8 Steps for Expatriates Settling into Your New Country

Nancy B. Alston

1. Celebrate your Achievement

You have arrived at last! Your hard work has got you here, how many people have told you how lucky you are, they wish they had the opportunity to have such adventure! Its not luck, it has been your perseverance, your hard work, your determination that has got you here. Give yourself a huge pat on the back, you did it, through all the challenges and changes the decisions and goodbyes you got through it all. Be sure to take time to realize how much you have achieved. Celebrate your success! With the friends and contacts you have made along the way, celebrate with people who understand and are happy you have achieved your dream. In this time, remember all the reasons you wanted to move, what you will gain, how life will be better, what improvements you are moving towards. Write them down, keep the list to refer to.

2. Be Prepared for More Hard Work

Now its time to get back to using those skills you utilized to get here. You thought the getting here was tough, the next few months will bring a new set of challenges equally as tough if not harder. Things you did not anticipate or imagine will raise issues and frustrations. The good news is the more prepared you are it, the easier it will be. Things you were not even aware of you knew about from ‘home’; getting the ingredients for gravy, how your mail is delivered to your house, what to do with garbage, what to write where on a cheque. Small details, when you are already outside the comfort zone can seem overwhelming. Having to ask someone how to do normal everyday tasks, can leave you feeling obligated and silly.

There are 4 stages to competence:

1. unconscious incompetence (you are not aware of what’s to be done or how to do it)

2. conscious incompetence (you begin to know what needs doing but don’t know how to do it)

3. conscious competence (you know how to do it right but takes effort to do each time)

4. unconscious competence (you do it right without thinking about it)

In your previous home you were at stage 4, now you have moved back to stage 1, and as you discover things are done differently, then as you ask and learn how to do new things you move through 2 and 3, and with practice become familiar, then get back to stage 4 over a period of time. Just remember you will get to Stage four again, just keep going…

3. Set yourself daily targets

There will be a growing list to things to do as you begin settling in. Remember tasks may take longer than they did, as you need time to find out how to do them as well as actually getting things done, set yourself realistic targets of what you want to achieve each day. As you check them off, focus on your achievements, how much more you can do, rather than what you still have to do. Break large tasks down into manageable chunks, that way you can deal with each chunk one at a time, its less daunting that way. Also make time to do something enjoyable each day to reward yourself, and remind yourself why you came.

4. Take enough money

Having done your preparation work before leaving you will have a good idea how much money you are going to need, and for how long. This really seems an obvious point, but worthy of mention, as the security will reduce the pressures in the early stages of settling in. When you know you have time to take a break and get out to enjoy your new country it can make all the difference. When you know you have 3 months to find a job it gives you a date to focus on having achieved the goal, you can create actions that fit within the timescales, not feeling like you have to do everything immediately.

5. Volunteer

People walking along the street are not going to somehow miraculously sense you are new to the area and don’t know anyone, they are not going to come knocking at your door. You have to get out and meet them. Offering to volunteer at a local charity, community event, hospital, school whatever, is a great way to meet people, get work experience, learn about local communities and maybe learn new skills. Volunteers tend to be friendly, outgoing welcoming groups of people who are grateful to those willing to lend a hand. Its surprising what you can learn about your new country from casual conversations, what opportunities you can create for yourself whilst helping others too.

6. Get to know the community

Learn about what’s going on, pick up the local paper, read flyer’s, free publications, even if they are not what you normally read, get a feel for what’s important to local people. You can use your new topical knowledge to strike up conversations, get a ‘feel’ for the local neighborhood. Is this somewhere you want to settle? What opportunities for activities are there? What do you want to get involved with? Study notice boards, at the library, supermarkets, you will learns lots of little tip bits from what is posted there. Go along to community events, create as many opportunities to meet people and become comfortable in the community. You will meet people every time, not all will become long term friendships but you will be building the foundations and it is amazing what chance encounters can produce.

7. Get Out and About

Go for a walk, or get in the car and take a drive around the neighborhood. Become familiar with your surroundings, get to know the short cuts, know what shops are good for what. It will make life easier, help you feel more secure, and expand your comfort zone more quickly. Get maps, or follow your nose whatever works for you, make it into an adventure. Enjoy looking at the different styles of houses, the architecture and all the things that made you fall in love with this new place. It will be useful for noting areas you like, good locations near parks, schools when you are looking to move, buy or rent. You will get a sense of where you are within the immediate area, get your bearings and when you return home you will feel more like you are in familiar surroundings. Expand your horizons, expand your comfort zone, it will soon feel like home.

8. Give it Time

Kind of a contradiction, for settling in quickly! But there can be a tendency to want to establish yourself and get everything back to ‘normal’ after so long in upheaval during the move. You want that feeling of familiarity and security back. How long did you take to build up your familiarity, your friends, your life back at your previous home? Did you even consciously think about doing it? It just happened… Take each day as it comes, celebrate the new knowledge you have each day, the new friends you have made, the opportunities to learn new things. By allowing yourself the time, you will be more relaxed and likely to notice opportunities more readily. How often have you been trying so hard to remember something, and as soon as you stop trying to remember the answer just pops into your head. Whether it’s making friends, finding your way around, the more you relax and don’t force it to happen the better it will be.

Good luck, I wish you the very best in your new life, enjoy it, you deserve it!

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