’t help with your homesickness. Not every expat likes to visit their home country but planning a trip home before you’ve even moved might help you to feel reassured during your first few months of expat life.
A trip home will mean that you have something to look forward to if you are feeling a little homesick at first. Just the thought of a traditional dish or your home country’s climate could be enough to push you through those first few difficult weeks. A week or so at home could also be a welcome break if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by everything you have to organize and adjust to as a new expat. It will also help your loved ones to mentally cope with your overseas move, as they’re less likely to feel abandoned if they know that they’ll be seeing you again soon and that they’ll be kept in the loop of everything you’ve been up to.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic can make this difficult for some people. If it is impossible for you to travel home, despite sticking to safety rules and being ready to quarantine, try to schedule a longer video call or virtual meeting with your family and friends instead. It might not be the same as meeting again in person but it can still help with the homesickness.
4. Talk to Expats and Locals in Your New Location
Try to get in contact with someone living in your new city or country before you move. While online research is helpful, there is no better way to get insider tips than by talking to people living in the city or country. These people can help you to avoid stress by answering questions you can’t find answers to on the web, or by putting you in contact with employers or landlords. They could also give you some information about events taking place in your local area during your first few weeks. This is a great way to learn about the culture of your new home, while also getting to know some of the locals.
But who should you talk to? If you get a chance to visit your country before moving, finding a local or another expat to talk to should be easy. You could simply talk to a waitress in a restaurant, a taxi driver or the sales people in a local shop. If you don’t get the chance to visit, perhaps your new employer can put you in contact with your future colleagues, or you could chat to future roommates, if you’ve already managed to organize your accommodation.
5. Establish a Routine
Establishing some normality might help you to adjust to expat life a little faster. Perhaps you want to go to the gym in the mornings, go to a language class in the evenings or join a new group to learn a skill. Planning a time to do all of these things before you even move abroad will mean that you know what to expect from each day and may help you to stay calm during your first few stressful weeks.
Actively planning a time to do certain chores or pick up certain hobbies will also make sure that you get all of these things done. Expat life can be very overwhelming (especially at first) and you can easily lose sight of errands that need running or, indeed, of your own happiness and enjoyment. Making set plans and arranging certain meetings or events will mean you’re less likely to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of expat life and more likely to concentrate on settling in and feeling at home.
6. Invite Friends to Visit
You’ve probably already told your friends that you’re moving overseas, but have you told them that they’re welcome to come and visit? Knowing that a friend is coming to spend a weekend with you, once COVID-19 safety regulations allow, will give you something fun to look forward to and could help to distract you from any stress or struggles you face at first. Furthermore, planning things to do with them during their stay is a great way to get to know your city and discover new restaurants, museums, parks and other sites of interest.
Inviting friends to visit will also reassure them that you won’t forget about them while living your new and exciting life in another country. It will prove that you care about the friendship, thereby encouraging them to make an effort to maintain the relationship, despite the fact you may be hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Although you’re bound to make new friends while living overseas, keeping old friends back home is also important for your mental health, so try to do everything you can to keep these loved ones happy and confident in your friendship.