There are few things that compare to the excitement of moving abroad. Nevertheless, it can be a daunting and stressful process, and whilst those moving abroad alone do not have the responsibilities of a spouse or family, they can be faced with other challenges. However if you are moving overseas by yourself there are certain steps that can be taken to ensure a smooth transition. Making friends is often the prime concern of those moving alone, however there are various steps which can reduce the stress of finding new friendships. Expat Internet forums can provide a great wealth of information. By chatting to like-minded people, many of whom may have been in a similar situation, you can often ascertain useful advice and even develop friendships before you arrive in your destination.
It goes without saying that you should thoroughly research your location before you consider moving. Try to visit your destination at different times throughout the year, in order to gain a more realistic picture of what living there would be like, for example summer resorts can become deserted during the winter months. When there, try to build up a picture of what your day to day life would be like, by conducting many of the routine activities such as visiting the local supermarkets and shops as this will help build a more accurate image of how your life overseas may be.
It is also a good idea to research recreational activities in the local area. If you are a keen sports person (or perhaps just fancy your hand at trying something new) joining a local sports club or gym can be a great way of making new friends. If sport does not appeal to you there are plenty other ways to meet people, whether this be through volunteering for a local charity, attending events in your area or hosting coffee mornings or weekly book clubs. By continuing your existing hobbies in your new location you are likely to expand your social network and it can also be a great way to establish a sense of routine and familiarity in your new lifestyle.
One commonly overlooked factor in finding friendships can be your choice of neighbourhood. There is obviously a huge amount of factors that will influence your choice of new home, such as where you end up working or what your budget is. However, certain neighbourhoods may be better situated for singles, for example there may be limited opportunity to meet like-mined people if you live in a family neighbourhood. That said, given the importance of finding the right property for yourself, this should only be taken as one of many factors when deciding where to live.
If you are moving to a country where English is not the first language, it is advisable to enrol in a language course. Where possible try to build up some basic knowledge before you move, as it can be far easier to engage with people on arrival to your new country. Even if you can only say some basic greetings in the language, your effort is bound to be appreciated. Once you have arrived try to use your language skills in your new location, and if necessary improve on these skills by enrolling in a local course. Again, this can be a great way to meet others who may also be new to the area and looking for a friend.
Meeting people in a new place can be hard at first, but the best bit of advice is to be bold and take the initiative to strike up a conversation with people.
Here are some practical tips to help you along your way for both the actual moving process and the settling-in process:
Notify for the cut off or final reading of utilities (if your company will not arrange for this).
Arrange for their care while you are gone or have them adopted, or take them with you? Find out about the relocation steps, certificates of vaccination, costs and quarantine regulations.
If planning to ship any personal effects, a survey should be done at least a month in advance. During the survey with the relocation service provider you should be as detailed as possible and show the representative everything that will be shipped. The more information provided during the survey the more accurate the proposal.
Organisation of packing
Arrange for the pre-delivery of cartons. You can use colour coded stickers to help get items organised and delivered to the correct room at destination. It also helps to identify what items you may want to donate to charity, to store at a warehouse or to sell, and what will be thrown away.
When packing starts, be sure to have the packers begin in the rooms which you will not be needing. For example, packing starts in the dining room, guest bedroom, balcony, terrace and leave the master bedroom and kitchen for last as you may want to still live in the home until the packing is completed.
As your packing day approaches, separate your valuables (documents, passports, emergency medical supplies, toiletries and jewellery should be carried separately) - this will keep them from getting packed.
Consider what you would set-up if you moved house, such as a phone line, utilities and council tax, and find out what information you will be required to provide in order to do this in your new location.
If you are using relocation specialists, your representative will be able to advise you accordingly and direct you to websites such as www.crownrelo.com; otherwise you should be able to find out more details and legal requirements from government and service provider websites.
Finding local places of interest
Locating places in advance that you will need to visit once you have arrived, such as a supermarket, can be a great time and stress saver. It would be worthwhile marking them on a map so that you can find your way around when you’re out and about. Crucially, it also means you won’t need to rely on the internet when you arrive. After all, it could take some time to organise phone lines and internet access for your new home.
Learn about your new country
It is perfectly natural to experience culture shock when you arrive so it can be very beneficial to prepare yourself for those differences. You may think that some countries have similar cultures to your home country, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel the effects of culture shock. No matter how alike the countries are, it can often help to take part in an intercultural training course to get a true understanding of the new culture and different religion.
Explore every opportunity for employment
Whether you’re relocating on your own or with your family, arranging a job from afar can be tricky, but don’t give up hope. The benefits of a stable job are clear. If you are employed in your new location, you will become accustomed to the local area much more quickly. Working will help you to establish a degree of routine and will build upon your personal contacts.
Finding the perfect pad
You will feel more settled if you have somewhere to call your own, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy a house! Simply find somewhere that you can use as a permanent base rather than relying on a hotel. If you’re relocating on your own and don’t like the thought of renting a property by yourself, look on websites for potential house shares.
Join expat groups
Investigate local expat groups and, when you arrive, make an effort to join as many as possible. The members of these groups can be a vital source of encouragement, practical assistance and information to help you settle in.
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HSBC Expat encourages expats worldwide to share their experiences of living and working abroad and take part in global research that compares expatriate life from country to country. Click here for more information, or take part in the Expat Explorer Survey 2013.
Crown Relocations / Expatica
Crown is a global company with a multi-cultural workforce dedicated to quality and service excellence. We provide intelligence to emigrating individuals and to transferring employees to assist in planning, living and working in a new place. For more information on Crown Relocations visit our A-Z listings.
Photo credit: Temari 09 (photo 1), Nathan O'Nions (photo 2), Alan Cleaver (photo 3)