Bags packed, plane booked, goodbyes done, you are finally about to go and start your expat life somewhere far away from home. But, are YOU ready? Have you carefully planned your move? Have you seriously considered all the aspects of living abroad and, most importantly, have you prepared yourself mentally for “The Big Change”?
Some people are more inclined and suited to change and, from personal experience, I can tell you that moving abroad is one of the **deepest and drastic changes a person can face**. The ability to adapt and learn from the new environment is crucial, because for better or worse, **things are going to be different** from your home country.
So, here is a list of things that can make your move smoother and reduce expat anxiety and culture shock.
Nowadays, while I drive down the Western Coast of Australia, I carelessly wear the go-with-the-flow attitude and I generally don’t know where I’m going to set the tent or where I’m going to be tomorrow, but this is an adventure and it’s a million miles away from my London expat life. Back then I had a plan. And I suggest you do the same well ahead of your expat move. What do I mean by plan? Well, first of all, research your new country, read about the culture and history, write down things you want to see and do and, most importantly, open your mind and fill your personal tank with patience.
Whether you like it or not, we are **“the Facebook generation**” and in these days, we can easily find out if friends or acquaintances live in the city or country of our choice (this is something I do every time before I travel, by the way, and it has often saved me a few bucks in accommodation!). No one you know lives there? Don’t worry, there is a ridiculous amount of groups online (on and beyond Facebook) that can help you to get to know the new city/country. Some of my **best friendships** around the world were born exactly this way, especially using **[Instagram](http://instagram.com/the_storyteller)** where a common passion for photography has often blossomed in strong, deeper friendships.
In that wonderful, messy online world, there are also associations and groups of expats that you can join (sometimes free of charge and some other times with a small yearly contribution). Remember to connect with the expat community, but **never forget** to enter the local one too if you really want to feel at home and understand about your new *home. (Tip: in order to meet **locals**, you will need to go where they go: join the local gym, swimming pool, book club or whatever you like to do in your spare time, don’t rely exclusively on your professional network, it might disappoint you or you might end up talking about work every Friday night!).*
Don’t forget your friends
Moving away is easier than being left behind. You will constantly face new challenges and have a more exciting (or simply different) lifestyle from your friends back home, but don’t make the **silly mistake** to rely only on social networks to keep friendships alive. People will read your status updates and see your exotic pictures, but this is not how you are going to keep relationships alive because we all know that those are based on two-way communication and the beautiful art of sharing. **Surprise your friends** by sending them postcards and letters, book Skype calls and download Whatsapp. If you are not too far, make sure to go home for Christmas or weddings, you will regret missing out if you don’t.
Learn the language
And I mean, **learn it.** I’m not talking about the basics and how to place an order in a restaurant, I’m talking about all the shades, humour and way of saying that each language hides between the lines. If you are going to be an expat, you are planning to stay in the new country for a longish stint of time, so why not immerse yourself completely in the culture by talking the same language? Yes, I know that you don’t even **have to** as in many places English is widely spoken, but make an effort and pick a language school or a private teacher. (This is also a great way to meet more people and **expand your new network**!)
Wherever you are going, it’s going to be **differ****ent** from home: there will be small and big differences, but I know you will see them within your first few weeks. So, my advice is to be open to new experiences, but also to new settings. Don’t take things (or yourself) **too seriously** and make sure to arm yourself with patience and an **open mindset**. Stop comparing your country to your new one and don’t look back too often. You might be missing the food, the on-time trains, your favourite cafe, but I know for a fact that your new place has something amazing to offer too, you just need to **open your eyes** enough to see it.
Living abroad is **one of the best things** you can do in your lifetime, and it doesn’t have to be a struggle. You should enjoy and make the most of it while it lasts.
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