Whether you are moving overseas for the first or fifth time, there are very similar things you need to learn at each new location. It was about my third move in when I realized that only the sights and sounds were really different – moving is moving and every single time I had to discover how exactly life was going to be lived at this new location. So I started thinking about how our arrival and early experiences typically evolve and I broke it down into the following categories:
Where Are We Going to Sleep?
Whether the house has been assigned to you and is ready for your occupation or you’re staying at a hotel when you first arrive, what you ultimately want to know is what will my home be like. Will my furniture fit? Am I isolated or will I be able to walk easily to shops and restaurants? Will there be other Americans around to help me settle in? What type of security will the house require that I’m not used to dealing with? And, of course, the question that will ultimately determine, to a large extent, your experience of your new location, Will I like it? Of course you will want the answer to that last question to be Yes. However, don’t underestimate your ability to make even the strangest house a home that your family can get used to.
What Are We Going to Eat?
This question can be so difficult for people who have fairly limited interest in trying new foods when they are moving overseas. Try to bring some food along with you in your suitcase that will taste familiar – crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, peanut butter. Having at least something to fall back on can make the first few days much easier. Do not be put off by the first grocery you visit. Often, even in the most foreign (to us) country, you have a choice of stores and you will quickly learn which ones have a supply of foods that are more familiar to the American palate. As soon as possible, get out to the local markets and find substitutes for the foods you loved at home and be willing to try new foods that you may not have ever seen before. You will be surprised to know that by the end of your time in this new country you will have a list of foods you are really going to miss.
How Do I Get Around
No one likes the feeling of being trapped. This part of moving overseas is especially difficult if you are not the person with the job that brought you there. That person (my husband!) has a place to go every morning, people to talk to, and usually a way to get there! If you are at home, maybe with children, it can feel incredibly isolating. As quickly as possible you are going to want to know what the plan is for your own transportation. Are you going to have a second car? What are the rules for driver licensing? Are the rules of the road very different from what you have known before. Heading out on foreign roads can seem very scary but for the most part traffic follows similar patterns. Just keep your eyes open for some peculiar behavior! (Right turns from the left land across 3 lanes of traffic, anyone?)
Before your car arrives, or if you don’t plan to have your own car, you’re going to need to utilize either public transportation or private vehicles (taxis). Some countries have extremely good lines of bus and train transportation and will have websites that cover all of the cost and time structures. Consider yourself very lucky if you land in such a country as you will experience much more of the local culture not encased in your own car. Some countries will have extremely chaotic means of public transportation that are solely for the use of the daring and intrepid! Taxis can be another great choice. Don’t rule out getting a private driver if that is something commonly done in your area. If you don’t speak the local language, having a reliable person to call who already knows where you live and where you are likely going can be an incredible relief. Usually drivers’ names and numbers are passed from one American to another and are a treasure.
I hope your move goes smoothly and uneventfully. Horror stories abound but they are the exception, not the rule. Keep your eyes open, your palate flexible and look for the story in every experience.
Please read more about my adventures over 30 Years Abroad.