Are you pondering an international move to further your career? While it’s likely one of the most exciting adventures you’ll ever take, it could likewise be the most difficult. Here are some tips I’ve learned from my experience to make the transition as seamless as possible:
#1 – Join a group or form a group
Whenever you make a big move, the first order of business (after meeting basic needs) is making friends, and the easiest way I have found to make friends is to join a group or start one. It is best if you can find a group with a common interest, such as exercise, photography, religious views, business goals, etc. After moving to Montenegro, I joined a zumba class that I’ve attended regularly for a year and a half now, and the majority of my friends were made through that class.
Coworking spaces are also great places to build friends, as they are often designed to foster community and camaraderie among business professionals. We’d love to have you join us as Beta Bar Coworking!
You might also check out meetup.com for meetings in your new area or join social media groups related to your interests and informed of upcoming events.
#2 – Learn the language
Learning the local language is not as easy as it sounds, but it is necessary to learn at least some basics for day-to-day life. Knowing how to order food, navigate the transit system, or ask for help reduces the stress and frustration sometimes present in living and working in a different culture. Plus, any minimal effort in learning the language will often win the hearts and patience of locals – a great benefit when you’re still stumbling around.
If possible, find a tutor whose native language is the one you want to learn. Use apps like Quizlet to learn and test your understanding, and whenever possible, listen to music or watch TV shows in the local language to help with pronunciation.
And, as a general rule, try to avoid following in Joey Tribbiani’s example of learning French in the famous American sitcom Friends.
#3 – Find a cultural advisor
It is likely that language will not be the only thing different in your new location. Chances are that you will find yourself in situations where you feel like everyone else is operating under unwritten rules, and you’re left unsure what is culturally-appropriate. Finding a cultural advisor can take the guesswork out of learning the do’s and don’ts of your new home.
The best cultural advisors are those who genuinely want to tell you about their country and their people. No one wants to feel like a burden, so it’s best to find a friend who really enjoys sharing about the history and culture of the place where you live. Someone who can tell you the cultural norms for dealing with your neighbors, hosting guests, and negotiating business deals. It’s a bonus if this person knows something about your home culture as well because they might be able to highlight from experience key differences about which you might not otherwise think to inquire.
#4 – Explore your new home
It is easy to miss your homeland when you move somewhere new, so before the excitement wears off, spend some time exploring the new and unfamiliar aspects of your new home. Make a point to visit some of the nation’s most popular destinations, eat some of the most traditional food, and consider the privileges you have in this country that you don’t have elsewhere.
These make great conversation points with business contacts and locals, as well. Everyone loves having the chance to hear about their culture and land from the view of an outsider – especially when that feedback is positive.
#5 – Stay connected
There is a delicate balance between staying connected with friends and family back home and building new relationships in your location. But, there will be times in living abroad when you really need the advice or encouragement of your core support group. Determine who these handful of people will be and be intentional to stay in touch over the course of your journey.
The frequency and means by which you connect is based on personal preference, but as a general rule, it is good to communicate enough that you know the key aspects of what is happening in your lives while being able to maintain healthy friendships in your new location, as well.
What are your tips for adjusting well to life in a new country?