Ways to Make Moving Abroad Less Stressful

It might be a dream you’ve toyed with for a while – packing up your life and moving to that country that’s always held a special place in your heart. Maybe you even have a Pinterest board or Instagram “saved” file dedicated to it.

When you finally do get the chance to live that fantasy for real, there’s no doubt that it will be the most amazing adventure. But the experience of moving abroad can also be downright scary – and super challenging – so a little preparation (both physical and mental) can make all the difference.

 Here’s how to make your move that little bit easier.

Leave your expectations behind.

That cute little apartment in Le Marais in Paris that you’ve been conjuring in your imagination? There’s a good chance you won’t get it. Or that it will be cramped, smelly and have no natural light.

Sure, sometimes we do end up with something that’s beyond our wildest dreams, but the more expectations you cram into your suitcase and bring with you, the more likely you are to be disappointed. Try not to build up a perception of the experience before you leave – whether it’s about your apartment, the handsome guy you’ll meet or even how quickly you’ll pick up the language. Instead, arrive in your new country open-minded and willing to see where life takes you.

The less you try to control things, the easier it will be.

Do your homework (to save you pain later on).

It’s easy to be so swept away by the romantic notion of moving to another country that we might forget the boring, logistical stuff that goes along with it. But with a new country and culture comes a new tax system, healthcare and visa requirements – which you might have to navigate in another language.

So do your prep beforehand. Talk to your accountant about whether you need to change your residency status for tax purposes and look into what kind of healthcare you are eligible for as a non-citizen of your new country. (Tip: If you know you may need to have your wisdom teeth removed in the near future, do it before you leave!).

If you’re moving somewhere as a student, check whether your visa allows you to work while you’re there. Also, find out what kind of documentation is expected when applying to rent an apartment. It’s a lot easier to gather it while you’re still in your home country than trying to source the random documents from afar. And if you’re worried about having to deal with gas and electricity companies in a foreign language, a lot of them actually have a designated English phone line, which is super handy to have in advance (and will save you a lot of stress when trying to get things connected when you move in).

Prepare for a little loneliness.

When you move to a new country by yourself, chances are you won’t have a single friend at first. Making friends in new city can be challenging (especially if you move there in the dead of winter when it’s a real struggle to even go outside, let alone try to meet people). So you have to commit to putting in the effort and saying yes to social events where you’ll hardly know a soul (even when all you want to do is curl up in bed with a book). Go to Meetups and language exchanges, join a book club, chat with your neighbors and people in your local cafe and try to accept every invitation you’re given.

But don’t put pressure on yourself. Friendships often take time – and certain cultures can take a little while to warm up to new people and invite them into their social circles. Trust that it really does get easier and learn to be comfortable in your own company for those first few months. One day you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve formed a really wonderful community of friends who you couldn’t imagine living without.

Another remedy to loneliness is to consider moving into a place with roommates for the first six months, even if you have the budget to get an apartment by yourself. It’s not only a great way to get to know a city through locals’ eyes, but you’ll have a built-in social circle until you get the chance to cultivate your own.

 Trust that it really does get easier and learn to be comfortable in your own company for those first few months.

Embrace the challenges.

There’s one sure thing about moving abroad: It’s going to be hard. It’s probably going to push you so far outside your comfort zone that you’ll wonder why you were ever crazy enough to make the move in the first place. But it will absolutely be worth it.

So when all those challenges come charging at you (like a burgled apartment, a visit to the emergency room or luggage lost for all of eternity), embrace them wholeheartedly and know they are all part of the experience. You’ll soon realize just how capable you are at dealing with these things alone and how much stronger each challenge makes you. Try to put things in perspective by remembering that they could all just as likely happen in your home country. It just seems harder because you’re so far away from the support of your family and friends. Give yourself 15 minutes to feel sorry for yourself and then work out how to make the best of the situation.

After all, you’re living your dream – how amazing is that?

Have you recently moved abroad? What do you think is the most important thing to remember?

Images via Rick Bhatia

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Mikki is a writer, editor and photographer with a penchant for wandering the globe, and strives to always have visited as many countries as years she’s lived. Her work has been published in AFAR, Details, Icon, Luxe Interiors + Design, Metropolis, Wildsam Field Guides and many others.

7 COMMENTS
  • Carly Simon July 13, 2017

    With the countdown to my moving date abroad fast approaching, I so sincerely appreciate this article! Having just recently graduated university, I wondered how people make friends in the “real world,” on top of that, in a foreign country! Thank you for your advice. Going to use it upon my arrival in France!

    • Mikki Brammer July 18, 2017

      You’ll have an amazing time in France, Carly! Feel free to reach out to me if you need any tips about living there (so that you don’t have to learn things the hard way like I did!).

  • Nishita T July 12, 2017

    Thank you for sharing this. Moving to New York 3 years ago was the best decision I took, so much so that I found home here. Although I do find myself exploring the possibility of moving to another country and experience a whole new culture. I was young and naive when moved here and frankly just followed guidance. But this time around I understand the reponsility and possibilities of making a move and reading this really helped. Thank you!

    I would love for you guys to read my post on the feeling of leaving NY – something we all experience when we leave a place that gave us a belonging.
    http://nishitat.com/2017/05/15/unfinished/

    • Mikki Brammer July 18, 2017

      Thanks for sharing, Nishita! NYC can definitely be a tough city at first – but totally worth it in the end 🙂

  • Lauren July 12, 2017

    What a great article! Moving abroad was the best thing I’ve ever done! The research, prep, and visa process was exhausting but so worth it as the confidence I gained was immeasurable! I had to make new friends, find a job before I ran out of money, and understand the systems of a new country all on my own and to my surprise nothing was beyond me. And looking back on it, the times that I was a bit lonely or confused by the strange customs really don’t stand out. I simply live with my new found confidence and all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had. Anyone can do it, you just need to take the step and prepare for the most liberating and rewarding experiences of your life 🙂

    • Mikki Brammer July 18, 2017

      You’re so right, Lauren – it’s never the challenges that stand out in your memory in the end. The wonderful experiences always win!

  • Thank you for the post! My SO and I are always dithering on whether or not to move abroad. We’ve both never done that, the most for me was three months on a Shanghai exchange during university and I did NOT react well to being without my parents that time. Hopefully these tips will keep me checked in!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

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