Moving to a new country need not be a dreaded experience, even if it’s to a place you’ve never heard of, or have a difficult time pronouncing. I have moved many times and my bookshelf is lined with Lonely Planet guides and memorabilia from every place we’ve unpacked our suitcases. My first destination was Mangalore, India, and I couldn’t even find it on a map. At the time, it was a sleepy, fishing village on the western coast of India, famous for its cashew groves and fresh lobster. I am sure it has grown in population and popularity by now, due its proximity to Bangalore; home of India’s high-tech industry. I believe there are five good practices that make a move or visit to a new country much more enjoyable and enlightening.
Read … as much as you can about the place you are visiting or moving to. Whether you buy a guide book or peruse the Internet, learning about your new destination is the best starting point. You might discover that there is a lot more to offer than what you’ve ‘heard’ or what your friends have told you. You might discover that it is only a two-hour flight from a place you’ve always wanted to visit or that your favorite meal, lobster tournedo, is only $1. Fiction or nonfiction, reading something based on the place you are going to, adds a layer of context that enhances the experience.
Meet … people from that country or people who have been there. Search online, ask at your local library, or ask friends if they know anyone from that country. Speaking to an actual person who is familiar with the destination you are heading to in invaluable.
Connect … with a group of people who share similar interests. Living in a new country can feel isolating, especially at first. Search for organizations or groups that share your interests. More than likely, they will have a website that you can review to determine whether you want to join. Go to a meeting, share with others, make friends, and build your network of like-minded people.
Learn … a few key phrases that can break the ice when you are out and about. Most people appreciate the effort you’ve made and encourage you to keep going. Start with your manners,the standard “thank you” and “excuse me”, can do wonders when seeking help and meeting new people.
Be … open, realistic and accepting. Open to the fact that life is not the same and that you have to embrace a new culture, a new language and a new way of life. Realistic to the fact that you will miss your family, be homesick on occasion and frustrated with the lack of familiarity. Accepting of the fact that it is ok to be uncomfortable, because it is what the whole experience is about.