5 Tips For Settling Into A New Country Successfully

8 Tips for Settling into a New Country Successfully

Article and photos by Matt Scott

Updated by Transitions Abroad 6/2/2016

Settle in a new country such as Australia with a rainbow

Settling into a new country can seem like seeking a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

You may have decided to move to another country in order to experience a new culture or to change your current way of life. Perhaps work, study, or family commitments have influenced your decision. Whatever the motives for your move, it’s likely that while living in a new country can be full of excitement and positive experiences, there will be growing pains and difficulties along the way. Whether your move is for a semester, or perhaps for the rest of your life, in order to make the transition as successful as possible, being proactive about integrating and adapting to a new life is key. I have provided advice below that should help you settle in more smoothly and quickly.

Tip 1. Be Open-Minded

Living in Paris and walking along the river Seine in Paris, you will see books and posters on display that may blow your mind. Let your imagination and curiosity play.

It’s unlikely you would have moved to a new county if you lacked an open outlook on life in the first place, but just make sure you maintain this outlook. It’s likely that things will be done differently, people will have different perspectives, and governments will not be run as you are accustomed to. Your new way of living may be better, worse, or simply different from the familiar. Remember to accept these changes as a necessary part of your new life, try not to be overly critical (or glorify too much), and do your best to avoid feeling frustrated. Try to accept that things are the way they are, and you will need to adapt your way of living around a chosen location, not the other way round.

Tip 2. Improve Your Language Skills

Settle into your new country and learn the language

No one said learning a new language is easy, but with a bit of effort, you will manage.

There is no better way to learn a language than to be totally immersed in a culture and forced to speak the language on a daily basis. You may find yourself in an ex-pat community, or in an English-speaking bubble, but making an effort to escape from your comfort zone is important. Improving your language skills (or learning a new language from scratch) will not only help you appreciate local cultures and people but will make life much easier if you are unable to fall back on your mother tongue for communication. Even if you are moving from one English-speaking country to another, being open to new expressions, idioms, and terminology will help enrich your experience and allow you to better follow the flow of conversation.

I’d been trying to learn Spanish, on and off, for many years. While I would engage in periods of intense study for a few weeks, I’d quickly forget everything once I stopped practicing. I decided to sign up for an intensive language course in Santiago, Chile. While the course was only a few weeks in duration, I learned more than in my many years of prior study. Practicing the language on a daily basis provided not only a practical application for what I was learning, but helped reinforce grammatical rules and vocabulary. So much so that I was able to retain most of what I’d learned even years after I’d left South America.

Tip 3. Make New Friends

It’s not always easy to meet new people, regardless of where you are, but having a social life that you are used to and people you can call on in a time of need are vital to feeling at home in your new country. Joining an ex-pat group, volunteering your time, or becoming a member of clubs that appeal to your interests can all help you develop a network of friends.

Given that there will be many challenges in your new life, being able to call on people that are either in a similar situation or understand what you are facing, can make overcoming any issues all the easier.

Tip 4. Don’t Forget Your Old Friends

In the excitement of moving to a new county, it’s all too easy to forget about who you’ve left behind. You may wish to throw yourself into your new life completely, but make sure to stay in touch with friends and family back home. As time goes by you may find that you have less and less in common with your existing friends, or gain the impression that they don’t understand what you’re doing, but the friendships you’ve built up over the years are there for a reason, so don’t give up on them too quickly. In the end, your friends and family are the ones most likely to be there when you need them the most.

Tip 5. Know What You’re Getting Into

Learn how to adapt to a new country, such as Australia

Try to read up on your adopted land and know as much as possible how to navigate.

Living in a new country will bring with it all manner of new experiences and surprises. Hopefully, the majority of these will be positive but it’s inevitable that not everything will run smoothly. The more you know about your destination country, and what is involved in living there, the more you will ensure that you are able to adapt while avoiding as many potential obstacles as possible. Potential issues can range from ensuring that all your immigration paperwork is up to date and correct, or that you are paying your taxes correctly, to simple events such as how to buy a bus ticket, or where to find an internet café.

In particular, if you are moving to a country where the culture and customs are different from your own, make sure you know what is and isn’t acceptable (or legal) in order to ensure that you don’t have problems from the outset. Transitions Abroad have many excellent articles on adapting to new culture and practices in many different countries and serve as an excellent introduction to successful immersion.

One of the first times I lived abroad was to volunteer on a Kibbutz in Israel. While I had read up on the background of the county, and the issues within the region, I had no concept of just how complex and confusing this part of the world turned out to be. Many of my fellow volunteers were very knowledgeable about the significant events and history of the area, so I could discuss these matters in-depth with the people with whom we were living day-to-day, but I still often felt left out of the conversation. I was eventually able to learn about the history of the region and soon realized that there are more than just two sides to this particular story. Nonetheless, I still felt that if I had arrived with a greater understanding, my initial weeks and months would have been much more rewarding.

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