I’ve compiled a short list of things expats can do to begin to adjust to their new country and a new environment and culture, and to help alleviate homesickness, once they get to their host country.
When we arrived in Thailand, I was woefully unprepared for the shock waves that eventually hit in the weeks and months to follow. I’m determined to “do” culture shock better this time around….
1. Prepare prior to take-off. I know this is before arriving in your new country, but some preparation prior to departure doesn’t hurt. With the advent of technology and social media, conducting a little research beforehand is easily achieved. Look for expat and social groups in your new location, contact your children’s new school administrators to get an idea of the school environment and ask questions. Ask about connecting your children with other expat children already at the school, so your children will enter school already somewhat familiar with a few kids. Search for photos and videos of your new location, so everyone has an idea of what to expect.
2. Settle into your new house and make it a home. Bring some things from home that will help you to settle in and feel more at home in your new house or apartment, whether it’s favorite photos or other home decor, clothing or other accessories, books, or foods.
3. Establish a routine. Set a routine as soon as possible to build a structure around your days during what can seem a chaotic and tumultuous time.
4. Explore the area and your new neighborhood. Read up on your new home town prior to moving and get out and check out the interesting touristy and non-touristy spots. Browse the local shops and find new favorite products as well as any favorites from home. Meet the locals and strike up conversations.
5. Learn the language. At least a few phrases to get around, greet people, and get by on day-to-day basis.
6. Work or get involved in a project, paid or unpaid. This will bring structure to your days as well as help you meet and get to know people.
7. Be patient with yourself and be open-minded. Moving to another country and adjusting to a new environment, culture, language, food, and group of people isn’t easy. It can be exciting, overwhelming, exhilarating, exhausting, educational and eye-opening, uplifting, empowering, unsettling, stimulating, thrilling, or all or any of the above. Most of all, it can be life-changing. To deal with all these emotions coursing through your brain — all at once — takes time. Let yourself feel these emotions and know that this, too, shall pass. Take each day as it comes and let yourself experience your surroundings. Observe, revel, take pleasure in the simple things. Make yourself be available to new experiences and new encounters.