Home can have a lot of different definitions. For some people, it can be just a feeling: like “feeling home”. For others, it still represents something more physical like a city, like a country, like a group of people. And I guess the more we travel the more the definition of home is also challenged. It can be everywhere you live, but since today I want to bring you some practical tips, I will focus on the household. By home I mean the flat, the house or the apartment where you have been living until now and are going to have to leave to move to a new one.
The old home, the one we are preparing to leave usually is the symbol of shelter, of protection of the day-to-day life and a stable comfort zone. Whereas the new home, the one we are preparing to move into usually symbolizes all the opposite. It can be the catalyst of subconscious fears of getting out of this comfort zone and symbolizes all these uncertainties related to adapting to a new environment, new social groups, new cultures, and habits. This is probably why it is very stressful to start a new life in a new place. Actually, I’ve read in many articles that moving houses, even when it’s not abroad, is one of the top three sources of stress in people’s lives: The first one being dead, the second one, birth and the third one moving out.
So imagine, when you’re doing it in a country you don’t know. This is why I really I hope these tips that I’m going to share with you are not only helpful to you to move into your new space, but also to adapt to the new environment and new culture.
The first tip: pick a symbolic piece to take with you.
To feel home in a new place, the ideal situation would be to just take all your furniture into the new home. But we know that transporting furniture overseas can be very expensive and a lot of employers don’t include the moving furniture in the relocation package and if they do, there is a limited allowance.
So considering you can’t just replicate your old home in the new place, pick the one-piece or pieces that you can take with you that had the biggest emotional value in the old home, something that would be a happy souvenir for you, but also for your family if you’re traveling with family.
In my personal case, the one piece of furniture that we could take with us was our couch. It is such a comfortable and practical couch, I just love it. But more importantly, it symbolizes for Michael and I, so many happy moments together with our friends, with our family.
However, if your relocation company takes a while to deliver your boxes you might also want to build some patience by taking anything that could be lighter and could be put in your suitcase to help you feel a little closer to home when you arrive in the new country during the first weeks or first months. It could be anything, anything small that gives you a good feeling. For example, pictures, decorative items, books. And if you have children, you might also want to take something that will make them feel secure and comfortable during the transition. Not only their teddy bear for the small ones but also a toy or posters and pictures for the older ones. They might want to make the choice themselves actually.
So pick a symbolic piece or pieces to take with you in your boxes if you have that choice and don’t forget to take something in your suitcase that could make you just remember home in a positive way and help you feel emotionally closer to your home the first weeks of your transition.
The second tip: be patient and build short-term solutions.
So how are we going to do this? The transition and adjustment period in a new country and then in a new home can really change from a person to another, from a situation to another. But the first weeks or months can actually be really stressful for a lot of people. Definitely, we should not underestimate the impact of these first weeks and how they can really impact our feelings or moods and sometimes even our health. So it’s important to try to find small and short-term solutions and build a lot of patience during this time of transition.
Just be patient with yourself and accept to be challenged a little bit at the beginning. However, if it’s too hard, try to exercise this positive attitude and positive thoughts with a strong mindset. What I mean is try to convince yourself to take this challenging period as an adventure, as a journey.
Actually, I can tell you: you could really learn a lot about yourself when you’re taken out of your usual environment and out of your comfort zone. And this could be a really interesting outcome for you even if it’s hard in the present moment. Try to remind yourself that you might learn a lot from this experience and just try to embrace that challenge and what you’re going through. Remember it. Write down what you’re feeling and it will be interesting to see what you’re learning from it.
In the meantime, and for the sake of not totally losing sanity, I would also suggest that you build some short-term solutions that suit you best to feel a little bit at home and comfortable in your new place. Try to identify and make a list of what bothers you most.
What is most difficult to cope with on a daily basis? Then try to find simple solutions that could help you relieve the pressure at least to a minimum. If you are moving with your family, try to do this exercise together: sit down and talk about what’s really difficult for you all right now. What are your challenges individually and as a family? Getting everyone to participate in finding common solutions might also help decrease some of the tensions that moving homes can create in a family.
I remember when I was a kid with my parents and my brother, those were one of the kids’ moments, not knowing how it was going to be in school, (I was a kid then) seeing my parents not knowing how to set up the electricity and how to fix the telephone problem.
So everything was very stressful: The needs of the parents and the needs of the kids.
It is very important to keep communicating about those issues and try to build some fun and talk about those issues and find common solutions.
I would like to give you more practical examples but it’s really not easy. As these issues can be very different from a person to another, from a country to another, from a situation to another. But let me try to give you some ideas here that could inspire you:
– Use bedsheets from your old home, from your old room. This is something that actually I’ve been doing and it was really helpful because I find sleeping/going to bed is one of the most difficult things to do actually in a new country. You’re supposed to feel secure and if you are not in your usual environment you don’t feel secure. And my personal case, using those same sheets felt actually really good for me.
– Another thing that worked for me –and I hope you can also use– is actually buying the same furniture that you had. Ikea is a great company for that. We might debate the quality of the furniture but it’s a great way actually to duplicate your new home with small pieces of furniture if you couldn’t take your furniture with you.
And this is what I do. I have my little small table where I do my makeup and, wherever I go, I buy exactly the same “Mica” model just to make me feel I have at least one little routine in my morning that didn’t change.
– Get some plants. Live decoration always helps to make any empty space look a little bit inviting.
– Also, try to invite new friends for a casual and friendly pizza party. Even if you’re still living with your boxes or don’t have any furniture yet, do it camping style. Just start connecting with people in a casual way, in a friendly way that will help you fill your home with joy and with new energies and positive energies while at the same time trying to build connections with new people around you. That’s actually a trick that really helped me a lot.
– Light some candles and make your home cozier in the evenings with a bit of music. You can even dance and just create new fun memories. Create fun memories in your new home in order to stop thinking about the old ones. Take pictures to remember those new moments, and see them again. Have a proof that it is possible to create new moments in a new home.
The third tip: avoid comparing the past and the present.
Lots of frustration can be built up when trying to duplicate past habits in a new environment. That is probably why one of the biggest challenges of relocation is giving up old habits and building new ones. Comparing a new home with an old one only makes it worse.
You will always find something that worked better in the past and not so much in the present but by focusing on the present you might find more positive energy to deal with challenges and creativity to find solutions. And by focusing on the present you might start seeing the new bright sides. You might have lost some advantages, but you will discover that there are new ones too.
In my case, there are two particular things that I really, really cherished a lot in our old apartment, the nice comfortable couch that I mentioned previously and a beautiful tree that I could see from the living room window. We could take the couch with us but obviously not the tree. This tree was really important to me. I would admire it for a few minutes every day and it was for me just like a little meditation spot, a little corner of paradise. In our new home in New York, we found a great view of Manhattan. And yet at the beginning, I couldn’t enjoy this view, I just kept thinking about my small little window in Vienna and that amazing tree, I just couldn’t accept to enjoy this view on Manhattan because it didn’t symbolize the same thing as Vienna.
I was really comparing Vienna and NY all the time and one of the ways I was doing it was through the view I had through my window. But Vienna and New York are totally incomparable. It’s just not possible to compare apples with oranges. And, I really had to make my mind to stop doing that. And it was only when I stopped my sentences every time I thought I was going for one of those comparisons that I started to embrace my present. So it is very important to listen to yourself and listen to what you’re saying. Even ask your friends for feedback of how you’re expressing your challenges. If you see that you’re expressing your challenges too often by comparing them to the past, then you might want to try to exercise a way to express those challenges without mentioning the advantages you had in the past. If you don’t do that, then you will never see the bright side of what’s happening in your present.
The fourth tip: Project yourself in the future home.
Projecting yourself in your future home can be very helpful in one hand to anticipate the challenges you might have before you leave, but also to project solutions and positive outcomes in the future.
I realized that one of the other reasons why it was particularly difficult to adapt at the beginning was that I obviously refused to project myself in this new apartment. I refused to do it before I left Vienna and I even refused to do it in the first weeks or months in Manhattan. It was probably because it was too hard to give up on a home I was emotionally attached to. And for me, it was like a bit of a betrayal of moving on, but things got really better only when Michael and I started planning on how to make this new home our home and how to improve the things we didn’t like about it.
So my advice would be to take the time to make research before you leave. Get some pictures of the new apartment, of the new surroundings, if it’s possible. Ask previous tenants questions, get information on the neighborhood, prepare to move and mentally project yourself in the future home. Try to picture how to place the furniture and where to hang your pictures, what style would inspire you to decorate your new home. What could you get, what improvements could you make to change the things that you don’t like? The more information you have before you leave, the more you can try to project yourself in that new home.
But what happens if you don’t even have a home yet? If you arrive in a new country living in a provisional apartment or a residential hotel or something like that can be actually quite stressful and can even extend your adjustment period. No doubt about that. However, the mental exercise of projecting yourself in the future applies also to the new city. If you get warmer with your new town, it might get easier to adapt to a new home and deal with those emotions that you can have at the beginning in a new place. So imagine yourself in the city, make research on the activities you might be interested in, the areas where you would like to hang out or live in. Make a list of things you would like to do when you arrive.
Actually, make a list of things that have nothing to do with just searching for a home. If you only do that, you might really get frustrated and not even be productive in finding a home. So make sure that while you’re looking for a home in the new city, you also make a list of all the other things you want to do. Take a few hours a week to do that, to just have some excursions and fun.
Although we cannot anticipate everything, preparing as much as possible before arriving to new places is very important in order to avoid any disappointments.
The fifth tip: prepare to adjust your routines and be flexible.
Being adaptable. Isn’t that what traveling across the world is all about? Yeah, but easier to say than to do, right? Human beings are built on the principles of routines and having to modify them can really be challenging.
In my case, for instance, I really don’t like doing laundry. Actually, I hate doing laundry. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because I really don’t like the whole ironing and folding part and it made me hate it worse when I realized that in our new home, the washing machine was not in the apartment. We had to go up and down the stairs to be able to do our laundry. So can you imagine my frustration when I realized we had to do that? First I was like “I’m sure I can manage. There’s a space in my bathroom. I will install a washing machine in the bathroom” But we didn’t get the authorization to do that by the building board. So I got even more frustrated because not only I couldn’t have a washing machine where I wanted, but it also felt like, “what is this situation where you can’t even do what you want in your own apartment”?
It didn’t take me long to realize that my reaction again was a symptom of just not wanting to let go of the old habits in the old home. For instance, in this case, I realized that dry cleaning was the standard in New York. There are dry cleaners in every corner of New York streets. They even come to your place, pick up the dirty clothes and deliver the clean ones at your door. Which means: no more ironing and folding.
So if we really truly accept to adjust our routines, we will suddenly realize there are more options. Options that we might have not even thought about and that might even have better outcomes than our old routines.
Also, remember the benefit of traveling the world and moving to new countries is the incredible skills and flexibility we get to develop by adapting to new habits and new beliefs. That’s the whole point about traveling the world, isn’t it?
The sixth tip: put things into perspective and be grateful.
Expressing gratefulness is actually the first step to happiness. Happiness is the expression of recognizing the good things of life, isn’t it? And it’s all about being able to appreciate what you have and what you had according to where you are and where you were.
Going back to the fairly simple example of the washing machine I gave you previously, I also realized that the vast majority of apartments in New York City are extremely small with very little comfort, just a tiny space for open kitchen, no washing machine, not even in the building basement. And adding to that, the rent is extremely high. So those who live in these apartments have to take from their very little free time to go to the laundromat sometime after a long week of work. So that made me realize how fortunate I was and how I had taken all my privileges as a given.
It’s very important to compare what we have now with what the majority of people have in the country where we live, and it actually turns out to make us more humble people and to start enjoying the little things of life. Putting our complaints and challenges into perspective can save a lot of disappointments and more importantly, lead to full enjoyment of every moment in a new home.
With all these tips, I hope that you are now ready to fully embrace your new home, your new life, and throw a great house warming party. Don’t forget to send me the invitation!
By Amel Derragui – Transcription of the podcast: “TN2: How to leave the home you loved.”
Amel Derragui, is business and marketing coach, a speaker and the founder of Tadem Nomads.
She helps entrepreneurs across the world take their business to the next level, focus and simplify their processes with a strong vision and marketing strategies that fit to their resources and goals.
Originally, she comes from Algeria, she became Austrian by marriage. She was born in India and lived as a child and as an adult in 8 countries and 13 cities.