The first few weeks in your new expat home can be a challenge, but there are steps you can take to make settling in a little easier.
One of the hardest, if not the hardest, part of any relocation is getting through the first few weeks. And for partners, you can double or even triple this. Especially if you have children.
But even though this is often a tough time, there are ways you can make things at least a little easier. One of these is NOT to move somewhere new with kids right at the start of the long summer holidays. You really don’t want to arrive when all the other families are away, plus, you are also unlikely to have all your stuff with you.
Six weeks without toys, X-Boxes, games, or even familiar needing can be hard for any child, let alone one who has just moved to the other side of the world and hasn’t yet made any new friends.
However, there are some sensible things you can do to make things go just that little smoother on arrival. Here are my top three:
Surf the Internet!
Of course, this is often easier said than done, especially when you move to a country where doing anything remotely technical involves triple-signing several documents and standing in at least five different queues in three different offices, all in opposite areas of town.
Hopefully, this will not happen to you. If you can, find out before your move which internet provider is best (friendly expat Facebook groups are great for this), and how to go about getting it set up.
There is, of course, always that conundrum that you might need a bank account before you can get an internet account, but whether you have to get there via data on your phone in the interim (ah yes, did I mention you should also make sure you have a phone contract as soon as possible?) or some other remote wizardry, just make sure you have access to the web.
You will be thankful when you’re three days into your new life and can chat with family back home, check in on what your friends are up to, and upload the obligatory shots of your first sunset/first cocktail/first cockroach… ok, you get the picture!
Get Out and About in Your New Place
This is just as important as being able to contact your people back home. There’s nothing like making you feel like your new house is a prison than not being able to escape it properly.
Some lucky people will simply open the door and start walking—and even find a nearby bus stop or train station. This wasn’t true for us in all of our last few postings—most recently in South Africa, where they'd make us feel it wasn’t safe to put a foot outside of our compound. We realized this wasn’t true, and I would often walk the ten minutes to the close-by shopping mall during daylight hours at least.
For the rest of us, though, make sure you either have easy access to some sort of a taxi service, have a willing new friend who can come and pick you up, or buy a car as quickly as possible. In the meantime, hire one.
Some of my favorite early memories are of driving some dodgy hire-car round the streets of whichever city I had just arrived in – the one we had in St Lucia even got a nickname–Squeaky McSqueaky, if I recall, because of its squeaky wheels.
Driving can intimidate at first but take the plunge as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the more daunting it will seem. Oh, and a GPS/SatNav is one of the best investments you can make when you move abroad. At least you know if you ever get lost you can find your way home again.
My Third Tip Is a Little Different
...but in just as important:
Make sure, right from day one, that you know where the nearest hospital is—and how you are going to get there, especially if you are a parent. Again, for some lucky people, it will mean just getting on the phone and calling an ambulance. But even then, do you know which number to call? And do you know your own address to tell them where to come?
For others, it may be a case of driving yourself there. so long as you are not the one who needs medical attention, or calling a cab. If you are going to drive yourself, you need to put the hospital into your GPS so you can find your way there easily—it’s easy to panic at times like this. If you need to be driven, make sure you have the address close to hand. And finally, make sure you know how to pay for your medical treatment at the hospital.
When you have just arrived in a host country all these things can seem overwhelming, but they need not be. You just need to make sure you are organized and have a plan. And then stick to it. These are just three little things that can help make your early days a little more pleasant and less stressful.
We are sure you will have plenty more ideas of your own on this transition—please let us know what they are!
by: Clara Wiggins