The Do’s and Please Don’ts of Living in a Foreign Country.

If moving is on you agenda, and it’s not just a change in zip code, but country, perhaps even continent; there are some things you can do to give yourself a better life.

There’s traveling, and then there’s living. Most people have been on a few trips in their life and observed the differences in life elsewhere. After all, we are defined by our contrasts, and nothing will educate you on that quicker, and with greater efficiency than traveling. Unless of course you’re you, and you’re moving to a foreign country for the foreseeable future.

Do…

…visit first.

Go there, take it in as a tourist, do all the touristy stuff. Drink the local wines, brews and drinks bound for all eternity to this new home of yours. Talk to the locals, and really ask them about their lives. This will afford you a means to see it how everyone who suddenly has a reason to travel there, – certainly not just your free extra bedroom, right?? – will take in your new home. These impressions are hard to retroactively experience if the first time you do it, is six months into your new job, school or aspiration. First impressions are unique and powerful, ensure you get a good one.

…invest in your success.

Consider what your ideal life there looks like. Are you a homebody? Does a social scene matter? Clubs? Art classes? Yoga studios? Athletic facilities? Good food scene? Theatre? Outdoors? What do you need to feel at peace? Do the math. Does paying an additional 10% for where you live, in order to be nearer what matters to you, or having more space, equate to the quality of life you’ll get from it?

In most cases spending an additional 15-20 mins in your commute is a smaller price to pay than having a den, or larger yard in your home. Likewise; having access to societies services and amenities along with temptations of civilization will provide you more energy and activity. Whatever you need, let yourself have some of it. A bit more money going into yourself, reminds you to be yourself, something a new place will always challenge.
This also means dressing for the occasion. Here in the Netherlands I can recommend an Alan Red shirt for example. Here dress shirts for men or women are almost everywhere a good first step to succes. 

…remember who you are.

New impressions, people, and daily routines have a tendency to affect us over time. They grow slowly like most permanent things. This is not a bad thing, it’s simply something to keep an eye on. You are the master of your fate, and change is good. It either sharpens what you already like, or alters what isn’t really you. Let it. A great teacher of mine simplified and disarmed the fear and anxiety I had when finding my way through New York City; “It’s just another place where people live”. Exactly, just another place inhabited by your very own species. Enjoy, and that place will enjoy you. Remember how good it feels when someone speaks highly of your home.

…Check the neighborhood

This is especially important when you are a parent. Make sure to check the right neighborhood for kids. Spot at the nightlife center might not be the place to go. Ask around about the rules and possibilities for schools. Do you want a local school or go for an international one? Talk to mother’s where to go and what for example local customs are for kids, playdates etc. You never know what seems normal to you might be weird in other countries.

 

Do not…

…constantly talk about where you’re from.

You live here now, and this is home. If people ask, sure, share and be merry, but don’t go on and on about “back home”. If you find yourself doing that, simply find a fun class or hobby, maybe even a side-hustle that fills your time a bit. It’s normal to get lonely in a new place, especially one where everyone around you is still “home”, but it passes quicker if you immerse yourself.

 

…be a pushover.

Stand up for yourself, and take up some damn elbow room. You’re here too. We all quickly adopted the student role when everything is new, but you’re already good at learning, and adapting is in your DNA. People will test you in their own ways, usually without realizing it; as you are quite literally joining their tribe. This ceremony can either be welcoming a meek mouse or a brave bear. Pick one, but actually pick. You can morph all you want, you’re new after all and it’s fun to get to play around with who you’re going to play in this new social theatre.

 

…gossip.

Like children and simply animals we always want to have something to show or offer. When you’re in a new place people often come to you, an impartial outsider to unload. It’s human nature and a common movie narrative. Don’t use their trust as a weapon but sharing information. You’ll end up on the outside worse than when you arrived. People trusting you is a sign of love, but it all starts with a test: can you be trusted? If the answer is yes, you have a new home. Make it a yes.

 

Whether you’re going at it on your own two feet, or as a family unit, there is such an incredible adventure waiting for you. Much of it won’t become clear for a year or two, but trust that this already delightful ‘Book of You’, gets better and better, no matter where you are at present.

 

Embarking on a relocation is an incredible thing, and will affect your life forever. Having moved across the Atlantic  and Spain six times before turning 30; I can promise you this: living in a foreign country is a good thing. I even brought home a baby.. Embrace it, and see what happens.