Moving to a new country is often both an exciting and a frightening proposition. As someone who has lived in six countries and traveled all over the world, I have grown to appreciate the sense of being off-balance when you first arrive in an unfamiliar place. I have learned to use that energy to learn and discover. Here are some of my international moving tips:
Drop pre-conceived notions of how things should be.
When I moved to Australia from the United States I was almost offended that shops were not open on Sunday. But I learned to appreciate that it was testament to the country’s values: life comes before work. I was soon making like the locals and hitting the beach at 5pm with my Aussie colleagues. Oh, and while you are at it, stop comparing everything with how it was at home.
Keep up with the daily news.
When you live in a country, it’s important to understand the local issues. Read the local newspaper, watch the news or subscribe to an online blog.
Learn the language.
Or at least try. We can get by with English in many countries but there is no better way to connect with a country than through its language. Plus the cognitive benefits of learning a new language are manifold.
Understand local etiquette.
The easiest way to isolate yourself in a foreign country is by not respecting the local norms. Whether it’s how to dress, or speak, or whether or not to tip, make sure you that are at least aware of the behavioral customs.
Listen to the native music.
Even if you don’t understand it. Music is a culture’s way of expressing itself. Something that sounds strange at first may eventually grow on you especially as you develop more of a cultural context.
Make some local friends.
Sure, it’s nice to have friends from home or a bunch of expats to hang out with, but it’s also important to make some local friends. You may be rewarded with rich and lifelong friendships, which with the help of technology today can be maintained even when you return to your home country.
This is not so much a behavior as it is a mindset. Living in a country that is not your own is a gift and a learning opportunity that many are not fortunate enough to have. Make the most of it by being open to experiencing new places, traditions, foods, and sounds. Your life will be richer for it.