What to expect when relocating
Updated: Nov 9
Whether planned or not, relocating to a new country comes with both gifts and challenges. As much as the change can be good for us, the challenges can sometimes be difficult to deal with. Rather than have them sneak up on you, it's best to be mentally prepared if they happen. These are common challenges my clients have faced upon relocating to a new country. Read on to know what to expect.
1. Culture shock
Culture shock is experienced when you arrive in a country and are confronted with how different the culture is to the culture you are used to. It feels overwhelming and hard to deal with because the new culture can seem confusing. People act and express themselves differently, and it's hard to navigate what they mean even if they speak the same language as you. Unfortunately, no amount of reading about the country or learning some lines in its native language prepares you for the experience of actually living there, so most people experience some degree of culture shock in the first months or even years of relocating. It is therefore important to expect that things in this new country will take you by surprise and to be prepared by being open to the idea that the unexpected will happen, but that it will serve as a valuable learning experience about the culture for you.
2. Changes in food, weather and environment
You know you've definitely left home when you miss the taste of the food or the weather you enjoyed. Although these changes can be expected and even welcomed, if you haven't lived in the country before, relocating and having to eat the local food and experience the local environment can be a big change for some people. It is therefore perfectly reasonable that changes to your habits will be forced by your new and different environment, and that these forced changes make you uncomfortable. These changes can upset your system and make you cranky, because sometimes these are things that you don't want to/can change. Being open to living the local life with curiosity and acceptance, or finding places that feel like home within your new country can help tremendously.
3. Feelings of loneliness and loss of purpose
Have you relocated to join a spouse? Or perhaps you left your family and friends to study abroad? Depending on the reason you relocated, you may experience varied levels of loneliness or loss of purpose. That is a lot more likely if you've traveled away from family members and friends to a place where you need to rebuild your social support system again. Also, if you've left a whole life behind, one with a job included, you may be feeling particularly vulnerable, lost and demotivated due to the lack of purposeful activity in your new life. These are all perfectly normal feelings to have. However, dwelling on the lost will only make it worse. It would therefore be beneficial to focus on what you can do. If you have access to events and places to meet other expats, going and making new friends can help immensely with loneliness. If you are jobless and it is hard to find a job, focus on the little steps you can take to feel purposeful again. Finding people who have similar interests as you will keep you motivated and will help you reconnect to your sense of purpose. They may even provide helpful tips for how to get your life back on track professionally.
4. Not knowing how things work anymore
This is pertaining to the more practical aspects of living in a new country. Where culture shock stems from confusion about how people behave and act around you, this point is more about how the systems (health, social, political, etc.) in your new country work. For example, the process of seeing a doctor, getting your paperwork done, finding a place to live and putting your children in schools could vary greatly depending on country. That is where knowledge is power. If you don't know how things work in your new country, you can start by asking any locals you know. They usually will help you in a pinch. If they can't help or give you the information directly, they can tell you where to look to get the information you need. The more you know about how things are done in this new country practically, the easier it will be to navigate these challenges. So pick up your courage and ask around. The more you will know, the better.
5. Language barrier
Arriving in a country where you don't know the language can be frustrating. All of the above issues can be easier to deal with if the language barrier didn't exist. Also, there may be restrictions on what you can do, such as what job you can do, due to language restrictions. Feeling frustrated with the new language certainly doesn't help you gain the motivation to learn it. You may even come to hate it before you've started learning. However, no matter what feelings you have about it, learning it is a saving grace. Imagine all the doors that could open up to you if you had this language in your arsenal of skills: You can talk to anyone you want, you can do anything and work anywhere, and you can make full use of every resource available to you about the country in its native tongue. That is a powerful tool for survival, and one that is guaranteed to ease your relocation troubles and help you join more local communities. It is unfortunate that doing all this is harder if you don't know the language, but keeping focused on everything you'll be able to do is a much better motivator to learning the language.
I hope this article can help you anticipate some challenges and provide some ways you can deal with the challenges should they arrive. If you feel any of the above, know that you're not alone. Don't forget you can always seek professional help in your journey to accommodation and adaptation to your new environment if the challenges are too much to carry on your own. We teach you the tools you need to get through the issues you face with relocating, so don't hesitate to call. You don't have to go through this alone.
No matter how amazing your new life is, it's alright to feel challenged and upset with the changes it demands. It isn't about how to avoid the challenges completely and try to stay happy despite it all, but about accepting these challenges and how they make you feel and opening up to the opportunities in learning they provide. Growth comes with pain sometimes, and being well-equipped to handle the pain and use it to grow can only make you more skillful in the long run, so learn and grow and live your new life to the fullest. You'll come out if it stronger than ever before.