One of the most difficult adjustments for new expatriates is the sudden loss of social life and the need to develop a new one.
When you move from one place to another there are always adjustments to be made. When you move from one country to another there are a whole different set of adjustments and the culture shock that you are likely to experience is just the icing on the cake. These changes can be felt on many different levels; depending on how much time you have spent in your new country of residence previously, there are some possible new adjustments you will face; among them, but certainly not all, are:
- Learning a new language
- Cultural differences
- Government complexities
- Society norms
- Housing differences
- New friendships
- Distance from loved ones and old friends
- Affiliations with new organizations such as churches, schools, and groups, among others
- New place of employment, job training, company policies and business culture
- New shopping establishments
- New eateries
It takes a strong constitution to make such a move and maintaining a positive attitude about the differences is a great place to start.
First, get to know your new area through reading about it in travel pamphlets, online, and walking, or driving around, in your new community. Having guidance from a new friend or a community of new friends and acquaintances, who have been where you are at, is even better.
There are organizations that have resources available to you for this purpose; expatriate organizations are the best for serving this need and there are almost always such groups available. Not only can the other members relate to being new to an area, but they know what it is like to move from one country to another, and certainly some will have even come from the United States like you did. This can be very helpful as your new peers will likely know exactly what you are used to and can help you find the most similar places or services in your new area, as well as help you find the best places to shop for household goods and necessities that you were not able to ship over with you from the United States.
Another way to engage with the community and create a social life in your new place of residence is to search the local papers for community events such as outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets, church gatherings, bingo games and community sports leagues for both children and adults.
Finding people who have similar values and interests is also a good way to get involved, and make new friends. Search online and look in the local paper for groups in your new area that you might enjoy being part of, such as humanist, religious, environmental, animal rights and rescue, holistic healing and wellness, food and wine, or playgroups for your kids, just to name a few.
Families with children will find a very natural way to ease into local customs and community, through contact with other parents at the children’s schools. Utilize school functions to meet and greet local families. Join school organizations like the Parent Teacher Association (or your local school’s equivalent of such) in order to get to know other people. Working alongside someone on a project is a great way to learn about each other.
Visit a local coffee house, teashop or café or check out your local open mike night at a neighborhood bar. Many eateries and bars have a local group of regulars who are happy to chat and share what they know about the area.
People move from country to country for many different reasons. Jobs and military transfers are among the most common reasons. Utilize your place of employment to make local connections. They will likely have resource recommendations for getting to know your new country. Making friends at work who have lived in the country longer than you is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the area. Make plans to go out for dinner or a drink. Invite your co-workers to your new place for dinner for a laid back environment that naturally leads to conversation.
Feeling like you belong in your new area is also important. There will be many hurtles to overcome to get there; from driving on the other side of the road, to learning the language. Use the tips you learned above to help you get used to your new country of residence and soon you will be showing what you know to new expatriate residents in turn.
Einat Mazafi is the owner of NY International Shipping, an International Shipping and moving company based in New York. She is also a specialist in providing the best relocation solutions to clients worldwide.