You’ll never actually realize how difficult it is to move to a new country until you’ve done it– and somehow it doesn’t get easier the more you do it! Each time will be a different experience and a new learning curve. From my personal experience, here are the top 5 challenges of moving to a new country:
“Basic” needs aren’t always so basic to acquire
Did you know that to get a bank account, you need a local mailing address… but to get a place to live, you need a job… but to get a job, you need a bank account… HUH?
Even some of the most basic things we have in life, like bank accounts, can be difficult to open when first moving to a new country—be prepared! Before departing, you may want to consider:
- Finding temporary accommodation through Air bnb (banks won’t allow hotel addresses!) and staying at that same address for 4-6 weeks until all of your bank mail has been delivered.
- Find out if there is a company in your chosen country that helps expats with these minuscule (yet important) details. When I first moved to England, I used Britbound, who offer bank account set up with their packages. They have an established relationship with certain branches that allow Britbounders to skip the address step and other criteria obstacles. Britbound was also great for job hunting and advice on renting—I’d recommend using this kind of service!
Wouldn’t it be great if the perfect pad in the perfect location just fell into place as soon as you landed?
Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case and why it’s one of the top challenges of moving to a new country. Moving around is hard– especially when you may have to do it 3…4…5… times.
Sometimes it takes a while to learn what areas are better suited for the new lifestyle you’ll adopt, or you might find that you need temporary accommodation for a little (or a lot) longer than you originally thought. To make this as painless as possible you can:
- Pack light. Trust me on this one— nothing is worse than packing and unpacking multiple suitcases on a monthly basis. After lugging suitcases up and down many flights of stairs and countless Uber XL’s later, I’ve learned that I could have saved luggage room by leaving certain things behind that are fairly cheap to replace. I wrote about what to consider leaving behind when packing, which you can read here.
- Allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Even if you’re a research guru and figured that a hostel for 3 weeks is enough time to find permanent accommodation, I suggest adding a couple weeks to that. You might find yourself caught up in life admin, interviewing or struggling to find a suitable place to settle thanks to a spike in the market!
- Try connecting with a potential roommate or landlord before arriving. With endless websites and Facebook groups dedicated to finding accommodation, it has never been easier to line up opportunities from across the ocean. Be cautious of rental scams when doing this, and NEVER send money without viewing a place in person.
It’s incredibly frustrating pacing up and down the fridge isle looking for eggs, then wondering how on earth they don’t have eggs, only to find them on the shelf! Along with learning social etiquette to make friends, finding out that your favourite sauce or seasoning doesn’t exist there… all these little things add up when trying to settle down into everyday life. A few things to help you get by when this hits…
- Appreciate and embrace the change. If you make culture shock into a learning experience, it can be enjoyable to learn all the little quirks that make countries different from one another. You moved for a change, after all!
- Make friends from your home country to balance the shock. Having someone to laugh at your frustration with can make things feel lighter and more like an adventure—Facebook groups or Meetup are always a great place to start. I met one of my closest friends on a “Canadians in London” Facebook group and it changed everything. She was someone who knew the struggle of becoming accustomed to a new culture, but could guide me through the bumps because she had already done it.
Saying Goodbye to your comfort zone
It can be SO hard to make friends when you first move, especially if you aren’t moving for school or into the hospitality industry, where it’s a lot easier to meet a diverse range of people you’d get along with. If you find yourself binging on Netflix or calling your best friend back home in tears, it’s time to step outside your comfort zone. After all, you didn’t move just to sit in front of the TV!
My favourite phrase when I’m about to do something uncomfortable is “if it doesn’t go well, I’ll never have to see them again anyway”- so what do you have to lose? Head down to the bar on your own and start talking to someone or strike up a conversation while waiting for your morning coffee. You might meet someone who extends an invite to a social gathering and you think of how awkward it will be to stand there on your own and not know anyone… shove those fears aside and go! If it doesn’t go well, you’ll never have to see them again anyway—remember? You never know who you’ll meet.
One of the biggest challenges of moving to a new country is taking a front row seat outside of your comfort zone and embracing it. You’ll learn to love this after a while—I promise. You’d be surprised of what you’re capable of outside our comfort zone and what you’ll discover about yourself. There is a magic to being so free that you can be yourself unconditionally.
Keeping in touch with back home
It’s normal to get caught up in your own life. Throw in different time zones, different friend groups… keeping in touch with your besties back home can prove to be difficult. What can you do to stop from drifting too far from your loved ones after you’ve moved to a new country?
- Be patient and forgiving! This is probably the most important factor, and has to go both ways to work. Sometimes you might text your bestie and find that she hasn’t responded in a week—it’s easy to jump to conclusions that aren’t there. Allow each other the time to focus on every day life without relying on constant conversation to maintain a connection; this can make your friendship start feeling like a chore. Scheduling in time to have meaningful catch-ups will keep your friendship burning bright without that added pressure.
- Schedule in video chats. Texting is great for keeping in touch on the go, but consider making time to Facetime or Skype when possible. Having that visual connection with your friends or family will remind you that there are loving humans cheering you on back home and give you a wave of much needed comfort.
- Visits. If money allows, nothing beats making memories with your loved ones in a new city. You’ll be their local tour guide and get to watch them gawk at the beauty of your new home!
While the challenges of moving to a new country can feel never-ending, it is also one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. Once you’re settled and enjoying your new home, you’ll look back at the hardships and be incredibly proud that you did it.
Are you curious about taking the leap of faith and hopping on a plane? Don’t delay. What’s the hardest part about pursuing your dreams? Getting Started