Choosing your home abroad
Now it is time to start talking about home abroad and before getting into very practical details and tips about how to make your walls look just like what you want and need, I want to officially inaugurate this blog with very serious aspects of life abroad.
To do so, I want to share with you important findings of a study conducted by The Interchange Institute (interchangeinstitute.org), Report: At Home Abroad: How Design and Architecture Influence Overseas Living) because I always believed that a functional and beautiful home is a reflection of an organized beautiful mind that translates into a successful life and this study proves I am right!
When I first found The Interchange Instituteand the work developed by its founder, Dr. Anne Copeland*, it really had a great impact on me. This study in particular, showing how a home can have a great impact in the context of a mobile life, was a great inspiration and an invaluable source of takeaways.
The thing is: when we are well settled we perform better, we feel obviously happier and -believe it or not- our mental health is positively affected by feeling settled in a home. As simple as that: better home feeling, better mental health.
Location, location, location. How many times have we heard this when looking for a place to live? Well, Dr. Copeland shows a significant finding in this study for expat families: although location is surely important, décor and the quality of the neighborhood proved to be even more important in this context.
Another amazing finding: the layout of the house, more than its actual size, can have a tremendous impact in the dynamics of the family, bringing its members to have more interaction or spending more time alone in separate spaces.
In spite of your culture and background characteristics, family interaction and the ease of entertainment usually are essential for a successful settling in a new country so be open minded for open spaces. Probably you can think your house will never be really tidy but certainly will be cozier and with creative solutions it can still look fabulous.
Kitchen, living, dining and office spaces together will surely bring the family closer while living abroad.
When everything looks unfamiliar (type of floors, windows, doors, shutters, heaters, etc…) it is even more important to have photos, artwork and personal objects displayed as quickly as possible. But on the other hand, it is important to know that living in a house that is more typical of the local host culture helps a lot with the long term adaptation. The report offers a great takeaway about this particular issue: “a culturally-typical home can offer access to a deeper cultural experience”. Another very good point to have in mind when you are looking for your place abroad.
Finally, let me share with you my humble opinion. Living abroad can be the most wonderful experience, which is impossible to be described in words. While the world becomes our home, expanding our horizons and opportunities, the walls that guard our sleep, that protect our weaknesses and allow us to rest should be cared with even more attention. Do not hesitate to give to your home as much thoughtfulness as you give to your social life, career and school.
* Dr. Copeland is a licensed psychologist with expertise in cultural transition and clinical psychology. She has directed several research studies on expatriate families’ experience, including multinational in-depth analyses of the social, familial, and personal aspects of moving to a new country.