Moving is stressful, moving overseas doubly so. There are so many unknowns, and the constant barrage of new and exciting concepts and experiences is exciting and at the same time exhausting. Here are some of the top concerns when relocating overseas.
1. Discomfort with language
From the moment you step of the plane, you will be immersed in unfamiliar sounds and signs and it can certainly be overwhelming. Luckily when I arrived in China I already had just under 1 year of practice and still, I was intimidated.
Travelers often ask me for travel tips, upon their return hands down the most helpful tidbit is to have someone at your hotel or corporate apartment write down the name of the destination in Chinese for you. (Do not attempt to copy addresses yourself unless you have studied Chinese writing, or at least test it out first to make sure it's legible). If you are really impressed by a particular shop get their business card or míng piàn / 名片. You should also carry the 名片 for your hotel/corporate apartment so you can venture out freely knowing you can always get home.
Sorry, there is no quick fix for this and this subject alone could take up an entire website. While living in Shanghai I noticed 3 things seemed to help me overcome homesickness. 3 national and 1 international relocation later this is my personal magic formula.
- Create a new routine:
In addition to the delicious weekend brunches, try to find a hobby (language lessons don't count) something stress-free and rejuvenating to look forward to during the week. My favorite was a little dive bar (Dada bar) that played movies on Tuesdays. Until you find your own personalized hobby I recommend weekly foot massages. Wow, in fact, have one for me, I am relaxing just thinking about them.
- Keep in touch:
It's so easy to feel disconnected. When I repatriated a new baby existed that I didn't know about. Yes, it can be that severe. When your friends know you live in a city like Shanghai they want to hear all about your experience and are less likely to share the day to day drama of life at home. Don't be surprised if you have to pull teeth to find out whats going on. With the time difference this will be harder than you think but its worth it.
- Get involved in the community and volunteer:
Volunteering connects you to like-minded people and helps uplift the community. One fun volunteer opportunity for me was chaperoning a trip to the museum. You want to get to know the culture, escort 2 adorable little boys who don't speak English around for 2 hours. I'm sure some laughs were at my expense but I had a great time!
3. Missing favorite foods and favorite things
This one is tough. In China there are not always decent replacements for your favorite foods BUT... put it on your calendar to explore looking for substitutes. Trust me you want to try to find it before the cravings get too bad. In addition to your hunt for substitutions, find new comfort food. I fell in love with Ajisen Ramen, seriously I love everything on that adorable little Japanese fast food menu.
4. Culture Shock / Difficulties adapting
This is something that you cant force. Just keep exposing yourself to different experiences and talk about them with your new network of friends and even your language tutor. You will get there, keep that chin up!
5. Dream Location Vs Reality
This is all about unmet expectations. Of course you are going to be excited and imagine what your time will be like, this is completely normal. The trouble comes when expecting things to go your way causes you to feel overwhelmed, or unnecessarily stressed. More important is that stressing over unmet expectations can cause you to overlook golden opportunities to connect with your new neighbors.
Don't sweat the small stuff and keep these quotes in mind while crossing the ocean...
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