Ready to Pack your Bags?
Packing your bags and moving away from your home land is quite a bit of an issue for most expatriates. Whether you think it will be easy or hard, living abroad will be a radical change to your life in many ways, most of which you haven't even thought about. Some of it we can blame to lack of forethought and bad planning but that is not usually the main cause for all the surprises that come with changing countries. The fact is that there is a lot of our everyday life that we take for granted and only when that particular aspect is removed we can pinpoint the loss and usually feel nostalgic about it. Just think about it: from the types of food you usually eat (and the way you eat them), to the way you can relate (or not) to strangers, to the way that shops operate and the types of breakfast you can get at the local cafe, there are a host of little details that make our personal experience of the place we live in.
Humans are usually very attached to their routine. It's not something that we need to consciously choose, it's just something that we have repeated so many times (in a particular way) that it literally becomes part of the way we operate. Expatriates usually have to deal with their routine being quite shattered when they move to their new country, and when the comfort of the familiar disappears we usually long for the things that we've lost whether we liked them in the first place or not.
It is important to understand that most people go through situations like this and not despair if you find yourself depressed after planning and hoping for this new opportunity for so long. Regardless, I do believe that an expat should be pro-active at making his new home truly familiar for him. This means you need to get to work at getting to know your new home and, most importantly, build new relationships.
Here are a few tips I always try to impart on new or potential expats to make their relocation experience much smoother and satisfactory.
Do your homework.
Investigate all you can about your potential new home. Look in particular about the experience of others in the same situation as you are. When you are looking for testimonials remember that the point of view of the tourist is usually quite different from the one of a resident.
Get to know the locals.
There is nothing stopping you from making the effort and seeking out like minded people. In particular, make every effort possible to learn the language spoken in your new country. Learning a new language is a great way for understanding the culture and traditions of your new neighbors. Immersive language studies seem to be all the rage nowadays, so why don't you take this opportunity to learn a new language in a great way? If you are going to a French school Toronto might be a great place, but if you are already in France you have no excuse for not learning the language. Take advantage of the fact that you don't need to buy a package deal to go abroad and learn a language (it is certainly the case with a local English school Washington area that I personally know of.) People usually react positively when they notice you are making an effort to learn their language so try your best, you might even get some new friends!
Make the effort to socialize.
Whatever you do, don't become a hermit and try everyday to be friendly to the people that live close by. It takes time for people to trust you but you are almost guaranteed to find someone with similar interests in a city and it makes for a sort of instant friendship.