If you’ve decided that it is time to uproot and move to a new country, you might be met with equal parts of excitement and terror. You never realize how strongly connected you are to your culture, customs, and way of life until you leave it behind for good. In addition to all of the positive changes a move can provide you with, it can be useful to mitigate some of the inevitable discomforts that might arise during this time. To help you ease this transition, Bob Reasso outlines some key factors to anticipate, and how to make the process as seamless as possible. Bob Reasso is an experienced Athletic Director and soccer coach who has extensive experience working with individuals and teams who live abroad. Working with them to ease the transition, Bob Reasso has learned more than a thing or two about how to start a new life in a different country.

How can I prepare ahead of time for the move?

First things first: learn as much as the culture, customs, and norms before moving to your destination country. Just as if you were visiting a country for vacation, the more you know prior to your trip, the better. Understanding general standards of behaviour, from tipping customs to other cultural etiquette, it is important to get acclimated prior to leaving. Bob Reasso explains that the transition from tourist to local can be softened through some pre-emptive research and can help connect you to local communities with similar interests to help you become socialized quite quickly.

Do I need to learn a new language?

If you are moving to a country where they speak a different language, it is in your best interest to learn the basics of the language ahead of time. If you are nervous about this process, you are not alone. It can be scary, but just remember that a majority of the time, locals will be willing to help you navigate accordingly if you need help. Of course, Bob Reasso explains that you don’t need to be fluent before you get there, as it will become almost intuitive once you speak and hear it every day but having the basics down will help you navigate every situation. Start with learning the “hello”, “thank you”, and “where is ___?” to get yourself started. It might also be useful to download a translation app to guide you through those initial interactions with the locals. If you really want to go above and beyond, try listening to music and watching films in the language of the country you are moving to, as you will be able to learn much more quickly through this type of frequent exposure.

How can I limit feelings of anxiety?

Of course, when you leave the comforts of home, you might experience waves of homesickness. This feeling is perfectly normal and will look different for everyone who experiences it. Becoming immersed in a new culture can leave you feeling isolated in your experiences or leave you longing for the general comforts of home. A great way to combat these feelings can be to keep yourself busy. Make a point to get out of your comfort zone and experience your new home, the local community, and cultural events. Acknowledging that you are home sick is one thing but dwelling on it is another. Bob Reasso suggests placing a time limit on dwelling on this feeling; whether it is 5 minutes, one hour, or an entire day, setting a time limit can help you get out of making this feeling a habit, as it can take the joy out of the new and exciting experiences. If you are feeling homesick, Facetime a friend or family member back home to give you some much needed encouragement, and don’t be afraid to talk to your loved ones about it. Just remember, homesickness is not a feeling associated with regret necessarily, it is experienced by everyone who decides to make this transition. 

What are some ways to get involved in my new community?

Making new friends as an adult can be difficult, even when you are in the comfort of your own home—but what about in a new country? If you are looking to find new friends and social circles, the best way to approach this is to get out and explore your interests. Do you love making pottery? Find a local pottery class. Do you love yoga? Find a local yoga studio. Want to learn a new language? Join a class. Connecting with others on common interests is a great way to expand your social group when you arrive in a new country. Bob Reasso explains that every experience is what you make it, and that stepping outside of your comfort zone to connect with like-minded individuals can be a great way to put yourself out there. Another idea? Volunteering.

Volunteering in your new country is a great way to meet new people and learn about the issues that matter to the local community. Helping you feel connected to your new community, volunteering can also provide you with the general satisfaction of being able to help someone in greater need than yourself. When you give back, you will be surprised how much you can get in return. This experience may also help you meet new people who have similar interests, hobbies, and ideas.

One thing that Bob Reasso suggests is trying to find several communities to connect with through the above-mentioned suggestions. It might be comfortable and easy to find other groups that moved to the country from the same place as you, but this can limit your overall experiences with the local culture and customs. It can be wonderful to surround yourself with people from your home country, as they can share helpful tips and suggestions, but try to ensure it doesn’t hold you back from the local culture and environment you’ve moved into.