Moving abroad – what does it mean in reality?
You can never entirely figure out or fully prepare for what an expatriate assignment will hold in store for you. Even if you are a seasoned expat most relocations are different from the previous ones. But preparation goes a long way when it comes to moving abroad. It will be easier to cope with change and your reactions if you know what is likely to occur. Preparations will facilitate integration and is strongly encouraged. It also raises your confidence in helping your children to relocate.
“So, how can I prepare for moving abroad?”
Start learning the language
Knowing just a few words upon arriving will help you feel less of a stranger. Make sure you and the children at least know words for greeting. “Thank you” and “please” are also valuable for not making you feel completely at a loss when it comes to speaking. Add “my name is …” and “I don’t speak …” and sign up for a language course as soon as possible. Perhaps even before moving abroad? Knowing the local language helps with integration. A language also shares a strong cultural bond with the country and the locals. Also, why not take the opportunity to learn a language on location? Opportunities to practice in real life should be plenty and are excellent!
Learn about cultural shock and its stages
People say we all go through cultural shock at some point when moving abroad. To some expats it is a highly recognizable fact, to others it might not be that obvious or severe. It can vary from person to person, but also from expatriation to expatriation. I have experienced both really smooth relocations and settlements, and more difficult, longer ones. But they still all contained elements of frustration. Knowing the stages and the estimated timings hereof makes it much easier to endure and cope with. I often hear “I never knew; I thought I was the only one!” These words and the reason behind them is what makes me so passionate about helping expats!
If you have children, it also makes you feel more confident helping them in the process of establishing their new life if you know what to expect.
Make sure you know tools and ways to cope with the new situation
So, you’ve brushed up on your knowledge of signs and stages of cultural shock. This in itself is a step in the right direction of dealing with moving abroad. But also make sure you have a backup of ideas, tools and ways to handle the new situation. You need to be proactive – if you’re usually not; this is the time to be. It is not a question of not coping with change; most of us more or less do given a certain amount of time. The questions are rather how we cope with it and how we define coping, and how soon and what we can learn from it.
Learn about cultural awareness
Culture has a high impact on life. Culture is life. When moving to a new country it is extremely valuable to be aware of cultures and that there are differences between them. This will help you to settle.I usually recommend to start your cultural awareness journey with giving a good thought to your own culture. What is it really to be _____ (fill in your culture)? It is not always an easy question to answer. We tend to come up with a few, stereotype characteristics but I’d say it is the less obvious and not thought of ones that cause most confusion and frustration.
We often take things for granted and quite naturally have our own worldview. That is why reflecting on our own culture helps us understand the potential clashes. Haven’t we all experienced situations where we asked ourselves what just happened and why? Being aware of our own culture also helps us open up to different values and approaches. In the workshops on expat life I do you can imagine the discussions are vivid on the topic of cultural awareness!
Furthermore, think about your own attitude towards the unknown or different. We do not have to share or accept other values but most of the time we must accept that they exist.
Invest in yourself – prepare, learn and feel confident!
I am happy to help you preparing for moving abroad. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details on rates. I also work via Skype to assist you all over the globe!
If you have already expatriated; perhaps you want to have some light shed on what’s going on, to learn on the above, or to simply talk to someone who knows what you are going through? email@example.com for details