What noone tells you about moving overseas

Moving countries is an exciting adventure, the chance to be who we want to be, to try new things and get out of our comfort zone … so why do we feel so down?

It’s a lot of change:

  • Even if you are moving somewhere where the culture and language are similar, there are small things that can make every day a challenge and it’s easy to feel like you’re failing.
  • When you are uncomfortable in your new city, or even if you are moving home after an extended period, it can make you think that everything back home really was great and this was all a huge mistake.

Your support system is on the other side of the world:

  • Sometimes we forget how easy it is to just pick up the phone or text friends and family when things are tough.  Being in a new country, and potentially in an awkward timezone, can make us feel alone with no one to turn to who will understand.

You’ve escaped your old life but you are still you:

  • Travelling and trying new things is exciting but any internal struggles you are facing don’t vanish with a new environment.  If you were unhappy at home, a new city or country isn’t going to change you.

I struggled with moving to London, moving back to New Zealand, and moving back to London for the second time.  I had heard about Culture shock and Reverse culture shock but was in no way ready for how hard it would hit me.  Here are the ways I coped through six months of adjustment before I started to feel comfortable:

Focus on the positives in your new home:

  • It can be easy to romanticise how amazing things were at home and start planning your escape back to what you know.  It’s ok to feel this way, but when you start making mental plans to book that plane ticket focus on why you are here.  Is it to see the beautiful sites, advance your career, support a family member?  These positive thoughts will keep you focused on the adventure and excitement you had when planning the move.
  • Start making plans to see the new country you’re in, or your own country if you are moving home.  Having plans and exciting things to look forward to is a great way to shift the focus to next trip or event and less on the countdown till you get to go home.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive trip away either.  Checking out a free museum or taking a walk in a new part of the town lets you explore and see something new in the same way as a big trip away.

Reach out to people:

  • As an introvert who is happy to be alone, I found this the hardest.  It’s easy to come home from work after a long week and dwell on the negative but it only makes things worse.  Reaching out to people can help you feel less alone.  A mixture of talking to a friend in person and meeting others in the same boat worked best for me.  I went to Kiwis in London and Britbound events to not only explore my new home but to do it with others who understood where I was at.  Everyone needs support!
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to people or worry that you are bothering them.  People, especially friends who care about you, want to help and they want to see you happy.

Be kind to yourself:

  • Realise that it is totally normal for everything to feel uncomfortable and awkward but also that it will pass.  Everyone goes through an adjustment period and it is not a reflection of how unprepared you were or how you aren’t coping.  Let go of the assumptions that you will slot into a new environment and a new country straight away and relax.

 

It’s time to be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack.  Good things take time.