Moving To A New Country: What to Expect When Living Abroad
It's not all life through #blessed tinted lens.
Relocating to a new country is one of the biggest decisions you could make. Perhaps you’re moving abroad for career reasons, joining a loved one or seeking a new environment.
Whatever the underlying reason, uprooting yourself from familiar grounds to a whole new place can incite a cocktail of emotions ranging from the full spectrum of anxiety and frustration, to excitement and delight.
We speak with our Hmlet members, a community of globe trotters themselves, to share their experiences on what you can expect from relocating.
You’ll gain a whole lot from the experience, personally and professionally.
These days, employers are on the lookout for people who’ve demonstrated stepping out of their comfort zones.
Charlotte, who moved from the United Kingdom to Australia, says it’s broadened her perspective to be more open minded. “It’s been a great learning experience being exposed to a different working environment and lifestyle outside of work”.
Whilst moving to a new country may not automatically mean an instant promotion, a more global mindset certainly makes you stand out from competition.
Gen, who relocated to Hong Kong a year ago, shares how he hopes to grow personally through “some challenges, getting into and out of little trouble and meeting people along the way.”
But it will also be difficult, especially on your relationships.
Time differences pose a challenge. Charlotte says, “there are 11 hours between the UK (home) and Australia which makes talking to friends and family quite difficult. Christmas and birthdays were particularly hard.”
Finding yourself alone in a new city and unable to easily connect with your loved ones can be daunting. Charlotte continues, “any other time I have relocated was as a student, where I was surrounded by peers and it was easy to make new friends. Entering the workplace in another country, there were no colleagues of a similar demographic and I’ve had to try a lot harder to find opportunities to make friends."
She values how Hmlet provides a readily available member community that helped her ease into the new city.
“When I first moved, it was easy to not speak to anyone in person outside of work. However the Hmlet community would always say hello in passing and stop for chats. It made me feel less isolated."
Securing housing doesn’t need to be anxiety-inducing.
Housing is one of the biggest and most critical questions you’ll need to settle when moving, and could have a huge impact on the quality of life in your new country.
Whilst researching online is a great place to start, it’s hard to find the perfect abode without experiencing it for yourself. How will you know whether or not the sofa smells funny, if you’ll like the neighbourhood or if you’ll vibe with your flatmates? The worst thing that could happen would be getting locked down for a year in a stinky, noisy apartment with folks you don’t get along with.
With that much weight riding on one decision, you’d want to know all your options. But how do you even start sifting through the plethora of information on real estate agents, expat forums and Airbnb?
Michelle, who moved to Australia, shares how Hmlet eased some of these early anxieties. “The community associates were really helpful when I got the offer to come to Sydney. They helped me assess my options on which Hmlet properties to consider.”
“Due to the flexible rental I was even able to come to Sydney and get a feel of the city first, with the option of being able to switch around after!”
These anxieties can be even greater when you’re making a shorter term move.
Charlotte, who was relocating for only 6 months, gives her thumbs up to Hmlet's fully furnished apartments. "it was ideal to be able to move in directly and not have to invest in furniture and appliances that I wouldn't be able to take home with me”. Dealing with just one all-inclusive operator also meant she was saved from the stress of separately seeking out providers for things such as internet, utilities and cleaning services.
Learn cultural etiquette, and be open to having your preconceptions challenged.
Don’t be afraid of being “The Foreigner” when you first move. Mistakes will surely be made, but as long as you’re considerate and polite, you’ll be fine.
Nonetheless, you’ll want to have some basic knowledge. Learn in advance what constitutes as offensive, pick up some local greetings and know when the national holidays are. Also, never refuse a gift of food or drink, no matter how questionable it looks!
A good starting point for an introduction to etiquette is Commisceo Global which has guides to 80+ countries, and from there you can turn to good ol’ Google.
When you stay open, you’ll be surprised at how much you can change from these experiences.
Gen says “I've been to Hong Kong maybe 3 times in the past just for short holidays, but living in the city now for over a one year gives a different perspective. It makes you realise that there are many things to appreciate, and also things which you might not understand.”
Settling in, and dealing with feelings of being homesick.
Now that you’ve got a roof over your head and logistics all sorted out, you’re probably pumped to start making the most out of your time here.
However, that’s also prime time for feelings of loneliness and being homesick to start kicking in, a natural part of the process.
Michelle says, “Give yourself time to adapt. You may not like it straight away, and there will be moments when you’ll question whether you’ve made the right decision”.
To feel more at home, Michelle recommends going out to join as many activities as possible to meet people and to be open to trying new things.
She’s grateful to have met many like-minded people through the frequent events organised by Hmlet community managers, and has grown especially close to her housemate. “We've started to explore new parts of Sydney together", she smiles.
Gen agrees. “I’m a natural introvert, so seeing a familiar set of faces at the regular Hmlet community events has been really comforting in a new city.”
Enjoy your new home country, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not exploring all the time.
To avoid burning out early, Charlotte says, “Remember that living in a new country is different to holidaying in a new country.”
“Don't put pressure on yourself to be having an amazing time all the time. In my first few months, if I went a weekend without doing something that I couldn't do at home, or something that was "Australian", I felt like I wasn't making the most of my experience.”
“In reality, it's not feasible to be out "doing" all the time, and there's nothing wrong with spending a day on the sofa watching Netflix; the rest of the country will still be there to explore next weekend."
Deciding to live abroad may not be the easiest adjustment, but one thing all our members agree on is that it’s an amazing opportunity that could be life-changing. Whether or not you’re moving for good or just temporarily, embrace the adventure to the fullest!
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