10 Tips on How to Live and Thrive in a New Country
This whole concept of working and living in a new country is definitely a new learning experience for me. I can’t pretend to be an expert on the issue and taking my advice here could seem like taking advice on how to live a healthy life style from a recently reformed chain-smoking alcoholic. However, I am an Australian living in Japan, so I guess I have some credit.
Rather than sit around and simply wait for the horrible feelings of homesickness to pass, here is a list of the 10 best things to do when moving to a new country:
1. Turn your new place into a sanctuary
Nothing makes me more excited than to come back to my apartment at night, knowing that I have a comforting, homey environment waiting for me, especially after a long day in a strange, foreign city. One of the first things I did when moving into my new accommodation here was to buy fairy lights to hang up and flowers to put in a vase. I stuck pictures on my walls of my friends and family and placed succulents by my window. It is knowing that you have a nice place to come home to where you can just relax that makes living overseas all the easier.
2. Get to know your area by foot
If you can get somewhere by foot, do it. Your wallet and your leg muscles will thank you for it. Not only will walking save you money and get you fit, it will give you one of the best tours of the city that public transport can’t really do; walking down intimate side streets, stopping at anything and everything. Spot a nice café? Head on in! Eye something in a clothing store you’d love to try on? Easy! It just means planning ahead for spontaneous shopping sprees. Hey, we all need a little spontaneity in our lives!
3. Learn the public transport
While walking can be excellent, it’s not always efficient or suitable. Public transport can be your absolute best friend if take the patience to learn it. Bus, train, light rail, ferry, you name it; it’ll get you to where you need to be. And with all the technology we have these days, you’ll never be left without direction or timetables. The best apps I’ve found for Japan in particular are Tokyo Metro and NAVITIME Japan Travel (Otherwise just Google any government approved travel application and find out which one works for you).
4. Meet people with similar experiences
By people I don’t necessarily mean the locals (that’s another point for another time). Try to find and connect with people who are going through the same thing you are. I have found it so much easier to be able to talk with someone who is in the same position or who has gone through it before. Build a support group, a family away from home. Make plans with these people, ask questions, and find out what their experiences have been living in a foreign country. Most people are more than happy to share and offer advice on how to best settle in if they see that you need it.
5. Contact friends and family back home
Even though I’ve grown up with the technology, it still amazes me that we can communicate with people instantly from the other side of the world; a few taps on your phone and you’re practically back with your loved ones at home.
Talking with your family or someone who cares about you is the best pick-me-up when you’re down. Even just five minutes can remind you how loved you are (even if they might not be with you physically). I love face timing with my parents. If I’m feeling stressed or lonely or just want to chat, it’s so comforting knowing I can call and they’re there.
6. Immerse yourself in the culture
It’s not everyday you’re in another country right?? Head on out there and experience all that you can! Learn about the culture, take tours, go exploring, see the best of the city and the wildlife; there will always be something to do if you do your research. I can’t brag about being the most social butterfly, in fact, my habits more often than not resemble a sloth. However, I have learnt that when I do go out of my comfort zone and try that odd tasting food in the restaurant with no english menus, it turns out great! And hey, even if it tastes like monkey shit, you still have ger a funny story out of it. (Check out the Time Out app for all the goings on in your area)
7. Make friends with the locals
The time has come to make this point, and it’s a bit of a no-brainer to be honest. Making friends with local residents can be the best. They know the city like no body’s business and once you befriend them, I’m sure they’d have no reservations in showing you all the local hotspots.
8. People watch
People watching is one of my absolute favourite past-time and it’s actually a great way to distance yourself from your worries. Just noticing other people on the street, imagining what’s happening in their lives; who they know, what they do for a living, where they’ve been and where they’re going can help give your life a little perspective.
9. Distract yourself
When you move to a foreign country, everything is bound to be new and very full-on. Use this environment to your advantage and distract yourself from your woes. You’re far less likely to remember to be homesick if you’re hanging out with some cool people or spending time in your local café reading your favourite book or listening to some music. Maybe even start a blog…
10. Go easy on yourself
What you’re doing isn’t easy and remembering to give yourself time and love to adapt to your new world is important. When I first moved to Japan, I made sure I had plenty of sleep and took each step slowly and surely to make sure I didn’t get overwhelmed. You are a brave soul to be doing what you’re doing and if you make sure you take care of yourself, you’re bound to have the adventure of a lifetime.