It might be a dream you’ve toyed with for a while – packing up your life and moving to that country that’s always held a special place in your heart. Maybe you even have a Pinterest board or Instagram “saved” file dedicated to it.
When you finally do get the chance to live that fantasy for real, there’s no doubt that it will be the most amazing adventure. But the experience of moving abroad can also be downright scary – and super challenging – so a little preparation (both physical and mental) can make all the difference.
Here’s how to make your move that little bit easier.
Leave your expectations behind.
That cute little apartment in Le Marais in Paris that you’ve been conjuring in your imagination? There’s a good chance you won’t get it. Or that it will be cramped, smelly and have no natural light.
Sure, sometimes we do end up with something that’s beyond our wildest dreams, but the more expectations you cram into your suitcase and bring with you, the more likely you are to be disappointed. Try not to build up a perception of the experience before you leave – whether it’s about your apartment, the handsome guy you’ll meet or even how quickly you’ll pick up the language. Instead, arrive in your new country open-minded and willing to see where life takes you.
The less you try to control things, the easier it will be.
Do your homework (to save you pain later on).
It’s easy to be so swept away by the romantic notion of moving to another country that we might forget the boring, logistical stuff that goes along with it. But with a new country and culture comes a new tax system, healthcare and visa requirements – which you might have to navigate in another language.
So do your prep beforehand. Talk to your accountant about whether you need to change your residency status for tax purposes and look into what kind of healthcare you are eligible for as a non-citizen of your new country. (Tip: If you know you may need to have your wisdom teeth removed in the near future, do it before you leave!).
If you’re moving somewhere as a student, check whether your visa allows you to work while you’re there. Also, find out what kind of documentation is expected when applying to rent an apartment. It’s a lot easier to gather it while you’re still in your home country than trying to source the random documents from afar. And if you’re worried about having to deal with gas and electricity companies in a foreign language, a lot of them actually have a designated English phone line, which is super handy to have in advance (and will save you a lot of stress when trying to get things connected when you move in).
Prepare for a little loneliness.
When you move to a new country by yourself, chances are you won’t have a single friend at first. Making friends in new city can be challenging (especially if you move there in the dead of winter when it’s a real struggle to even go outside, let alone try to meet people). So you have to commit to putting in the effort and saying yes to social events where you’ll hardly know a soul (even when all you want to do is curl up in bed with a book). Go to Meetups and language exchanges, join a book club, chat with your neighbors and people in your local cafe and try to accept every invitation you’re given.
But don’t put pressure on yourself. Friendships often take time – and certain cultures can take a little while to warm up to new people and invite them into their social circles. Trust that it really does get easier and learn to be comfortable in your own company for those first few months. One day you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve formed a really wonderful community of friends who you couldn’t imagine living without.
Another remedy to loneliness is to consider moving into a place with roommates for the first six months, even if you have the budget to get an apartment by yourself. It’s not only a great way to get to know a city through locals’ eyes, but you’ll have a built-in social circle until you get the chance to cultivate your own.
Trust that it really does get easier and learn to be comfortable in your own company for those first few months.
Embrace the challenges.
There’s one sure thing about moving abroad: It’s going to be hard. It’s probably going to push you so far outside your comfort zone that you’ll wonder why you were ever crazy enough to make the move in the first place. But it will absolutely be worth it.
So when all those challenges come charging at you (like a burgled apartment, a visit to the emergency room or luggage lost for all of eternity), embrace them wholeheartedly and know they are all part of the experience. You’ll soon realize just how capable you are at dealing with these things alone and how much stronger each challenge makes you. Try to put things in perspective by remembering that they could all just as likely happen in your home country. It just seems harder because you’re so far away from the support of your family and friends. Give yourself 15 minutes to feel sorry for yourself and then work out how to make the best of the situation.
After all, you’re living your dream – how amazing is that?
Have you recently moved abroad? What do you think is the most important thing to remember?
Images via Rick Bhatia