Living abroad can be one of the most exciting and amazing adventures that we can live. No questions about it. The experiences we can live and learn while being overseas are just too big to put into words, but the relocation shifts tend to be tough and they can make us feel extremely unsettled, disoriented, and even shocked to enjoy the moment while going through them. The first steps are never the easiest.
The truth is, while the whole experience can be amazing, settling in can play deep with our emotions. As soon as we arrive in our new place, post-relocation adaptation starts. How long does it take to settle into a new house and get used to living in a new city and make new connections? Nobody can possibly know that with certainty.
Hopefully, here are a dozen ideas on how to adapt to a new environment to help you make your first steps abroad with greater confidence. So that you can feel in full control of your life again.
1) Safety for the entire family. Although your realtor should have helped you to make sure that the place is safe for the loved ones around you, you know better. Only your experience with your family’s specific needs and your new familiarity with the place will give you the tools to make sure that all basic needs are taken proper care of. You won’t be able to fully relax in your new place unless you know for a fact that it is secure enough. It is good to change the locks on all outside doors. A burglar alarm is also an option, so consult a specialist. Check to see if all doors and windows close properly. Purchase a fire-extinguisher per floor and consider installing smoke detectors in each room.
2) Unpack as you arrive. It can sound obvious but believe me, this is very important: unpacking your stuff should be your first priority. Seeing things that you know so well again will give a strong sense of familiarity in a place that is still entirely strange to you.
3) Take a rest. If you need, use your new home as a temporary hideout. It is okay to hide temporarily when everything outside feels so unfamiliar and strange. It will help you to recharge your batteries. Just put a date to “get out of the cave”.
4) Set up a daily routine. Once you are ready, a daily routine can surely help create a feeling of peace. Look out for a few places in your neighborhood— a café, bakery and newsstand, for instance — and try to visit them regularly. After each visit and a friendly smile to the locals, you will feel a sense of belonging.
5) Make your bedroom your sanctuary. Exploring a new city can be exhausting, especially if there are language differences involved. Make sure that your body and soul are rewarded at the end of the day by making your bedroom the ultimate sanctuary. Soft lighting, lovely bedding, a scented candle and cozy slippers can do the job.
6) Create your own zone. Not only your bedroom should be in your top list. Excuse me. After moving to a new city or country, it is very important to create a living space for yourself, a place for YOU. Somewhere where you can go whenever you need to be alone, to spend time doing activities that you enjoy and to reflect on your journey abroad. It could be a comfy chair to read your favorite book. Or a peaceful yoga spot. Or even a perfect office area in your bedroom full of inspiration and mood boards. Anywhere that inspires happiness is a winner!
7) Display your treasures. Personal items become even more important when you’re in a new place. Secret shared here: Upon entering someone’s home for the first time, it’s not the art (no matter how impressive) that captures my attention, it’s the family photos. Don’t you agree?
8) Take care of your diet. Try as much as you can home cooking and plenty of comfort food. Buy yourself a recipe book or ask your Mum for her secrets and have some easy-to-make meals on hand for when you crave the taste of your native country. Food has the power to take you right back home.
9) Keep connected with people back home …but not all the time. Take advantage of the digital era. But remember, connecting with long-distance loved ones should not substitute getting out there and building a satisfying and interesting life in your new city/country.
10) If you feel like it, reinvent your style. This is the perfect time and place. You can work towards a better version of yourself. In many ways. Why not take this as an opportunity to try out a new look? Rethink your wardrobe and go shopping. Besides, shopping is a great excuse to get out there and explore a new neighborhood.
11) Make friends with nature. Gardening can be very soothing and send you good signals. Whenever you plant something green, even a potted garden on your balcony, it makes a statement that this is a place you plan to stay in for a while.
12) Start collecting beautiful memories. Of course, there are some places where this is easier than others, but every place hides its own charm. Grab your phone and head out on a daily walk, snapping pictures of the little things that catch your eye. You can even make it more interesting by challenging yourself — taking photos of a single color, or finding the first letter of your name, or a heart shape. The creative project will force you to loosen up, and you may end up with some “frameworthy” shots to create a home gallery.
These are just a dozen ideas. Some of which I have collected in my own journey. And some others that dear expat friends have shared with me. I am sure you will collect dozens more. As I was putting these ideas down on paper, I was also reflecting on the fact that there are many people in the world that never have the chance to go on a journey… What could be better than to embrace the chance life gives us every step of the way?
I hope you find these ideas useful to go through your adaptation the next time you find yourself in new surroundings. As you design your own journey, share back any others that might have helped you. And please, never forget that while beginnings can be tough, each step hides a useful learning. I wish you the best in your own journey. Bom voyage!