This article is written by Guest Author Caz Makepeace from yTravelblog.
“What? You’re leaving already? But you’ve only been here a couple of months; you haven’t given it much of a chance.”
“No, it’s just not for me, I want to go home.”
Veronica had made her decision. Living as an expat in the States was too much for her. She couldn’t adapt to the change and she was packing her bags to return to Brisbane and her new boyfriend of just a month.
I could understand why she was finding it difficult to adjust. The honeymoon period you experience when you arrive in a new country was well and truly over. We had all reached the difficult readjustment stage.
The school system was completely different to what we knew back home and the salary wasn’t as great. But still, there were a couple of things that Veronica wasn’t really doing to help her transition into life as an expat.
Not only do you earn the local currency, and have the opportunity to travel a little easier and slower around the expat country, but you get a deeper insight into the local culture and every day becomes something new and exciting.
Living as an expat definitely has its challenges though and if you don’t have good strategies to overcome them, then like Veronica, you will find yourself on the first plane home saying…
“This life ain’t for me!”
Our top expat tips for surviving life overseas
Understand that you will go through Culture Shock and you need to give yourself time to adjust
Your new home is not going to be like your old one. This can take some getting used to. But remember why you left your country in the first place.
Was it so you could bring it with you, or so you could experience something different?
Make sure you understand the stages of Culture Shock so you are aware that what is happening to you is very normal. Veronica didn’t understand that she needed to give herself more time to adjust.. If only she stayed a couple more months, things may have changed for her.
Rely on other Expats
We definitely believe that when you move to a new country, you shouldn’t just be finding your own to hang out with; you need to be getting to know the local people.
However, involving yourself in a local expat community has some very important benefits. Other expats can help you connect to your home, so you don’t feel so lost. They are also a fantastic anchor point for you when you do have those moments when you want to quit. They understand your pain and can help you to see that it will get better.
Veronica had an expat mentor who had been teaching in the States for a year, she also had a few other Aussies she could turn to for help, but she preferred to instead isolate herself in her room, rather than reach out to us for support.
Meanwhile, we were all spending time together, sharing new experiences as a supportive group and having a sounding board when we really wanted to rant about how the “new” country “just didn’t get it!!”
Rely on those in your local community
Wherever you will be living and whatever jobs you will be doing, you will have those in the local community who will be very willing to support you.
It’s easy to get lost in your new world, especially when it comes time to learning a new way of doing your job or career. Don’t feel like a failure. Go and ask your colleagues for help, you will be surprised at just how supportive people can be.
Once you open your mouth to ask for help in the community, you will have people flocking to help you as they “Just love your accent!”
When we asked Veronica if she had been using her mentor at school and her team teachers, she said “No, she didn’t need their help.”
The teaching was so different, that I was banging on my mentor’s door every five minutes with pleas for help. I even found myself in the Principal’s office in floods of tears one morning. But hey! I received a lovely box of choccies the next day from him!!
Go out and explore
Don’t wait until you have all your new furniture and a set of wheels before you go out and explore your area. Start from the very first day.
It is by exploring that your thoughts will be transported from your old home to your new. Excitement and wonder will start to be your dominate emotions, rather than fear and worry.
What’s happening in your local area? Start researching any events, cool parks, beaches, restaurants, clubs etc.
What about nearby? Can you go somewhere for a weekend getaway?
We were busy out exploring from the first week of arriving in our new destination. Our friend Veronica? She was cancelling on us for every new event we organised, including tickets to see John Butler Trio at an intimate venue in a pub in Chapel Hill, a college town that ended up being one of our favourite and a source for much fun and adventure.
Make sure your explorations of your new country and area continue. Any chance we got, we were travelling through the country. We lasted longer than many of the other expats that arrived at the same time as us. The only noticeable difference was that we were exploring more than they were.
Go out and meet people
Craig and I make an effort to start meeting people in our new home straight away. We understand the power of friendship and how connecting with people immediately brings a new dimension to our expat experience.
Our first friend, Hitesh, was the property manager of the fully booked apartments we first visited to check for vacancies.
“Hey, my apartments have vacancies down the road. Go see them, and let’s hook up for a drink when you get settled.”
That Friday, we went to his apartment for a beer and six years later we still remain great friends. Not only did we meet him, but quickly became involved in his circle of friends as well. We had a strong network of friends from the beginning which brought us so much fun and joy through our stay in the US.
Oh, and meeting people isn’t that difficult. There are local parks, bars, restaurants, cafes where you can be brave enough to strike up conversations. There are local meet up groups for any kind of interest you may have, and of course there is always your work place, where I have made many beautiful friendships with colleagues.
You’ve just got to get out there and do it!
Be careful with your Accommodation Choices
A lot of people go home early because they don’t like where they are living. Fair enough. If you don’t like something, there is no point flogging a dead horse. You have to be happy.
But, I knew several people who left after a year in their new country. And they left with this statement.
“I think if we lived somewhere different, we would have stayed longer.”
These people chose to live in a town that was fairly isolated, although close to their work and a bit cheaper. This mean their sacrifice was that on their days and evenings off, there was not a lot for them to do. Boredom set in and they were just relying on their flat mates for company.
We decided that in order to have a better lifestyle, outside of work, I would give myself a 40 minute commute to work each day in order to live in the city. It was the best decision we made. This meant we had plenty of options to enjoy the local culture. We were out every weekend having great fun with all our new friends we met in the city. We stayed for two years, and then went back for two years, and would go back permanently if we could.
When we lived in Dublin, we lived in a vibrant college town only a 30 minute walk from the city. When we lived in Bangkok we lived just a short walk from the Khao San Road area.
It does make a difference.
Living as an expat adds another dimension to your travels. Hopefully these tips will help you to make it a more rewarding and enjoyable experience.
Do you think Veronica would have stayed longer if she followed these tips?