NEW DESTINATION – HOW TO HANDLE THE TRANSITION & HOW TO PREPARE FOR A NEW COUNTRY
An international relocation can be exciting but it can also be a bit daunting as well, especially as there is so much to think about and take into consideration – from the kids’ new schools, to where you will live, to getting to grips with various aspects of a new culture. Handling the transition is key to settling in quickly and smoothly.
Moving to a new country is a big life change that involves a lot of adjustments. An open mind and a positive outlook will be crucial to help get your head around the initial “culture shock”. Preparing for the move itself is best tackled with lots of research and a calm approach but to make it a bit easier, we’ve broken it down into 3 stages and shared what we feel are some good pointers for each phase leading up to and during the transition process.
- If a moving company has not been recommended or assigned to you by your or your partners’ employer or relocation agency, start asking around within your networks for reputable removal companies. You can also do your own research online. When it comes to choosing a removal company, it’s advisable to get a referral, as these kinds of services are usually by word of mouth, preferably someone reliable and competent to handle all the aspects of your moving process.
- At this point, you should have your list of what you want to take with you to the next destination ready and an idea of what you will throw out or give away. We cover this in a lot more detail in our next blog post.
- Make sure all your important documents are in order. Ensure you have digital copies on file for back ups as well as print outs of those documents you will need to have hard copies of on hand. Ensure you are up to date with all your taxes and close any accounts that you need to. Notify relevant parties of your upcoming move.
- Involve your family in the moving process and start speaking to your kids about what they could potentially expect on the other side. Prepare yourself and your family mentally and emotionally as much as possible beforehand. It’s a good idea to have regular family chats to put any fears to rest and let them know any anxiety around a move is completely normal. Acknowledge the feelings that are coming up for everybody and try to create a sense of excitement and adventure about this new chapter in your lives!
- Start researching prospective neighborhoods and potential schooling options. If you can already put together a list of possible residential areas where you might live, go ahead and do this so that once you arrive you can start the house/apartment hunting process straight away.
- Read up on the local culture and get acquainted with the major cultural norms of the country, especially if there are specific customs, rules around social etiquette or religious aspects to be aware of upfront. This is where online resources and communities can be particularly helpful.
- Do a quick search online to get an understanding of the grocery store and food situation. Once you arrive, you will get a better idea of what’s available and where to get it when you’re actually “on the ground”.
- Medical matters relating to family members are important. Check what chronic medications you should try to bring with you. Familiarize yourself with the general state of medical care in the new country as well as what you will be covered for by your medical insurance.
- Request to join a few international expat groups on Facebook where you can ask questions and get information before you even arrive in the country.
Now that you have arrived at your new destination, your focus can be on settling your family into their new environment. Transition can be a tricky thing to tackle because you will probably be adjusting to a new culture and you might be finding some aspects of the new country challenging to adapt to at first. But view this as your opportunity to think outside of your comfort zone.
- Sign up with some of expat groups on offer and start attending as many events, open days and coffee mornings as possible. There are so many expat groups around to choose from, including specific interest groups for particular hobbies, women’s groups, and various nationality-based groups.
- Say yes to every invitation that comes your way in the beginning and give an activity at least 3 fair attempts before deciding on whether or not it’s for you. As a newbie, try to be as open-minded as possible – you never know who you can meet through others. As they say, your vibe attracts your tribe but in order to find your tribe, you will need to be open and adventurous at first!
- If there are any spouses from your partners’ employer who you can reach out to once your have arrived to ask for advice or just someone to chat with, get in contact with them.
- Put a routine in place straight away so that you can create some sense of normality for your family from the get-go.
- Now that you are in the country, contact local estate agents to plan visits to potential neighborhoods. Perhaps you have already decided on the house/apartment decision, or maybe your mind will be swayed once you start to see the options on offer.
- Get to know the city you will now be referring to as Arrange a mini cultural immersion as a way of getting a feel for your new home. There are plenty of local tour guides and operators out there who can help you arrange a tour around the city to various places of interest.
- If your shipment has not arrived yet, or if you are staying in a fully furnished place, buy a plant or a colorful piece of art or local fabric to give your place an instant homely touch.
- Keep yourself busy by getting involved in activities and local events and happenings. You could even start to consider new and different things now that you are more familiar with your surroundings. Don’t limit yourself to only hanging out with expats. Sometimes getting out of the expat bubble can be refreshing!
- Give yourself time to transition into your new life – and at least 6 months to get some feeling of normality. Some say it can take up to two years to fully transition and acclimatize to a new country, so don’t be too hard on yourself!
- Bear in mind there is something called The Settlement Curve and you will find (as well as members of your family) that you move between highs and lows. Newly arrived expats are often on a major high, filled with the excitement and euphoria that comes with starting a new adventure in a new country. However, that initial feeling of exhilaration quickly subsides when the realities of every day life set in, and the real challenges of living in a new country start to appear. Stay positive and be okay with the fact that you will have good days and you will have bad days. Be aware of the various stages of the settlement curve and write down or keep notes on how you feel, as this could help you deal with the process.
- Turn to the ones around you and talk it out if you need to. Family chats around the dinner table are a good start, so is calling up an old friend, or grabbing a coffee with a new one.
- You don’t have to do this on your own, there are many others who have been through what you’re dealing with now and can maybe offer some valuable insight. Buy books or refer to online resources such as expat blogs to get some tips and helpful advice on how to make your transition period a little easier.
- Keep your social networks strong and your routines regular – between school runs, gym, coffee mornings, lunches, volunteering, social activities, perhaps even work. At the same time, don’t totally distract yourself with too many activities so that you do not “deal” with what a transition entails. You also need to process your transition.
- Consider volunteering your time or skills to a worthy organization. Sometimes the best way to feel part of a new place is to get involved with the local people and communities there.
- Explore a hobby you’ve always wanted to take up but never had the time or opportunity to pursue. Learn a new language – now that you are in Ghana, why not consider learning some basic Twi?
- Don’t forget to take stock and reflect on how far you have come. Check in with your family on a regular basis to gage their feelings, and ask how they are settling in and finding things at this point in time.
- Always have something to look forward to, whether it’s exploring your new neighborhood, further afield in the region, or planning your next family summer vacation abroad.
- Try to be mindful and live in the present moment, don’t spend too much time thinking about the past or looking too far ahead in the future. Don’t wish away your time no matter how much you might want to (even on those really bad days where everything seems to be going wrong), because you risk missing out on meaningful moments and learning opportunities.
- Don’t lose sight of why you initially took the expatriation assignment and how it fits with your family’s long-term plans. Reminding ourselves that short-term discomfort can bring long-term benefits often helps us to hang in there.
- It really helps to talk to and spend time with other expats who are in the same boat as you and whose situations you can relate to. This is the time to lean on one another and share your common experiences and transition tips.
- Think about all the ways you have grown as a person and about the things that living in another country has taught you. Get everyone involved in this exercise: have your kids write down on a piece of paper what they’ve learnt from this new experience and put these inside a glass jar. One day, perhaps when you’re on your next assignment, you can open the jar and read through the pieces of paper together.
We hope you’ve found this information helpful. Providing support for a seamless and flexible relocation is a standard part of the Dwell Ghana services. Let one of our professional team members walk you through what this entails by contacting us today. We look forward to hearing from you!