How to Start from Scratch in a New Country
I moved to Spain just two months ago. I’m from the Netherlands which means it’s barely a three-hour flight but those 900 miles of distance have made a world of difference to my overall wellbeing and mental state.
Before I moved, my life was getting pretty dull. Considering our collective situation I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has felt that way in the past year or so, but the desire for novelty got so strong that even just staying where I was, was exhausting.
Sure, I was living my life— wake up, work, eat dinner, sleep, repeat — with the occasional social event to break the lull, but I can’t say I really felt alive.
Since the move, I haven’t looked back. I’ve met more people in two months than I’ve met in the past two years, I’m constantly outdoors seeking out new activities, I’ve been picking up new sports, shaking up my routines and — to a certain extent — reinventing myself.
Moving abroad on your own can feel a little intimidating but once you get over that initial barrier and go all in, you’ll come out the other side feeling like a brand new person.
These are the things that have helped me get off to a flying start in a new country.
Making New Friends
Most people have friends that they’ve met at work, at school, a sports club, or another place where you just so happened to spend time with another person for long enough to develop a friendship. I call these circumstantial friends.
If you’re moving to a new city or new country and you’re not going to be going to school or an office daily, your chances of cultivating these circumstantial friendships lower drastically. Unless you want to spend all your time alone, this means that you’re going to have to adopt a more proactive approach to seeking out friendships. In these strange times, that’s not always so easier.
Luckily we’re living in the 21st century and we have technology. I’ve met awesome people through three apps so far:
- Meetup: a platform where you can create and join groups and host or attend events. Whatever you’re looking for — there’s a group for it. Whether it’s hiking, sailing, volleyball, language exchanges, yoga, drinks, entrepreneurship meetups or jam sessions, you’ll find your tribe.
- Bumble (BFF): I’m usually not the type of person that goes nuts for dating apps (quite the opposite actually) but Bumble has brought me in touch with some great people so far. I’d prefer Bumble over Tinder as I get the feeling that there are more people with a little depth on Bumble than on Tinder, and because Bumble has a friendship mode. It’s called ‘Bumble BFF’ which is great for seeking out new friendships without having to explain you’re not looking to date.
- Couchsurfing: While Couchsurfing is mostly known for connecting travelers with locals who are offering their couch as a place to crash, they also have a great Hangouts feature. I’ve used this mostly when I’m walking through the city and I feel like hanging out with a stranger, as it only shows people who are available to hang out right at that moment. I’m a sucker for spontaneous plans and this app is a perfect match in that aspect.
Shaking Up Your Routine
Moving to a new place means having a brand new environment. Being in a new environment unavoidably means you’ll be shaking up your routines one way or the other. You might have to deal with new roommates, new commute times, new weather conditions, new lifestyle conditions or new interests, and all of this novelty makes for a perfect moment to reinvent your routines a little.
As an example; I’ve noticed I’ve completely adjusted to the eating times in Spain. Where I used to have dinner around 19.00, now I sometimes have dinner at 22.30. This change in routine might be a bit on the extreme side but it has definitely woken me up to the realization that humans run on autopilot most of the day, and stirring up your routines is great for becoming more mindful over the course of the day.
I haven’t completely nailed down my morning routine yet — I’m still battling with my snooze button every morning — but I have definitely enjoyed being able to spend some mornings soaking up the first rays of sunshine on the roof terrace doing a quick meditation. That’s definitely different than my routine in the Netherlands of waking up, dragging myself to the coffee machine with my eyes half-closed and sitting down behind my laptop.
When everything changes, then change everything.
Don’t let your old routines dictate how you should live your life if it’s not optimal for your new environment anymore.
While you don’t have to reinvent yourself if you move to a new country or new city, the opportunity does kind of present itself on a silver platter. When you’re stuck in your same old dull routine with the same people, the same job, the same clothes and the same habits, you’ll eventually become numb to all the possibilities out there. You don’t feel the need to reinvent yourself anymore because you’re comfortable. The thing with being comfortable, however, is that it’s the absolute nemesis of growth.
Think about this:
Are you comfortable with your life? Are you excelling in your life?
As Charlie Gilkey once described, “The majority of people can’t answer ‘yes’ to both questions. They’re either pushing their boundaries to the limits and hence are uncomfortable, or they’ve become comfortable and stopped pushing.”
Every decision has an opportunity cost. If you’re choosing to stay inside your comfortable and familiar bubble, you’re choosing to not explore all the potential that you have on top of that.
If you do what you’ve always done, your situation stays what it has always been like.
Take this opportunity to reinvent the wheel a bit. I’ve picked up volleyball and have ventured miles outside of my introvert comfort zone by meeting strangers off the internet nearly every day. It changes your perspective and makes you much more aware of what else is possible.
Pick up new hobbies. Try out new foods. Discover new fashion styles and explore new musical genres. Who knows what a little exploration could put in motion.
Remember This List
Moving abroad can be a little intimidating but there are definitely things you can do to manage the adjustment:
- Making new friends: download Meetup for finding people with similar interests, Bumble (BFF) for meeting with people 1 on 1 and Couchsurfing for super spontaneous hangouts.
- Shaking up your routines: enjoy the process of not running on autopilot, even if it feels like more effort at first.
- Reinventing yourself: moving to a place where nobody knows you is the perfect moment to discover parts of yourself that may be new to you.