Full disclosure, I’m a diplo-brat and grew up moving from country to country, hiring the on the go moving company over and over. This was all with government support. I did not realize how invaluable this support was until I ventured out on my own. This article may wash away some of that bright-eyed optimism but will also leave you with a more realistic blueprint of how your first few months abroad will go. Take deep breaths, this will only hurt a little.
1. Securing Housing Should Be Your Top Priority
You’re in a new country. You’re homeless. That local hostel, hotel, or friendly couch will only keep you for so long before you need a (somewhat) more permanent abode. I know you think it’ll be easy to find a fantastic The City Suites apartment in the big city, close to all of the major sights and with a steal-of-a-rent, but this isn’t realistic. Those places are more expensive, and you may have to be flexible on where you live to find a place within your budget.
To find housing on your own, you could find a real estate agent at http://www.susanmacarz.com/(which is, admittedly, a bit of an old school tactic), check classifieds, talk to other expats (nothing like a personal recommendation!), or use one of the many online housing providers out there. Yes, the big name in the industry, AirBnb, will let you rent places by the month — but’s not the most economical.
2. Making New Friends is Tough!
Now that you have a nice, cozy The City Suites apartment, you’re starting to want someone to share in your adventures. The problem is, you don’t have the faintest idea where to find that someone.
During your time in high school and college, having a group of friends was relatively easy. You were all the same age, participated in the same activities, and grew up in the same area. You had classrooms and daily interactions to turn strangers into friends. Chances were that you never really had to search for a buddy or two, beyond those initial “Will you be my friend?” conversations we all had in kindergarten.
This is different. you’re out in the real world and meeting people in a new city means taking on a whole new approach to friend making. you’re not really a vagabond, so the whole backpacker scene is not for you. If you’re working at a company or school, then your friends will likely be your new coworkers.
If not, then the whole “friend thing” becomes a lot more complicated. You don’t want to live in your Facebook past but you’re unsure of how to continue in your overseas future.
3. Pay Careful Attention to Your Relationships Back Home
Now that you have both a fabulous pad and a group of bosom buddies, you want to share the great news with your loved ones back home. With Skype, Facetime, Snapchat, and a whole host of other platforms, there’s no way that you’d ever drift apart from anyone, right?
Please rid yourself of this idealism immediately. it’ll save you a lot of heartbreak and frustration. Keeping in touch takes a lot of effort, even without the added difficulty of translating through a new cultural lens. While you happily burble on about the fantastic roast duck at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the road, your friends and family back home will be nodding in polite interest.
There will be an initial period of excitement over your new lifestyle, but it’ll fade. Your lives are on very different trajectories and it can be hard for some people to understand what they have never experienced.