Moving country is a great, rewarding and character building experience. You get the chance to learn from other mentalities, customs and ways of life that enrich your own. I would not want to miss it!
However, don’t underestimate the stress and pressure you can be exposed to, especially during the first six months. Having lived in 7 different countries, I know well enough what I’d like to call a “circle of emotions” you go through. It didn’t matter if I was a student or a traveller, whether I started a new job, if it was job searching without any bearings, or if I had followed a partner: I went through the same circle of emotions each time. Even though I was euphoric and excited to be in a new place of my choice, each time it took a lot of energy.
In an environment we are used to, we do most things automatically; it is just like driving a car after years of practice. We don’t need to think where the accelerator or brakes are. This saves our brain a lot of energy.
Moving to a new country is like having to learn how to drive from scratch again. Here are some reasons why:
- Everything is new, whether it be people, surroundings, noises, colours, customs, or the way you cross the street! Your sub consciousness is constantly alert and adjusting and may be keeping your adrenaline high (think of crossing a street with traffic coming from the “wrong” side).
- If you are to speak another language, your brain spends a lot of energy and concentration in decoding words subconsciously. You are dead tired for the first three months just because of the language issue. Even after a year in a new country, your foreign language won’t be perfect and it will be tiring to speak it after long days.
- Not being able to express yourself in a new language with broad vocabulary can be demotivating and make you feel disrespected at times which can subconsciously affect your self-esteem.
- Administration is very different in each country and you have to learn the local system, the terminology and procedure; this can be nerve racking, especially in countries of extensive paperwork such as France and Spain.
- Usually you don’t know any friends or family at the beginning and have to go through lots of hurdles alone and without friendly advice. At times that means extra work having to redo things all over again.
- Beware of the pain of culture shock. Mentality differences will make you feel misunderstood or left out as if you are just scratching the surface of local life. Most locals have never lived abroad and won’t appreciate your effort. It takes time to immerse; I personally need at least 2 years! I took this picture outside a tourist shop in the States – impossible to get used to something like that:
- There are emotional ups and downs of loving and hating the new place and new language: when energy is low, we don’t cope well with having to expend the extra effort.
- Being a foreigner doesn’t help finding work; depending on the country’s level of tolerance you might be a second choice for this reason.
Here are 13 clues how to encourage positive thinking and to gather all the energy you will need:
- Visualize and look forward to achieving goals like finding a job or improving your language level. This will motivate and train positive emotions.
- Get yourself into a routine as quickly as possible, for example by doing a language class or finding a project to work on. Everything in your life changes considerably as a consequence – routine will give you a stable frame and support to hold on to.
- Be aware of the difficulties mentioned above and be consciously thankful for what you have already learned and experienced, as time progresses.
- Be patient with yourself and treat yourself for achievements: for example, a great meal out or a new little gadget you always wanted to get.
- Train positive thinking: Write down three things at the end of every day which made you happy during that day and why. Once a week, write down what you are thankful for in your life. Note down positive mentality features of the new country every two weeks. Do random acts of kindness, such as letting someone go ahead in the queue.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day as the saying goes. Break down your goals into small steps and take one step at a time. Arriving at a new place can be overwhelming. A new language and mentality, flat search, job search, finding friends, coping with a maze of administration while being unsure if it really was the right move for your career is a lot on your plate all at once. There won’t be much time for personal issues, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Place resourceful anchors in your home or at work, such as pictures of family and friends or of great holidays. Change them once a week, so your consciousness will actively see them.
- Every athlete needs recovery time after a stressful training session, so you need a break from adjusting to a new life. Take the time for activities you really enjoy and continue with what you would usually do, such as your favourite sports or music. This should be part of your routine.
- Do Meditation, Yoga, Qi Gong or breathing exercises to school your self-awareness and attentiveness.
- Stay in close contact with at least one or two close friends or family.
- Actively network, meet people and choose your new circle of friends.
- Encourage motivation and your personal character strengths and try to apply them as much as you can. Check out www.authentichappiness.com (under Questionnaires)
- Eat well. You are what you eat.
Also read my blog on 8 tips and tricks how to learn a new language.
Have fun and let us know your experiences.