Relocation Dos-and-Donts | 5 Tips for Expats Planning to Relocate

man relocation with a suitcase

Expat Guide to Relocation – What to Expect and How to Make it Stress-free

People move around for a number of different reasons – jobs, family, studies or simply just travel and experience. Leaving your country and embracing new horizons can be very bittersweet. Every expat will agree about the mixed feelings of happiness and fear. You’re excited to go and start over while afraid of what you’re leaving behind.

To help make it easier, we’ve put together a list of 5 things to prepare for when considering relocation.

  1.       The culture shock

Most people hear “culture shock” and imagine a privileged westerner going to a developing country and struggling to embrace the new culture. Well, that’s not accurate. By definition, culture shock is “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, a way of life, or set of attitudes.”

It can happen to anyone relocating to any country. And it is not just the big things like climate, cultural values or food. Culture shock can be experienced in the tiny differences in your everyday life – how to fill out forms, etiquette, behaviour, driving etc.

The best way to deal with culture shock is to simply embrace it. Don’t stress yourself out by fretting that it’s ‘not how they do it back home.’ Try to embrace it and involve with the community instead of standing on the sideline. Don’t be like a tourist who observes, but doesn’t participate.

Learning and adapting to a new culture will broaden your horizons and change your views. It will challenge your every thought and belief. Moving somewhere brand new is a great, liberating experience that will lead you on a path of self-discovery.

  1.       You will miss the silliest things

window cup and candleYou think you know exactly what you will miss – home, family, friends, that little restaurant you loved so much. Soon you will find out that you miss the silliest and the most unexpected things, things you’d never noticed before. That one teacup in your old cupboard with a chipped handle, or the smell of your usual soap.

You will miss your immediate past, the life you left behind when you moved. But, you will also miss small details. Even that annoying tree that blocked light from your window, but suddenly you miss its flower and the noise it made in the wind. And it could even be, something or someone from 5 -10 years ago might suddenly pop up in your mind making you feel horrible nostalgia for your old life and the way things used to be.

The best way to deal with it is to give yourself some time to adapt – strange things will soon become familiar and that temporary accommodation you chose for your extended stay will soon become a home. You will have a new cup with a chipped handle that you love and your immediate past will be connected to this new exciting place that will hold your future. After all, this is what the wider world is about – opening ourselves up to new feelings and experiences, even if they are about the silly little things you left behind.

  1.       Don’t forget your spices

spicesSeriously! If you come from a culture that loves spicy food, DO NOT forget them! Relocating can be stressful – organising, packing, paperwork and actual travel. Spices seem like they should be the last thing on your mind. NO! If your cuisine uses spices, pack them right after your passport and tickets. (Always double check with airline rules, regulations and border control.) 

Here’s the reason why – we all love trying new dishes when we travel and you might think it will be exciting to experience all of the new food. While enjoying foreign cuisine is fun on holiday, most expats miss the taste of home which is very hard to recreate somewhere new. Even a restaurant will never be able to offer a dish quite like the ones you made at home.

A part of our brain called the Olfactory nerve, transmits information from the mouth and nasal cavity to the brain, it also contributes to long-lasting memories and emotions. This is why we love to smell and taste things we associate with our childhood and our home, it makes us feel safe and happy. So pack your spices now! 

  1.       World Wide Web

woman textingIn today’s world, it is much easier to keep in touch with your loved ones. Not all that long ago, being in a different country meant extra expenses on phone calls and handwritten letters simply to keep in touch. Now with emails, social media, free wifi texting/calls and other technologies it is very easy to keep in touch and talk to your friends and family on a daily basis. Not just talk to them but actually know what they’re up too. You will see how much their kids have grown and where they went for vacation, funny things their cats did or what they had for breakfast. 

All of those posts we usually roll our eyes at on social media and consider shallow when you lived just up the road. Suddenly they become meaningful and you appreciate seeing them. They can help you feel connected with your loved ones even when they’re miles away. Even with free communication technologies, different time zones create restrictions but social media allows you to catch up in your own time by seeing how their daily lives go on your newsfeed. It allows you to pick up exactly where you left off when you meet again.

  1.       Be grateful

man with his hands wide openBeing an expat in a new country is not an easy thing. You will get homesick and sometimes feel lonely, but those days won’t happen that often. Don’t forget to be grateful for this opportunity, most people live in the same place all of their lives and only experience foreign culture for a short glimpse while on holiday. Being able to see new ways, learn new values and adapt is an exceptional privilege that is denied to most people on this planet. So be grateful and be happy and enjoy every moment of it. Every culture is unique and colourful and people of each country have something new to offer you. 

If you listen carefully and pay attention, those different cultures, those different people will help you discover yourself.