November 9, 2015

Are you settled yet? – Four Tips on Feeling More Comfortable When Moving to A Different Country

When moving abroad family, friends, new neighbors and perfect strangers will want to know if you’re feeling at home in your new home. One way of doing that- especially the Indian way is by asking, “Are you settled yet?” 

I am unsure how to answer this question. For me, feeling settled is about more than living in a comfortable home; it’s also about understanding the lifestyle, feeling I can fit in and knowing where things are and how to get there, understanding the value of money and many more criteria. Feeling settled includes many aspects – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and many more. 

From this I have learned a few tips on improving one’s comfort level when moving abroad:

1. Admit when you’re uncomfortable
People feel discomfort for a variety of reasons. Sit down and try to figure out why you are uncomfortable and if there is anything you can do to alleviate this discomfort. Sometimes discomfort comes from culture shock as well. There are ways to figure out if you have culture shock. Ask yourself what aspects of the new culture you’re in that you have experienced feels different, odd, uncomfortable or unfamiliar? Try to learn more about that to fit in better.

If someone tells you they are uncomfortable, facing culture shock or homesickness it may be easy to tell them ‘to forget it’ or ‘to just go home’ but having myself being told this, this makes me more uncomfortable, misunderstood and more lost. If someone mentions this to you they are uncomfortable; please be gentle with them. They are trying to open up to you. They may share something about the host country that is troubling them. Don’t take this as an offense if you are a local. Try to understand it from their point of view and give them tips on your culture and how to feel more comfortable. That person will appreciate it more than you know.

2.
Understand where you are.
When we move, our internal compass gets out of whack. To get collaborated, get a hold of a good map of your area, or use Google Maps or some kind of online mapping service to find out where you are in location to landmarks in your town or city. One of the reason we lose our bearings when we move to any new place is we do not know where anything is. We also do not know where we are in relation to anything. Try to figure out where the stores are and malls or libraries and parks or places you’d like to visit. If you don’t drive try to be the navigator for your spouse or driver and see if you can get to the right place. If you can you will feel victorious! Even after five years of living in Kochi, India as an expat, there are still roads in my neighborhood I still don’t know! But, as I try to navigate them more on my own or by trying to give others directions, it makes me feel more oriented. Of course when one drives themselves around, this increases the sense of location awareness. Many people also ask me if I will learn driving in India. Frankly, I won't drive in India, it's too chaotic for me. I do drive in the U.S., but even there, there are some places I avoid driving. For instance, I hate driving in big cities, and especially do not like driving in Boston. I think driving in Boston can prepare one for driving in India!

3.
Reach out and ask for help from the locals.
If you can speak the local language be brave, speak up and ask for help. People love to help others; it makes them feel useful. Good places to go where a lot of people ask for help in the US are mall information booths and libraries. Go to the reference section and ask the librarian about resources in your neighborhood. In India, I have no knowledge about these things, so I have asked my neighbors and family for help (since my husband’s Indian and his family are in this city). That helps increase my comfort a lot when others help. But first I have to be brave enough to ask.

4.
Find out if the problems you’re facing are ‘normal’.
Sometimes when we move abroad we face problems we would never face ‘back home’ or in our previous city or country. Therefore, taken out of context of the culture and lifestyle of that place, we may feel ‘we are the only one experiencing that’. Therefore, referring to the third tip, go out and find a local you could get some advice from on your problem. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out this is a ‘normal problem’ and they will have good advice and tips to overcome this problem.


I hope some of these tips have been helpful. What tips do you have for feeling settled when moving – especially moving abroad? 

Thank you for reading.

Photo caption: "Do you feel the dice stacking up against you while settling in a new place? Is it a big gamble? Here are tips to help you settle abroad" Photo by Seven Cent Skill, creative commons at flickr.



Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar, is an American expat who has been living in Kochi, India since 2011. She has provided cross cultural business sessions for more than 2,000 global, dispersed teams working with American counterparts. Contact us for more information.

Copyright © 2011, Updated 2015, Jennifer Kumar. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution (link included): Reprinted by permission of Jennifer Kumar, Cross-Cultural Coach at Authentic Journeys. 

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