Whether your change of scenery is by choice or by chance, living abroad is a leap into an unknown world. Foreign currency dots the signs and rings the tills, and unfamiliar language buzzes through the streets. Even the most self assured individual can feel themselves out of their depth. So if you haven’t managed to wrangle a crew to move along with you or your sans partner, this is for you. How to move overseas solo, it doesn’t have to be so terrifying.
Be honest with yourself
This spans finances and mannerisms. Are you the type to handle curveballs with ease or are you likely to be rattled? Neither is a deal breaker nor a reason to ground your flight. But it’s about being realistic. If you’re the dependent type, on top of culture shock you’re likely to feel a weight of responsibility heaved upon you suddenly. On the flip side those notoriously independent may neglect the cultural differences in favour of doing your own thing. If you desire this change of pace so much, make the most of it. Once you’re honest you can prepare accordingly.
Be where the expats are
Like on your first trip abroad you thought the locals would be waiting with open arms to greet you. The reality is you will meet a tonne more foreigners just like yourself. Even with a job diving into the local scene can be tricky to break into, look for a support base first. Aussies in London, Australians in the USA , Aussies in Hong Kong or specific Meetup groups for wherever you are!
Expats are exactly what you need. No matter if they’ve been there five minutes or five years, they’re the ultimate resource. Join an online group before you go and reach out for help. They’ll be more use to you when it comes to visas and tax declarations than any bot online.
Have a plan B
Nothing will go to plan. That dream job, your steady savings or a divine little apartment worth having friends visit. Moving abroad isn’t as simple as packing and hoping. Budget extra cash for the interim, look for a job to tide you over and lower your expectations in the rental market. You can’t have it all at once and they are unlikely to come in a wave all together. If you plan your contingencies it won’t rattle you so much, or have you looking at one way flights back home so early on.
Put yourself out there
You’ve done the hard yards, said your goodbyes and uprooted your life. Now comes making new connections. Whether you’re extroverted or otherwise, putting yourself out there is easy said than done. Make the most of every interaction, speak kindly to the shop assistant, waiter or bartender. You never know what might come of it.
Look to expat gatherings, monthly meet ups and attend as much as your calendar can physically contain. So what you’re living in a cramped one bedder in the wrong end of town? If you’re out and about 95% of the week, it doesn’t matter. You’ve taken the first leap, this is the second.
Learn the language
Immersing yourself in a culture is a fastback to language learning. You’ll be surprised how quickly listening and interacting in a foreign tongue will click in your brain. One moment you’ll be fumbling that coffee order and the next copying the pleasantries of the customer before you. Make a challenge for yourself to speak English less and less, the effort won’t go unnoticed even if your vocabulary is limited.
If you’re stateside or across the pond, make a conscious effort to notice slang. Those little inflections or over pronunciations are worth taking note of. It may seem comedic to start when thongs come up in conversation, but it may have an adverse effect too. Make yourself approachable and communicate as best you can on their terms. It will give you a thing or two to bring home as well.
Embrace new challenges
Navigating the subway or traversing the job market, living alone, abroad no less, is all about challenging yourself. Leave that comfort zone at the departure lounge and launch yourself into a whole new world of adventures. Short of taking the Yes Man approach, opening yourself to any and all opportunities will ensure this experience is a time time to remember. Salsa dancing, cooking classes and open mic night, wherever your new friends take you jump aboard.
Tackle loneliness head on
You will get lonely. Horrible, withering loneliness. It may strike one morning when you go to order your coffee or when a picture pops up in your feed of a friend’s birthday. Living overseas, never lone solo, can be incredibly isolating. An immense body of water, time zone and linguistic twang standing between you and you’re vegemite toast loving home.
It’s hard to anticipate, but just know it’s totally normal. Culture shock combined with these lonely feelings can have you wanting to board the next flight, don’t. You’ve come this far and this is only a hiccup. Make sure you don’t stay isolate, reach out to your new expat pals and make plans. They know exactly that feeling you have in the pit of your stomach, because it’s all to familiar to them.
Don’t forget about home
It may seem easier to unplug your life and focus on this new adventure. Even if this trip is a time of self discovery, don’t negate the value of home. Those experiences made you who you are and set you up to take on this bright new country, town or job. Stay engaged on social media, that’s what it’s for.
Book in regular Skype calls and treat them like appointments. Sure the time difference will be killer, but knowing you’re missed is worth every yawn.
Celebrate your adventures
Make plans and celebrate your endeavours. Think of it like a star chart for the newly minted explorer, you. One star for saying high to a stranger, two for heading to a social outing alone, and five for feeling at home in your new place. Don’t let this experience pass you by.
Instead revere every moment of it. You are likely to be here anywhere from one year til forever, at the whim of visas of course. Take joy in every increment of progress and get to know this new confident version of yourself. Back home you may be just another city slicker or out of towner, but here you’re a foreign treasure.
Image source: Desarrollando Ideas, Huffington Post, Natasha Oakley Blog, The NY Post.