5 Steps to a New Life

5 Steps to a New Life

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Starting an expat assignment doesn’t just imply a new job and/or a new home. For sure those two seem to be the real deal, a new work environment with new rules and new colleagues; a relocation that can be very difficult as many expats get to chose their home through the internet, and the assessment one has of their needs in a home can be proved wrong once you settle in the new place (sure you have the view, but the water doesn’t always make it to the 53rd floor…. Don’t you wish someone had brought this to your attention before?)

A change of life and country can be much harder for the following spouse than it is for the working one. Whereas the working partner will naturally get opportunities to socialise in the new office or work place, be introduced, be asked to join dinners, the spouse that follows with the luggage and with or without the furniture, can quickly suffer from isolation and desocialisation. Along with the difficulty to recreate a life and routine, to meet new faces and recreate a social life, the trailing spouse often also experiences the negative perception of those that see him/her like the “lucky” one that enjoys a fancy sabbatical abroad, free of obligations. But when asked, the following spouses mainly perceive this situation as a downgrade, for the first few weeks at least.

But the solitude and isolation do not have to be so. Here are 5 easy steps to help the newly arrived expat to start a new social and culturally-enriched life.

  1. Explore your neighbourhood. Walk the streets around your new home, wether it is an apartment, a house or even if you stay long term in a hotel. Look for all the sort of place you feel you may need, cafes and restaurants, good shops, cinema, bakery, your closest supermarket or deli. Yes you are abroad and expected to embrace a new culture and new experience, but the museums can wait. First you need to build your nest. Create a routine and as soon as possible greet and smile to the people in your selected new favourite shops. For you will find it very comforting that soon enough, they recognise you and greet you first. This is a sign you have created your first new habits. Lots of good things will come from that.
  2. Look for blogs and websites. Your newly found restaurant or café has a Facebook page? why don’t you follow it and see who are regulars? Some may happen to come from the same country as you. Local websites and blogs are also a great way to start networking and following who does what. I have 2 charming neighbours who became friends thanks to one writing a blog about her new life as an expat and the other following that blog to try and prepare for her new life. They eventually got in touch, and as they now live in the same city, very very far away from their original home, they have become good friends.
  3. Network on Facebook. Do you remember the days when Facebook used to associate you to a “network”? wether it was your old university, your new job place or your home town. Then a lot extended from that. Although organised differently, a lot of networking still can happen on Facebook, mostly due to a large amount of expat dedicated or language dedicated groups. Look them up, they are full of people who have experienced those first terrifying days too
  4. Join language classes. Because people who join language classes are more likely to be in the same situation as you, foreigners in a new land.
  5. Meet your spouse’s colleagues. Your working spouse is going to be integrated in a new company or work environment that is rich with potential. From local employees who may have wife or girl friend who would be delighted to show you around, to other fellow expats who will have experienced your first difficult steps too. And because work is such a stepping stone to integration in a new environment, why not look for an activity yourself if your status or visa allows it.

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