Moving abroad is hard. I know that’s stating the obvious but it is. Whether you’re moving to a country that speaks your language or not, starting again is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. And, if you’re anything like me, you may end up doing it over and over and over again. So what do you do when you find yourself in a new country with nobody you know? There are ways that you can make your arrival easier even before you leave. Here’s what I do.
Before you go
So you’ve decided to move abroad but how do you go about things? Getting things in order before you leave is an important step to starting your new life.
- Get a job
Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I always find a job before I move (apart from when I joined my family in Dubai). You can either look for a permanent position or check out temporary jobs with a view to finding something more permanent when you arrive. Having a job to go to makes you feel a little better about packing your life up and heading off into the unknown. If you’re under 30, a great place to start would be as an au pair. If you’re lucky enough to have English as your first language, look out for schools or people looking for a tutor. It’s easy money and will give you something to live off. Make sure your CV is up-to-date and print out a few copies before you leave; finding somewhere to print them when you arrive may be difficult.
- Find a place to live
Check out local estate agents’ websites or local free ads to find a place to rent. If you don’t find anything, be sure to book into a hotel or hostel so you have somewhere to lay your head during those long days. Worrying about getting a good night’s sleep shouldn’t be on your list of things to do.
- Find people
It makes it all a lot less daunting if you already know people in your new town. Get on Couchsurfing and find people to show you around. Ask them about what to do and where to go. Ask them what they do for fun. Ask them everything. That website is made for open-minded people – they want to meet people and share experiences. Approaching people you don’t know and making friends as an adult isn’t easy but, as I said to a friend recently, nobody knows you’re here; you have to go to them because they won’t come to you. This process isn’t easy and will most likely be a bit hit and miss. You’re not going to find a new best friend within a few days but you will find people that can help you out a lot. Friendships take time, so be prepared to spend a lot of time alone during those first few weeks.
- Get your finances in order
Not only is moving abroad scary, it’s also expensive. Make a list of every possible expense that you may have once you’ve touched down in your new country. Trust me; I’ve seen others not take things into consideration and it’s made their first few months all the more stressful. Expenses might included any of the following:
1. Travel from the airport
2. Hotel/hostel fees
6. Apartment costs – security deposit (1 or 2 months rent), first month’s rent (separate from deposit), agency fees, utility connection fees
7.Travel to work
8. Spending money
All of these will happen before you get your first pay cheque so be prepared.
- Start learning the language
Obviously this only applies if you are moving to a country where you don’t speak the language. It’s important to be able to communicate when you arrive. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone speaks English, especially if you’re going to a less touristy area. Check out my post about learning the lingo for tips on how and where to start.
When you get there
- Get to know your new town
The easiest way to do this is to head to the local tourist information office. They will be able to give you a map and point you in the direction of the nearest supermarket. If there’s no T.I.O., get in touch with those couchsurfers and ask for help. If push comes to shove, go for a walk and get lost if needs be. Just make sure you do it during the day and use common sense – don’t go down any dodgy looking streets. Stick to the main streets for now.
- Get a food shop in
Eating out can be very tempting during the first few days, but it can also turn into an expensive habit. Head to the local supermarket and stock up on the essentials. You’re going to need a decent meal inside you to face this new challenge.
- Meet people
I’ll go into more detail about how I meet people abroad in a later post but for now, message the couchsurfers and tell them you’ve arrived. Ask them if they’d like to meet up for a drink and a chat. Get out of your flat and start building your new life.
- Find a job
If you didn’t do this before you left, now’s the time to do it. Start looking everywhere and make sure your CV is up-to-date. Be proactive.
- Skype your family
Get to your nearest Internet cafe and let them know you’re okay. They’re probably worried about you. They’ll be your biggest support over the next few months so don’t leave them hanging.
- Accept that you’re going to have bad days
I always say that the first two months are the hardest. The first few days are exciting and exhausting. But after the newness and rush of being in a new place begins to wear off, you’re left with the routine of everyday life. It’s also likely that bills are starting to roll in. You start to feel completely alone and begin questioning whether you did the right thing. And that’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to have days when you break down and want to run home. Curl up in a ball and cry if you have to. Lord knows I’ve done it. But at the end of the day, go to bed thinking tomorrow will be better. Then get up in the morning, have a cup of tea and face the world. Don’t dwell on it. This will probably happen over and over but it will make you stronger in the long run. What you’re doing is incredible. Remember that.
As I’ve said, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve moved to a new place. I’m far from an expert though, so let me know if there’s anything you think I missed off the list.