So you’ve accepted a position and you’re ready to move overseas. Whether you’re headed to Abu Dhabi or New York, Hong Kong or Sao Paulo, here are some pieces of universal advice to help you make a smooth transition into your new home:
(4) Get the lay of the land.
Each city you go to is a whole new world, and while it’s tempting to stick to the highlights in the guidebook, you’ll gain more knowledge and perspective on your new home by simply taking a map (or not!) and going out exploring. This means walking around, a lot. It means riding the subway or the bus until you know the routes and become adept at navigating the system. It means knowing where the nearest bank is, and where you can find vegemite or peanut butter when you get a craving for a taste of home. If you’re moving to a city with known security issues like Johannesburg or Manila, learn “no-go” areas from a local before you go out exploring.
(5) Learn the language.
It’s not necessarily to be fluent, but knowing the basics like numbers, please and thank you, and hello and goodbye will make navigating your daily life in a new country considerably more stress-free. If the language is written in a non-Roman script, try to learn the fundamentals as soon as possible to prevent unfortunate mix-ups – even which bathroom to go to can be a major issue if you’re illiterate! Remember that other English-speaking countries may also have speech quirks that you’re unfamiliar with, so don’t presume that there will be no learning curve.
(6) Eat everything.
For most of us, food is overwhelmingly the easiest way into a new culture. You might struggle with the language in Sichuan, for example, but you’re likely to fall quickly in love with spicy Sichuan hot-pot. Likewise, eating is a practice that unites people the world over, so sharing a meal with work colleagues or new acquaintances is generally an all-around win. Most of all, opening your mouth to new foods is a great way of showing openness to your host culture – so whether you’re sampling chicken feet in China, fertilized duck eggs in the Philippines, or barbequed stingray in Singapore, adventurous eating seldom goes amiss.
In the end, your new home is what you make of it. Taking your life abroad might seem like a big step at first, but with a little patience, curiosity and humour, you’ll hit the ground running.