So you have your visa, passport, tickets and packed suitcases ready to go. It’s official: You’re moving abroad.
Congratulations – You’re friggen brave!
Becoming an expat is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. Uprooting yourself from your safe and comforting home ground and bursting into an entirely new life landscape can be a very scary and stressful time. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of activity before the move and forget the ESSENTIALS to prepare yourself for expat life.
Preparation is key. So here are my top 5 things to do before your big moving day:
1. Learn the language (if applicable)!
OK, so this is pretty much a given. You don’t want to turn up and struggle to introduce yourself, ask directions or order your Cosmo at the bar. Before I moved to France with my family when I was 13 years old, I had only learnt French for 1 year in school and most of what I knew were phrases such as ‘Professor McGonagall can turn into a cat’ – Useful.
We hired a French teacher to come to the house and personally give us a crash-course on the basics for the month or so leading up to the big move. It was great to have the groundwork beforehand and that way being completely immersed into French was that little bit easier. I still have my French dictionary scrawled over with my messy notes 13 years later. It was definitely my language Bible when I first got there and the language skills are now applicable in my new Canadian home too!
2. Reach out and build relationships
You may feel like a creep reaching out to strangers but you seriously won’t regret it! If you are moving abroad via a travel company or educational institution, ask if there is an online Facebook group or something similar where you can message others just like you. Even if you are relocating solo, social media is designed to connect people and it won’t hurt to hunt out people, communities or groups in the area you are heading to and introduce yourself.
Look at it this way, you will either get ignored and never meet/see them again, or they will respond and you will have your first friend already!
If this isn’t for you, book yourself into a ‘Paint Nite’ or yoga class ahead of time. Make plans to build relationships as soon as you arrive so you have something positive to look forward to amongst all the chaos of moving.
3. Map out your new home
If you know where you will be living, use Google Street View to explore and get excited about your new neighbourhood! Research the area and write down a list of things to do, places to visit and activities you want to try so your itinerary is packed from the get-go. Leave your suitcase unpacked on the floor, embrace this change and start bonding with this new country and its culture. Plan to immerse yourself into it from day one and you will start your new adventure in the best way possible.
4. Treat yourself to a new wardrobe
The biggest thing for me moving abroad was confidence. If you’re an introvert like me, you’ll be feeling serious nerves about putting yourself out there in a new and unfamiliar place. I dealt with this issue with the wonderful activity that is shopping. Now it may be slightly shallow and I can’t really explain why but having even just a handful of new outfits untouched in my suitcase was my way of starting afresh, projecting the best version of me and knowing that I looked great definitely helped with the nerves!
5. Have faith in yourself!
It’s easy to say this yet so hard to put into practice.
The pressures that we put on ourselves to have a perfect life are tough and ruthless. I found that I doubted myself and my decision to move to Canada just because I didn’t have a group of close friends in the first 30-60 days of living here. Building relationships take time.
Write down all of your closest friends from your home country and then how you met each person – Then try and replicate those situations! Whether it is in a bar, playing on a sports team, chatting to that girl in the bathroom, bonding over a tortuous gym class… If you open yourself up to the possibility that anybody can come into your life at any moment, you will automatically radiate approachability and it will happen! If you set up this mindset before you arrive you will enter the whole experience much more positively from the start.
You’ve moved your life abroad – you’re already awesome.
What is the biggest worry you’ve had before moving abroad?