It’s never easy to move to a new country, especially one where the culture is vastly different than what you are used to. Concepts such as immigration and international relocation have become increasingly common in the modern age, with developed nations such as the United States a popular destination for citizens across the globe.
Still, between 2.2 million and 6.8 million U.S. citizens are known to have themselves according to 2017 figures, as some look for new pastures during retirement, some relocate for the purpose of work, and others decide to travel for school or self-fulfilment.
Whatever the reasons behind your move, relocating overseas can be extremely challenging, particularly from a financial and emotional perspective. In the post below, we’ll consider the 11 commandments of moving abroad, as you look to embrace new opportunities and immerse yourself in a new and unfamiliar culture.
As we’ve already said, issues such as international relocation and economic migration are extremely relevant in the current political climate, particularly since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
This means that some will continue to talk about international relocation in negative terms, which in turn may dampen your enthusiasm for the move and discourage you from taking the plunge.
However, if you’ve made a strategic decision to relocate abroad and determined that the benefits outweigh the potential issues (whatever your motivation may be), it’s important that you do not allow such negativity to undermine your best-laid plans.
In this respect, positivity and clarity of thought must be your key watchwords when relocating abroad, as you look to maintain your focus, do not allow negative comments or attitudes to shift your outlook. Surrounding yourself with positive people in the first place is central to this, as while you always want to hear a diversity of thoughts and opinions you must engage with individuals whose minds are progressive and open to new opportunities.
On the subject of your mindset, there’s also a pressing need for you to remain flexible and agile when relocating abroad.
This applies to both your preparation and the transition period that takes place when you arrive at your chosen destination, as these experiences will vary considerably depending on your reasons for moving and your choice of international location.
When it comes to the former, an agile mindset will enable you to adapt to the setbacks that occur while planning your relocation, from organizing the logistics of your move to securing accommodation in time for your arrival. Remember, even the best plans can go awry, so you’ll need to manage your expectations and adapt positively to any changes that you encounter.
The same principle applies when adapting to a new culture and way of life, as this takes time, patience, and a willingness to learn quickly from your mistakes. Even in an increasingly multicultural world, there are subtle nuances that separate global cultures, and a flexible outlook will ensure that you learn and adapt to these quickly.
Prior to your move, you’ll also need to gain a deep and realistic insight into your new host country.
Like we say, multiculturalism may have helped to blur the lines between independent cultures, but each country will have its own unique heritage and prevailing way of life. This will have a direct impact on every conceivable aspect of everyday life, from the clothes that you wear to the way in which you interact with locals.
The key to this is conducted detailed and informed research, which charts a country’s history and its standing in the current world order. This prevents you from forming an impression of your new home based on outdated perceptions and clumsy notions of nationality, which can lead to significant issues when you initially move abroad.
Instead, you can relocate with a clear understanding of your new host country, and one that is based on knowledge, insight and relevant, real-world observations.
In the western world, the pace of technological advancement has made patience an increasingly sparse commodity. This is reflected by the demands that we place on others and the devices that we use, as we’re increasingly accustomed our creature comforts and things being done almost as soon as we’ve requested them.
When relocating east to a less developed economy, however, you may find that these things can no longer be taken for granted. More specifically, the locals may have a diminished sense of urgency that compels them to complete tasks at a slower pace, while the amenities and the facilities that you use may fall below the standards that you expect.
And there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.
Remember, we are creatures of habit and we only know what we know until we expand our outlook.
It’s crucial that you prepare for this before completing your move, and manage your expectations as you look to grow accustomed to your new surroundings.
This will help with the challenging transition period, while hopefully preventing you from enduring any strained or unpleasant interactions with the locals!
As we’ve already said, relocating abroad can be extremely challenging both from a financial and an emotional perspective.
This sense of difficulty can be compounded further in instances when things go awry, and it’s easy for feelings of doubt and anxiety to build in a relatively short period of time.
However, a strong and omnipresent sense of humor can help with this, as it prevents you from taking yourself or the process too seriously and makes it possible to seek out positivity even during challenging periods.
The same principle applies when you first arrive abroad, as you’ll need to prepare for the fact that making social faux-pas and linguistic mistakes are part and parcel of adapting to a new culture. By laughing with others and seeing the funny side of these instances, you’ll feel empowered and ultimately transform a potentially negative cultural experience into a positive one.
The issue of social and cultural interaction is an important consideration, as this will dictate your day-to-day experience when you first move abroad.
In order to facilitate positive experiences, you’ll need to make a concerted effort to understand the host country perspective in any given scenario. After all, you’ll be talking to individuals that are likely to have enjoyed entirely different upbringings to your own, and this will leave with an alternative view on a host of potential issues.
By comprehending these viewpoints and taking them on-board when you first engage with locals, you can participate in open and positive conversations that hopefully serve as an entry point into new and exciting relationships.
Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of clashing regularly with locals without every really understanding and allowing for your differences.
While you may well know that you’re in for a challenging period of adjustment when you first move overseas, this alone is not enough to ensure that you negate this. In fact, you’ll need to plan strategically for this transition, by considering the various stages of your adjustment and expecting it to last for at least six months or so.
We’ve broken down these phases below, so you can prepare for them and develop viable coping mechanisms.
When attempting to cope during the formative phases of your relocation, it’s absolutely imperative that you identify viable ways of maintaining your enthusiasm.
This is particularly important from a social perspective, as there may be times where you’re alone in your new apartment and develop a tremendous sense of isolation from your fellow man.
To overcome these feelings, you’ll need a robust and fortified mindset, and one that is constantly striving to maintain a keen sense of optimism. Socialising with your new colleagues is an excellent way to achieve this, as this helps to maintain contact with the outside world while also building positive and long-standing relationships.
Joining a local meetup.com group in your new city is also a worthwhile measure, as this exposes you to new experiences and relationships while providing a crucial learning experience.
In order to make a successful transition to a new culture, you’ll need to commit to your new surroundings and ensure that you maintain an open mind.
However, this does mean that you cannot ease the transition period by leveraging home comforts where possible, as this can have a decidedly positive impact on your mindset during the adjustment period.
You could make sure that you access some of your favorite TV shows and box-sets online, for example, enabling you to access a slice of home whenever the mood takes you.
Similarly, try to combine an appreciation of new cuisine and dishes with some of your old dietary staples. Consuming your favorite food and drink from home can provide genuine comfort during times of transition, reminding you of your loved ones in the process.
While you may well struggle with various issues when transitioning to a new culture, this is part and parcel of relocating abroad and can generally be overcome with a number of relatively simple measures.
In more serious instances, however, you may find yourself struggling with the effects of culture shock. This is a far more debilitating condition, and one that can close your mind to new experiences and ultimately force you to return home.
The symptoms or effects of culture shock are numerous, and include a sense of feeling uprooted and a sustained feeling of disorientation. These can be compounded by the sensation of being overwhelmed by the need to make significant changes, and this can cause you to become intolerant of the very culture that you seek to integrate into.
It’s important to address these effects as early as possible, before such feelings take root and completely alter your mindset. You may want to seek out professional guidance and counselling to deal with these issues, or at least share your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.
On a final note, it’s crucial that you manage the emotional aspect of relocating internationally before you complete the move.
This is particularly true if you have a family, as younger children may be overwhelmed by the prospect of leaving their family home and leaving their friends behind.
To focus on this, you should ensure that you partner with a skilled and reputable removals firm, particularly one that has experience or organizing international moves. This will enable you to delegate the practical and logistical requirements of your move to an industry expert, so that you can spend your time attending to the needs of your loved ones.
This is an important consideration and one that can aid the transition process, while also helping you to make the most of your time.
Bio: At A1 Auto Transport, we have a wealth of experience when dealing with domestic and international locations, and can effectively manage your relocation overseas. This type of service is worth its weight in gold, particularly when moving to a brand new country and an unfamiliar culture.
* pictures are from pixabay.com
TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS
10. Surround yourself with positive people. Do not allow negative comments and attitudes to darken your outlook.
It is hard to stay positive, but when culture shock is at its worst, it is very easy to slip. Sure the other new teachers at your school (and the veteran ones) have a lot to say to you about the host country and culture, but you just might find yourself joining in with them. Commence the inevitable negative thought process!
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller
It is hard to know exactly about the meaning behind those negative comments from your coworkers (or from yourself). Are they saying those things because that is just what you do and say when you are an expat, even if it is said like it is only a joke? On the other hand, people say things as a joke under stressful times and there is usually much truth behind their negative comment.
Some things are small and people are easily quick to be negative about it.
“Why do I have a pay this media tax? I never had to pay this in any of the other countries I’ve lived in. I don’t even have a TV. I refused to pay this stupid fee!”
“Seriously the internet in this country is so slow. You can’t even access Facebook and Youtube here. Now I have to pay for a VPN service, which usually makes my internet connect even slower!”
“Nothing is open around here. Good luck finding a store open after 18h here.”
“Arg! It is so dirty here. I open the windows to my apartment and one hour later the floors are covered in a thin layer of dust. I can’t want to move back to a country that is cleaner!”
There are many more things to talk negatively about when living in another country. We forgot too, under the influence of culture shock, that there are many negative aspects to living in our home country as well (e.g. getting a cable service repair person to come to your home to fix your internet or cable). People complain and obsess about negative aspects of their lives in their home countries too. But some might say that is your country so maybe you are “allowed” to say negative things every once and awhile about your own culture and way of doing things. Is it different or the same then when living abroad? When you are in a host country, the country is your “host.” Certainly, we all would agree that you should try and be gracious to your host.
Some things though are NOT small, and can be quite important in relation to your life abroad.
“Be ready to not get paid on time. Last year, we didn’t get paid until three weeks after the salary payment date! Why don’t we get paid on time? There is nothing we can do about too.”
“The building management in our apartment complex steals our money. They are giving us bills that are way more expensive than the locals that are living in our building.”
“I have been waiting for six months to get reimbursed for things that I purchased for the school! I am also waiting to get reimbursed for my flight allowance….for LAST YEAR!”
“My last schools didn’t have this much work to do. It is unbelievable about much I have to work at this school. I don’t know if I can handle working until 19:00 every day after school!”
When there is something negative related to your home, your salary or your money (in general), then it is very easy to be sensitive to these situations. Maybe then you are allowed to voice your concerns (i.e. be a bit negative). Hopefully though there is something that you can do about it; get your school administration involved, the local police, etc. Also, it is important to remember that these things might be temporary as well, inconveniences that will pass after a few weeks or months.
“Don`t be trapped by Dogma – which is living the results of other people`s thinking. Don`t let the noise of other`s drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs.
So, knowing that there are going to be negative comments heard and negative comments coming out of your mouth at some point, the key is to try and stay positive as much as possible. Don’t let the negative thoughts and comments take over and take control of your thinking. Your life in your new country will be full of ups and downs, that is a given. Realizing that simple thing, could dramatically keep your negative thoughts to a minimum. Also, maybe think twice about sharing all of your negative thoughts with your friends and coworkers, some might be best to keep to yourself anyways.
How do you try and stay positive in your current placement? Share your comments with the rest of the International School Community readers.continue reading
TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS
9. Maintain a sense of humor, but most importantly be ready to laugh at yourself.
When you are living abroad, there are moments when the locals are looking at you strangely. You might be thinking that they are making fun of you, being rude, or just plain staring at you. Most of the time though they usually don’t have an unkind intention towards you. The initial reaction is to put on a face that resembles the woman in the first photo above and think the worst. But after a nice hello and a kind smile, many times you can turn a negative cross-cultural encounter into a positive/normal one. Often I find that I make a rash judgement call about the situation when living or travel abroad, and sometimes that gets me into trouble, leaving me with a poor attitude toward the locals. It is good to remember to try and take a step back (figuratively and maybe literally) and have a think about what might be really happening and try and view the situation as if you were in their shoes. A negative situation can easily be averted if one of you puts a smile on his/her/your face. A smile is typically contagious, no?
Taking pictures of the locals is a strange situation really. I mean how often are there tourists walking around Minneapolis wanting to take pictures of the Minnesotan people that are walking around the downtown area. Well maybe there might be a few there (but most likely not), but for sure there wouldn’t be tourists walking around the suburbs taking pictures of you. It is hard for expats to really know what it is like. It is sometimes irresistible though to take a picture of a local. You can take the indirect approach and try and snap a shot without them knowing, but that sometimes leads to the locals getting angry. A more direct approach sometimes is better when you are trying to get a shot of a local. You might buy something at their store or your might just start up a conversation with them. Instead of the person getting angry or suspicious of your camera, they might have a different reaction to you taking a picture of them. It is a good idea to not get lost in your photography and to remember to smile (and sometimes laugh with the locals) as you are walking around their neighborhood.
It is hard to keep your sense of humor when you are on a old, rickety bus in a developing country. You are in the back. You are stuffed between to people that don’t share the same cultural tradition of putting on deodorant. But these are the times when you can easily laugh to yourself, especially if your friend is in a similar situation in the front of the bus. You know it is not ideal. You know that it is temporary (sometimes it is just a short bus ride, though sometimes a longer one!). You start to think about how this is so different from where you grew up and how awesome really it is that somehow you ended up in this situation halfway across the world from your home. Truthfully, it is the story you make sure to tell your colleagues the next day at school about what happened to you on the bus yesterday; a very good time to keep a good sense of humor and laugh about a situation that in reality really isn’t the most desirable one to be in.
When you look at the locals, they sometimes look very different from you and the people you would see in your hometown. Because of that fact, you might tend to stare a bit or be quick to observe and judge. But you must remember that the locals might be looking at you in the same way (see exaggerated picture above of the guys in top hats). Try to remember to keep a positive attitude towards the people around you, and keep your respect. When you are by yourself you might not think twice about the guy in the crazy Eastern European sweater walking down the street, but people tend to be more vocal about their opinions and observations when they are in group of two or more. Being “ready to laugh” in this instance might be a poor choice; and hopefully they won’t laugh and poke fun of your outfit as well!
If you are living in China, one thing that keeps your sense of humor in its place is your ability to use chopsticks. Sure, many expats have mastered the art of eating dumplings and other Chinese food that can be a challenge to eat using chopsticks, but there is a sizable amount of expats that struggle. You want to impress the locals with your skills. You DON’T want them to see you fumble for fear of cultural embarrassment. Try to maintain your sense of humor though and don’t give in to the temptation to ask the server for a fork and knife (if they even have them) and most importantly be ready to laugh with them as your dumpling falls from your chopstick-grasp to the edge of your table and then down to the floor.
Leave a comment and share your experiences keeping your sense of humor while living abroad.continue reading
TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS
8. In all things be flexible
When relocating to a new place there’s so many things to consider, so many new impressions, so much to take in and oh so many things to learn. Even though we’re constantly told that today we are living in a globalized world and that the distances between may seem wide, and reality, new technology has brought us closer somehow. But all considered, and perhaps despite the ever-evolving, the ever-growing technology, there’s still a difference.
Novelist Herman Hesse said: “Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and cruelties.” Through centuries we’ve grown accustomed to certain kind of conventions, some passed on by older generations as a kind of “we’ve always done it this way” and some just grow out of nothing, until they become significant.
Can you learn culture? Probably! But it does take awhile, and it demands a lot of patience, and the risk of embarrassing yourself and others, when cultures clash, and our differences come obvious. It’s in these kinds of situations you might need to be flexible, and open to new experiences. Even as simple as buying some bread at the local bakery. Not knowing how to buy the bread there can be a tiny bit stressful. (i.e. not knowing how the queue system works, not know how to ask a question in the host country language, not knowing how to respond to the person behind you in line starts talking to you in the host country language, etc.)
Waaaaaay back when, we were taught that to survive we somehow had to adapt. We were never the ones to lay down the rules, there was always something stronger than us. Since then we have desperately tried to prove that we are greater than we think, but we’re still bound to be flexible. We still have to compromise every now and then. When you have just arrived at your latest international school posting, there is much you will have to compromise! Luckily, there are the teachers that started at that school the year before there able to help you along your way trying to be flexible in every situation.
When you are new in some strange city that seems like anything you’ve ever seen, you have to have an open mind, maybe re-evaluate a little, and take things as they come. The easiest thing to do is just deeming everybody wrong, and yourself the master of right, but it really won’t get you far. In many international school locations you might be living in a new apartment that might not live up the standards you are used to, but still you have a roof over your head, and a bed to sleep in, and we all need to start somewhere. And then the grocery store, they don’t sell the same items you’re used to, so you have to be inventive and creative, and when has that ever hurt anyone. Everybody speaks a different language, the cars drive on the wrong side of the road, there’s no Starbucks, and the cinema’s more expensive, and so on and so on. A lot of things can be wrong or bad, if you don’t learn to compromise, and learn to be flexible. You might enjoy the little peculiarities, it might even broadened your view, and you gain more than you, at first, might thought, you’d lose.
I’ll leave you with some wise words from authoress Ayn Rand: “Man’s unique reward, however, is that while animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background, man survives by adjusting his background to himself.”
Take care, you…continue reading
TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS
7. Try to understand the host country perspective.
It would be quite the task to encapsulate an entire country’s significant culture, or even try to boil it down to a few key points. The thing is when you try to define nationality, you resort to simply creating a stereotypical object, which might embrace everything, but really fails to bring out anything significant. It’s the illusion that we can create anything objectively.
But maybe it’s an ancient romantic hope that globalization hasn’t completely devoured us all, and then spit us out as these uniformed clones that all march to the same beat. But when you scratch beneath the surface, and look beyond the fact that we’re all listening to Adele, going to the movies and seeing Transformers #1001 or buying our clothes at H&M, maybe there’s this thing I call “country habitus”?
Habitus can be described as some kind of objective consciousness; how we react, how we think or how we experience. It’s the significant! It is what describes and sets us apart, it’s our lifestyle somehow put into a template. Habitus is derived from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, and is usually used to summarize people into certain groups based on symbolic capital, which again is how we act based on our status and prestige in society. Can the same be transferred to a country?
To each other, international school teachers often talk about certain common traits in the various countries they have lived in or traveled to. Albeit very generalizing and objectively, there might be truth to what we say sometimes. You often hear that Scandinavians are very happy people, or that Germans are very pragmatic and industrious, or that Americans are much more hospitable than Europeans in general. These are of course very favorable traits, but maybe the traits change depending who you are, maybe some think that the Scandinavian are very somber and dark, that the Germans are very stubborn and unwavering, the Americans are ignorant and too self-absorbed. The thing is that you want to paint a good picture of yourself, showcase the best and favorable traits, while still maintaining something significant. Your own country’s habitus.
We always somehow reflect ourselves in what we think we are, and what we definitely think we aren’t. We belong to a certain kind of culture, maybe only for a short period of time and then move on. But in that culture we can reflect, feel we fit in, and feel a kind of cohesion, this both as an individual but also as a people of a country. We bring our habitus with us wherever we go.
“Try to understand the host country perspective”. When we arrive at our next international school post, we all come with our own perspective, our own upbringing, our own culture. It’s very easy to dismiss others as being brought up the wrong way or having a culture that we don’t really understand at all, and thereby find useless or unnecessary. There’s a certain prestige in being elitist or being charitable, and having the sense that you contain and understand all traits. Bob Dylan once wrote: “don’t criticize what you can’t understand.” Back in the 1960’s we assumed people were more open-minded and free-spirited, since then a lot has changed. This world has been through a lot, and maybe the distance between us has grown both smaller and wider. There is a huge difference between everyday life in South Africa and Scandinavia, maybe we all make status updates on Facebook and poke our friends virtually, but how we live, how we are raised is still very different.
It make take some time for international school teachers to observe the host country. To find and then understand the multiple perspectives of the host country is a challenging task. After a two-year posting at an international school, you are bound to know more than when you first arrived there.
So objectivity or an Archimedean point may not completely exist. If we sat down an entire country’s people and asked them to come up with one significant trait of themselves, it would probably be impossible. And why even try to minimize an entire nation’s rich culture, just to make it more accessible? International school teachers encounter new perspectives every day, and what is the easiest way to deal with these? Emphatically!continue reading