Eight Things That Happen When You Move to Another Country
Ever since I was in school I wanted to move to another country to see what it would be like. Back in college, I got through a few universities in the UK for my Masters degree and even paid a part of the tuition fee for one of them. A month before I was supposed to move, I developed cold feet and changed my mind.
No, I never regretted my decision but I knew I wasn’t ready then. Perhaps I should have jumped right in? I’ll never know. But hey, it took me 10 years after that to finally move out of India – my home country.
It can be career, education or just seeking a change that makes some of us move to another country. Not everyone wants to do it and not many who want to do it can actually end up doing it. The process is not easy! But hey, the part where you actually move is the most difficult part; after that, it’s a rollercoaster ride.
Moving to another country is surely exhilarating, but can be terrifying in equal measure. No matter how prepared you think you are, certain things are still going to take you by surprise. And that’s good, because this way it never gets boring.
One thing is more certain than the sunrise – no matter how old you are, 18 or 48, your dear-old-mommy is going to worry! It happens with me, it happens with my friends and I’m sure it happens with you too. Well, if you’re just about to move to a new country and are smiling to yourself, go tell your mom not to worry because things are going to be ok.
Even if you’ve visited your intended new home countless times already, there is a big difference between being a repeated visiter and a resident. I visited Germany a few times but never knew I was going to get surprised and shocked so often after moving here. From my experience, there are a few things that every new expat or immigrant will have to get used to at some stage in their new life.
I use the terms “expat” and “immigrant” interchangeably and I encourage you to do so too. There is a tendency of using the word expat for people from first world countries who move to a third world country and immigrant for the other way around. There’s an interesting discussion on Reddit about Expats vs Immigrant.
Anyway, here’s what happens when you move to a another country:
1. Love it or Hate it – You Will Have to do a Lot of Paperwork
If you enjoy paperwork and filling endless forms, then you’re not like most of the people on the planet. For the rest of us, this aspect of moving to a new country is going to totally suck.
Changing your residence to a new country involves crazy amounts of paperwork. You will have to register yourself and obtain some sort of ID and address proof. Without that, you will not be able to open a bank account or be able to sign a rent agreement. Whether you have a job or not, you will also need to get some sort of tax ID for yourself. In most countries, you will also need to sign up for a mandatory health insurance.
Now, many of you will say that this point is #1 on the list because I moved to Germany – the country of abundant paperwork at every opportunity! Well guess what, before I moved here, San had moved to India for a while and the paperwork that he had to do in my country was also insane.
2. You’re Going to Get Homesick (Of Course)
Homesickness is not what it once was. Thanks to the proliferation of cheap internet and the omnipresence of smartphones, being in touch with friends and family from back home is no longer the problem it was even five years ago, let alone the dark days before the internet! Argh, remember them? (No, of course you don’t, you’re far too young.)
Through WhatsApp and FB Messenger groups, you’re still going to hear all the gossip going on. Have a burning desire to see your best friend’s disgustingly silly yet endearing smile? Then Skype or Facetime will be your best buddy!
This constant interconnectedness will however mean that you will quickly discover that life goes on without you. Your friends will still go out drinking without you (of course). They will still meet up for that post-session brunch the following day. They will still go dancing until dawn at that secret music festival you introduced them to. And what’s worse is, you are going to get real time updates, photos and videos of all of it. All of it! Ugh.
You will miss your family like crazy on festivals and special occasions. It will be a strange feeling knowing you’re not there when any of your close family members are cutting their birthday cakes.
You are going to get homesick like never before. I guarantee it.
3. You’re Going to Have to Get Used to Being the ‘Other’
My good friend says she had always considered herself fairly tactful – that was, until she spent some time in Japan. Suddenly, she was a blundering fool banging around and constantly putting her foot in things – including her mouth.
I often feel the same way too in Germany. Even small things matter – such as being the most colourfully attired in a church event where everyone’s wearing black. Before you ask, no it wasn’t a funeral.
For instance, being opinionated and outspoken might be seen as strengths in one country, whereas in another it might absolute bad manners.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go about changing yourself completely just to fit in, but it will take a period of adjustment before you know the lay of the land. It can also be a great opportunity for you to reinvent yourself!
4. You Will Probably Need to Learn a New Language
Learning a new language can be fun because it will help you understand the culture of your new country of residence in a better way. Moreover, it will give you a chance to connect with the locals in a far deeper way than before.
There are some countries like Germany where new residents are required by law to learn the basics of the language to get their residence permit. However, you can luckily avoid this step if you’re moving to a country where English is widely spoken. You may not need to learn a new language at all, but it will surely help you if you can speak a few basic sentences.
5. Your Habits Will Change
So you’ve always been a night-owl, have you? Moving to Lusaka, are you? Well, prepare to be in bed by 9 pm every night, my friend.
Moving to a new country and immersing yourself in a new culture means different things for different people – but for almost everyone, it is going to mean some of your habits are going to change. Whether you want them to or not!
Some countries start their day early and go to bed early – sometimes really early. Others don’t eat their dinner until the stars are in the night sky. You can try and fight against it but you’re not going to win. My advice is lean into it. Your assimilation into your new life is going to go a lot smoother if you go with the flow.
If you do find yourself struggling to get enough shuteye in your newly adopted homeland, then visit the sleepadvisor site for handy hints and helpful tips on rediscovering your sleep mojo.
6. Your Mind Will Open up Like Never Before
Literally every single day I see a post on Instagram about someone confessing to how “travel changed their life and made them a better person”. Well, moving to a new country does the same and usually on a deeper level.
This happens because your mind absorbs the new culture, etiquettes, social norms, language, food and so much more. There will be days when you will hate how different your new country of residence is as compared to your home country. But again, there will be days when the exact same thing will make you smile.
Moving to a new country is a non-stop learning process, where our minds have no choice but to evolve and open up further to changes and a world of more possibilities.
7. You’re Going to Have Weird Cravings
Moving to another country doesn’t mean you are leaving behind all the things you love – rather, it’s an opportunity to fall in love with a whole host of new things. By things I am mainly referring to food and drink here. After all, what’s more important than food and drink?
The less you live somewhere new, the less you will desire things from home. For most of the year, being without your beloved roti or samosa is going to be a little bit of a pain. (Yes, there is a picture of dumplings here – or momos as we call them – because that was my favourite street food while I was living in Delhi.)
Where all this becomes even more extreme is during special occasions. For me it's Diwali or Holi, but for many others it might be Christmas, Eid or Halloween. For instance, an Irish person not having a pint Guinness on Paddy’s Day is akin to a crime against humanity!
8. You Will Need New Friends
For some, the thought of making new friends is very exciting and for others it can be frightening. If you’ve moved cities a lot during school (I did too), then this will not be difficult. But hey, the process can be a tad frustrating. Why? Because it is easier to make friend when you’re in a school or when you’re travelling.
Depending upon where you have moved, it can take a while to find people who you’d love to be friends with. My suggestion is to join a course or a club – it can be a fitness course, a language course, a book club, a library, or even a swimming pool membership. Talk to people and introduce yourself and who knows – maybe you’ll start an awesome new friendship.