Since I left my home country, one question I’ve often gotten is; ” how is it adapting to a new country?” My answer to that question is that it’s difficult and easy at the same time. When I look at people’s Instagram bios and see that they’ve been to 30+ countries, I don’t feel like the right person to answer this question. I mean, I haven’t even been to more than five countries ( I’ve had layovers in foreign countries but that doesn’t count). However, when I think about it, there’s a huge difference between going somewhere on vacation and actually living there as a foreigner. So, even if I only have bragging rights of saying I’ve lived in three different continents, I know a few things bout adapting to a new country.
I believe that depending on where you’re from, how you were brought up and which country you go to, you’ll adapt to a new place differently. I grew up visiting family between cities and that helped me adjust to new environments. On top of that, I was raised around travelers and constantly heard tales about their adventures abroad. That, paired with watching international programs on TV all day, just planted the wanderlust seed in me. At the time, it all seemed fairy-tale like and I had no idea about the challenges of adapting to a new country.
Even though it was clear for me that I wanted to travel and explore, it was still very scary. Extremely exciting but still nerve wrecking. Nothing compares to being in a totally different environment and having to lead a life there. Firstly, experiencing a new culture will give you a lot of cultural shock. Secondly, you’re going to face some challenges. Your beliefs and values will get questioned. Another thing bound to happen is you’ll learn a lot. Some of your myths about living in a new country will be debunked. If you’re lucky enough you’ll get to teach a lot too. You’ll get to share your culture with others and probably break some misconceptions too.
While all that is great, the question still stands.
How do you go about adapting to a new country?
Well, based on my experiences, here’s how:
Tips for adapting to a new country
1. Don’t expect it to be like your home country
This might seem very obvious but it’s often forgotten. Constantly comparing your home country to a new country can ruin the experience for you. In fact, it’s one of the fastest ways you can get homesick. Look, I know, it’s almost impossible not to compare.Weighing out the different countries you’ve lived in is a normal thing to do. (At least I do it most of the time). However, the key point is to not expect the same thing. If you’re going to find life abroad the exact same way as home, then bother going? Can I get amen?
Pro Tip : Moving to a new country is a huge step that needs thorough preparation. Besides thinking of airfare, accommodation or your resident permit, you need to start preparing mentally too. If you’re obsessed with a certain restaurant in your city, start getting used to the idea that you won’t find it where you’re going.
2. Get excited about the new experiences you’ll have
While we’re still on the topic of mental preparation, this is a big point. It’s incredible how much easier it can make adapting to a new country. I probably started fantasizing about going abroad when I was about eight years old. I imagined what it would be like and how fantastic it would be. Years later, I’m still doing the same. I begin adapting to a new country even before setting foot there. You can call this an act of faith, hope or the law of attraction but you need to be excited. Maybe the country wasn’t your first choice or you’re sad about leaving your loved ones. That’s all fine. Those are normal feelings to have but think of the new place. The new places you’ll visit, the new friends you’ll make and life you’ll have. Think of whatever you’re looking forward to the most.
Pro Tip : Find something that gets you exited about living life abroad. Before I came to Hungary, I downloaded a picture of the chain bridge and made it my lock-screen. I looked at it for months and I always imagined seeing it in person one day. Looking at my phone just made my heart warm and more excited. Once I arrived, the only thing I thought of was seeing those amazing places in real life.
3. Carry a piece of home with you
If you’re going to be staying in a new country for a long time, you’ll get homesick at some point. In such times, you need something to comfort you and in certain cases only home can do this. Think of something you love about your country that you can carry with you. (Just be sure you can get through the airport with it). This could be a packet of spices to remind you of mum (or dad’s) cooking or it could be a teddy bear. I didn’t carry anything with me except my favorite clothes ( some of which I still have today) and even this helped. Each time I wore them, I thought of the memories I had in them.
Pro Tip : If you’re not able to carry a souvenir from home, you can do a lot to feel closer to where your heart lives. Just cooking our favorite dish from home or calling home can be the remedy for adapting to living in a new country.
4. Do some research about the new country
You should have done this before even reading this article. Whether you’re visiting short term or longer, you need to do your research. What language is spoken there, what are some do’s and don’ts? What are the people like? Doing your research and being able to answer these questions will make you more confident. And when it comes to adjusting to a country, you’re going to need a lot of it.
Pro Tip : Getting information now is so much easier than ever before. You can be cozy in your room and still find out what’s happening on the other side of the world. Plus, with social media to help you out, it’s even much easier. Wikipedia is good but you need first hand information. Go to YouTube or Instagram (or Facebook) and reach out to some people. Yes! Try to talk to strangers. I’ve done this before and I’m not ashamed of it. I usually reach out to other foreigners in the country I want to go and some have turned into friends. So, if you ever need to find out something about the country I’m in, just send me a message on Instagram and I’ll gladly help.
5. Go out and start exploring
Wear a mask if you still need to. I said still because I have faith that life will one day get back to normal. Also, someone could be reading this blog five years from now, so you know. Anyway, one way of adapting to a new country easily is by falling in love it. The great news is that there is always going to be something you an love (or like) about a place. After going to Turkey I was pretty homesick but learning to like the place made it easier to adjust. You begin to like something by knowing more about it right? So go on, step outside and explore. I started blogging as a way of documenting my experiences and doing so actually made me like the country even more.
Things I’ve liked about where I’ve lived abroad
Turkey – The food, landscape, and strong sense of family.
Hungary – The Architecture, freedom and overall lifestyle.
6. Connect with your new community
While you’re out exploring, don’t forget to socialize. Get to know people! Your journey will get that much better when you make friends with locals. If there’s a language barrier, this isn’t the easiest thing to do but you could still try. Chances are, there a local somewhere who can speak the same language you can. If not, try to pick up theirs. Daunting I know, but most locals will be happy to help. If you’re able to find an expat community, it helps a lot too. Just be careful not to spend all your time with foreigners because you’ll be missing out on the people of that country plus what they can offer. So mix it up and strike a balance.
Pro Tip : Get involved in activities and join groups so you can meet people. You don’t even have to do it in person first. A lot of online apps make it possible to meet new people in close proximity and it’s a great way to start. Once you’ve met a few people, you’ll be introduced to many more so don’t be shy.
7. Stay in touch with people back home
I’ll be honest, sometimes this one is very hard for me. I don’t mind speaking on phone but at some point, I’d rather talk in person. That’s extremely hard from a different country though. However, a phone call or a text can go a long way. I think it’s crucial to let people know that you care about that them. I think sometimes it’s harder for people you’ve left behind to always reach out because they think you’re settled and busy exploring. Especially if your Instagram posts look like you’re having a blast. There’s truth to this but it’s not factual. I believe the phone works both ways so don’t always wait for the other to reach out first. Point is, maintaining valuable relationships while abroad can make adjusting to a new country much easier.
Pro Tip : If you’re bad at texting or find it hard to keep a conversation going for long, keep it short. Really. You don’t need to talk to people everyday for hours but you can still let them know you care. Maybe try to call home for longer periods on the weekend and text frequent during the week.
8. Create a routine for yourself
Yes, going with the flow is great but order doesn’t have to mean boring. When you’re living abroad, you can’t jut wait for things to happen. What are the chances of someone spontaneously inviting you to a party when you haven’t made friends? Zero. Even if you’ve made a few, you could be waiting for an invite for a long time so don’t bore yourself to death. Depending on what’s available and what you love to do, there are so many options.
You could meet with locals and learn some new dishes weekly or maybe start learning the language. I noticed that people here love to go on runs and that inspired me. Well, I don’t actually run, I walk every morning for an hour and that’s a big commitment for me. To add on, I started cooking a lot too. I never stuck to three meals a day before but now I do. Trying new recipes has been therapeutic and helped with making adapting to a new country easier.
Conclusion : Everyone is different and so the process of adjusting to a new country will be different too. As I naturally love to travel and change environments, I often adapt pretty quickly. I think it’s something that gets better with time and experience too. If you’ve just moved to a new country or wondering how you’ll adapt, just relax. Give yourself the time you need while doing what you can and you’ll beat homesickness pretty easily. It’s still going to come from time to time but it won’t get you down.
So, tell us about your experience? Was adjusting to a new country easy for you? What did you find most challenging? Please leave your answer in the comments. Your experience may be exactly what someone needs to hear so don’t hold back from sharing. I can’wait to hear from you! Until then,
Hugs and Kisses,