My first move abroad reminds me of my first ever day of skiing. Both events came at a much more advanced age than for most people. Both had two things in common: low visibility and a lifeline, a support structure. The support structure I had a lot of appreciation for consisted of a local friend who mentored me through the whole experience prior to the departure and then picked me up at my first foreign airport. Another friend helped me rent my skiing equipment at a little resort in Swiss Alps, got me somewhere closer to the top of the mountain and delivered into the hands of an expert skiing instructor who, indeed, became a lifeline.
It doesn’t matter how much you read about your destination or talk to people who live there before making the move. Things are going to look and sound familiar, you will know the general direction in which you are headed but don’t expect full clarity of vision on day one. It helps to have someone ahead of you to follow and copy the movements. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to figure out every little detail before you get to your destination. Even if you are an experienced traveller, moving your life to a new location abroad will throw in many surprises. Adjusting to your expat life is a process and it will take some research, a lot of practical experience and work on building new survival skills.
Are there any shortcuts? Sure! Since this is your move, focus on things that are important to you. Let’s simplify it down to 3 steps:
Setting time aside to process what your needs are is important. You can spend days browsing expat sites, reading through a lot of fun and exciting stories of other people’s adventures and still feel unprepared. Focus on what makes up your current environment and how to remap it to your foreign destination. Then do your research. Having someone locally to turn to can be really valuable not only in case of an emergency but also to help create a sense of connection and familiarity with your host country.
Invest a bit of time, think it through, research, follow someone and experience. You will be off bunny slopes and down the black runs in no time!
By Yelena Mackay
Follow on Twitter @MovingWtShaking