10 tips while moving to a foreign country

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

Moving to a new country is both nerve wracking and exciting. Possibilities of new opportunities, culture, people, environment can be both scary and exciting. Cling to that excitement coupled with nervousness as tightly as you can as moving out is a big step. Whether you are venturing out for a new job or moving in with your significant other, further studies, or better lifestyle, the following pointers are good to keep in mind. Before the inevitable panic hits you, take a breather and read these, they might not help you completely, but will aid in adjusting to your new surroundings. The bottom line is that the more flexible you are, the more you are willing to adapt to whatever comes your way and to change as the situations demand, the easier and more enjoyable it is to live in a new country.

I had to move from India to the UAE, post marriage. For me, moving to a new country was infused with nerves and excitement. Nerves, as I was leaving behind my family and moving out of my comfort zone coupled with the fact that I couldn’t take everything I wanted to owing to baggage policies.

To all of you, planning to make the move - Take a deep breath, this will only hurt a little.

Returning to Your Native Country

The first and most important thing to keep in mind while relocating is to be aware of the amount of time you would take to travel back to your country of origin.  You need to be mentally prepared incase of emergency situations back at home, and whether you would be able to be there when needed. Also when you realize that the country you moved into is not where you would want to settle down forever, and that you would want to move back to your country is both financially and emotionally taxing.

Securing Housing

Having a home away from home is very important for emotional and mental well-being. Initially staying in a hostel, someone’s couch may suffice if you are a student or a bachelor. However it won’t be long before you need a more permanent abode. Expecting an apartment with the best view, and amenities may be an initial fantasy. It’s always good to not have expectations of your new ‘home’, as that helps you settle in faster. Once you know the city and neighborhood better, you could opt for a house of your dreams.

Language and culture

Communication is something we take for granted especially when we are in our own country, but when you are in a foreign country you might not be able to walk right up to someone and express yourself. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the language. Since English is a global language, it’s easier to communicate. However, it also depends on where you might be staying. Its important to also gauge the cultural norms associated with certain countries. Certain norms may be a culture shock to you.  However it’s important to respect their traditions and try to absorb their culture, or at least respect it and be tolerant towards it. In UAE, it’s very common to see people praying on the highways or in the middle of the road. During their holy month, they do follow certain rules, which everyone has to adhere by.

When I moved to UAE, I noticed that unlike in India the traffic rules are strict and are you are liable for punishment if found guilty. I read up on traffic rules – do’s and don’ts, which helped me immensely.

It would help to immerse yourself in local culture. Knowing what could offend the locals is always going to be helpful.

Making New Friends is Tough

Ask me about making friends. I was initially told that in the UAE it’s each one to his own, and that you cannot be too friendly. It is very easy to make friends in your formative school /college years. You were all the same age, participated in the same activities, and grew up in the same area. You had classrooms and daily interactions to turn strangers into friends. However when you move to a new country, it is different. You are out in the real world and meeting people in a new city means taking on a whole new approach to friend making. If you are working at a company, then your friends will likely be your new coworkers. If not, then the whole "friend thing" becomes a lot more complicated.

Don't retreat into a cocoon of loneliness and despair over not having friends. I found some interesting ways to connect with people. Internet topped my list; yes I know it’s the seediest place to look for friendship to blossom. You could do a quick search for bloggers writing about your area, you could try local meet up groups, expat get-together etc. However make sure to meet up at a public space, for the first couple of times. Joining a local organization catering to your interest or hobbies or a skill you would like to cultivate is also a good option.

Travelling options

Make sure you know how to get around in your city. Check out for options, different modes of transport and one that is feasible for you. Travelling is Dubai is relatively easy thanks to public transport, but at times it does pinch the purse. So I looked for other options and viola, I found a better mode of transport to and fro from work.

When I first travelled by myself in public transport I did a victory dance (in my head). It can be a daunting task, familiarizing yourself with bus routes, carrying correct change in foreign currency, or even buying a ticket or refilling your card. However, just ask for help.

Always carry your travel documents with you (Passport/visa).

Help is always given to those who ask for it’  (Yes I’m a Harry Potter enthusiast)

Explore your neighborhood

Get used to the places around your home. Check for nearby hospitals, police stations, malls, movie theatre etc. Take a stroll and find out where the restaurants are around your area. Don’t be afraid to get lost, you can always take a taxi home or ask for directions. This is the best way to learn any new place, foreign or not. Figuring out where the locals buy their groceries will save you tons of money and make you feel so much more at home. Check out for deals/offers/sales in your nearby supermarket. Check for nearby places where you can indulge in on weekends.

Stay connected to your Family and friends

Getting a local number should be your priority number 1. Its important to stay connected to your family and friends especially when you are in a new place and you need that support system Technology will be an invaluable tool as you try to stay connected to friends and family, do business, and get things done from your new country. With some adjustment and planning technology will be your best friend. Check for Wi-Fi options both at your residence and office, and also at nearby restaurants.

Pick one or two of your favorite items and take them with you

Having something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy can help immensely. It could be anything from your favorite book to a stuffed animal or your family photo album. Just anything that would remind you of home. Carry that special something you cherish to remind you of home.

Give yourself permission to be homesick

It’s natural to feel homesick and to miss your family and friends. Don’t be too harsh, allow yourself some time to heal and get used to your new setting. Instead of ignoring your feeling, try recognizing and accepting it, that will make it a whole lot easier for you. The first few months in a new place will be scary, hectic, difficult and a whirlwind of emotions.  Always remember that you are experiencing something new and wonderful no matter how much it makes you want to cry, scream, or rip your hair out. You’re already here so just be grateful that you have the opportunity to see the world and experience a different culture, something millions can only dream about. Always bear in mind to be friendly and polite towards new people and new cultures and you will have no problem fitting in and making tons of friends.

Food habits

You may not necessarily enjoy the cuisine in your new place. However do not make it obvious, as what you dislike may be of immense cultural importance to the locals. Also, finding certain products that you enjoy may be a little difficult initially. Try and find options to make your food more appealing and appetising to your taste buds. Adapting to a new country especially with a different cuisine will be very difficult, as food is a primary need. However, being adventurous with food will help you discover local cuisine and you may also end up liking it.

The more flexible you are the more easy it will be for you!

Tinu Menachery

Tinu Menachery is a restless soul. She loves trying new things that don't involve water, as her hydrophobic self is yet to overcome her fear. She loves talking, and can speak for hours together. Drop a mail, if you want her to talk about a particular topic. We all have 'blank mind' days don't we?

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