Even for the most experienced expat, relocating to a new country can be an emotional rollercoaster. The first week or two can be fun as you learn about your new location. In fact, it might start to feel like you are on vacation. However, as time moves on, you will need to do the actual work of settling in and finding community in your new country.
Having solo traveled, moved abroad, and transitioned between eight international locations, I have a few tips from my personal experiences to help you start integrating into a new country.
Use Expat Meetups to your Advantage
Expat meetups have their advantages and disadvantages. They were a vital part of my community during my time living in Singapore, as I struggled to integrate into the local community and build relationships with locals. I also found that many locals returning from other countries were also part of these expat groups, which helped provide a quasi-level of integration into society.
Expat groups are also great for meeting other expats from other countries instead of your own. Let’s say you speak German and moved to a Spanish-speaking country. Find a Spanish expat group that could be beneficial for your language development and cultural understanding. There are other expat meetings designed for local tourists, hobbies, family-oriented to set-up playdates for children, and more.
Yes, some expat groups have the image of being a social hotspot for partying and just fun with no other added benefit. Those meetups are targeted at short-term visitors, whose focus might be on socializing during their time in a country. If you join, you may meet some great people, but know they might not be there long-term.
Try to find meetups where those who attend have a long-term commitment to being in the country, meet regularly, and are consistent. In these types of meetup spaces, you’re more likely to meet a community that you can join and thrive in for the duration of your stay.
Socialize via Sporting Activities
Sporting activities are an excellent way to meet people in a new setting. You are already off the curve as you are interacting with people with whom you already have something in common — sport.
Let’s keep it real, if there is a language difference or barrier, you could use sporting activities to learn or practice the language. You will also need to spend a bit of time observing how anything works, such as movements, rotations, or sequences for the classes or specific sport. It can be fun too, as your local teammate will have a good laugh at your mistakes. It can be a great way to stay in shape and fit while making new friendships.
Depending on the type of sports activity, it may easily lend itself to conversation or socializing. Still, if you join a team sport, a more interactive gym like Crossfit, or attend an exercise class regularly, you will find opportunities to start conversations with your team or classmates.
Walk, Explore and Meet New People
Put on your sneakers, and let’s go around the neighborhood or local walking paths. It can help you explore what is happening in your local community. Walk around the streets of your local neighborhood to get your bearings. Knowing your local area can help you feel settled and impact how your new location can feel like home.
Meet other walkers, especially in the mornings and evenings, and improve your health. It has the added benefit of people getting to know that you live in the area. You can start building a friendship with the people in your immediate locale. Knowing these neighbors could be a lifesaver as they could check on you, especially if you have not been seen for a while on your walking routine. Learning your neighborhood by foot allows you to find hidden restaurants or cafes; you could also discover close services like a doctor, pharmacy, and bookstore that you would otherwise not have known existed so close to home.
Switch Your Mindset
Your mindset is a crucial asset in integration into a new country. You cannot undo any missed steps in planning, but you can worry less. Let the process flow and start enjoying your new home.
Do not spend time feeding your frustrations, challenges, or even how things operate differently; it robs you of the opportunities to integrate and start living. Yes, it is okay to be a bit nervous and have apprehension, but you made the leap abroad for a reason. Rely on your reason, purpose, and goals for making the move.
Yes, you would have liked to learn more about the language before you left, but it did not happen – start the immersion process and learn. And yes, the flight to get back home is long and could be costly, but it is not like you will be going home every week, so why not plan for the next trip home accordingly.
Ahhh, you are worried about what your family and friends back home are still saying and thinking about your global move, whether for a new career position or to become a digital entrepreneur. You still opted to leave despite their comments, concerns, or discouragement, so let it go. Start focusing on the present, which is, that your move is complete, and you can now make this your home. Remember, your family and friends are home and comfortable, and your being abroad is not disrupting their comfort. So why are you letting their voices impact you? It is time you became comfortable in your own locale.
My advice would be to worry less, stop thinking about what others might think, and concentrate on your own integration and journey. By incorporating these small tips into your move planning, and after you have arrived, you will find that you are better able to cope with your new surroundings.
If you have been thinking of taking the leap to move abroad for a career or otherwise, do your due diligence by creating a transition plan, independently or with a like-minded group, then make a move. Do not be hard on yourself as life at home or abroad is a journey with paths and detours. Of course, making friends as you age can get more challenging, but do not be deterred. You have what it takes to build your community wherever you go in the world.