Living in a foreign country can be quite daunting, especially when the culture is very different from your own. However with these tips from guest contributor Kennda, maybe you can be better prepared for what's in store.
When I moved abroad to live on a Caribbean island, I wasn't prepared. And though I would never give up this experience for the world, I still have my struggles. Here are some helpful hints that can be applied in any situation abroad that I wished I had known ahead of time.
1. Buy in Bulk
We all have a level of vanity and there are some beauty products we just can’t live without: creams, lotions, cleansers, perfumes, make-up, etc. These won’t always be available in your host country so make sure to buy them in bulk. Calculate the average time it takes for you to go through a product, and purchase enough to last you till your next trip home. While you’d be surprised at what you can order and ship online, in the end you may end up spending oodles of money just on shipping. Opt for buying in bulk instead.
2. Take Advantage of Social Media
While Facebook, Twitter, and other social media have been on the front burner for drama and studies, you’ll find that they have become one of the better ways to communicate. They allow quick conversations, which are mobile, and they allow multitasking. Skype and mobile conversations are awesome, but you need to set time aside for those. Social media on the other hand allows conversations at work, at school or while doing other tasks, keeping you in the proverbial loop even when far from home.
3. Remember Life Moves without You
Looking at all the new relationships, marriages, babies, homecomings, reunions and outings on social media can get depressing. It may feel as though you have been forgotten or that you've been missing everything. While a humbling lesson, remember that life continues even when you're not around, and that’s a good thing. But know that when you go home, even to visit, people will go out of their way to see you, and spend time with you. You were missed!
4. You Will Adjust... Eventually
It’s stated that it takes an average of one year to acclimate to a new city in the U.S. Now, apply that information to moving to a new country. It will take time. Time to find the best grocery store, where to hang out, the secret gems of the city, the best gym, etc. Take a deep breath. Things may get frustrating, but after a while you will become a pro!
5. Give Your Body Time to Adjust
Just as it takes time to emotionally and mentally adjust to a new place, your body will take its time too. A change in climate, foods, cooking methods, water, etc. will affect your body. These may cause a change in your cycles, skin, and even your body’s digestive system. Give your body time and stay hydrated. Also pay attention to the changes and their triggers so you can act accordingly.
6. Find Extracurricular Activities
Many of us move abroad for school or work purposes, and because that's the focus, we get lost in it. Eventually things may become overwhelming because you may end up feeling like you never get a break or an escape from your new routine. Find at least one extracurricular activity - sports, clubs, gym, classes… somewhere where you can interact with people you don’t have to see on Monday morning . This will also help you feel less like an outsider and more connected to the country .
7. Studying a Language is Not the Same as Living It
Straight As in any language course holds no light to actually speaking it and living in a country where it is the national language. It will definitely help, but you’d be surprised at how different things in real life are. Speed, slang, pronunciations, even verb usage may differ depending on the country. You’ll eventually grasp the style and colloquialisms so be patient. Learn to apologize and let locals know you’re not from around there; you will find most are very sympathetic and will actually try to help.
Living abroad is an awesome experience. While it can be compared it to living in dorms in college, it’s not exactly the same. Remember, it’s definitely not for everyone, and some days are way better than others. Your strength will be tested, but at least there is guaranteed growth.
Have you ever lived abroad? What was your experience like?