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Familiarise yourself with the immigration procedure for the country in question. Are you required to register with an immigration department shortly after arrival? If so, where do you need to go, what do you need to take with you and how much time are you allowed?

Always register with your own country’s consulate on arrival at your destination and keep their contact details readily to hand. The consulate will be an important contact point in the event of a national disaster or other incident affecting foreign nationals in the country. More generally, you may need their help to renew your passport, replace a stolen or lost passport, or in the event that you are arrested or run into other major problems while living abroad.

Get Connected

The fact that there are different types of mobile phone networks means that your current phone may not necessarily work in your new country (even within the same country, there are often several incompatible phone networks). Even if your existing phone does work in your new country, roaming charges may be expensive, and it will probably be cheaper to subscribe to a local mobile phone provider as soon as you can after arrival.

When arranging a landline, note that telephone calls to local numbers are free in some countries but not in others, and that you may have to request a special line to make international calls. It is possible to make international calls very cheaply these days from many countries using pre-paid cards or dial-around/call-back plans which by-pass your regular telephone service provider and connect your calls via a third country, usually the United States, where call charges are very cheap.

If you are moving a long distance, time zone differences can make it quite difficult to have telephone or instant messenger conversations, and you may have to rely more heavily on email Broadband internet service is available in most countries now, although connection speeds vary. Cable packages are also widely available, including TV, telephone and internet services. If you won’t be able to use your current email address, consider opening a free web-based email account that you can access anywhere, such as a Hotmail, GMail or Yahoo! Mail account. You might also wish to consider investing in an inexpensive webcam and microphone to have live video conversations with friends and relatives back home.

Having your mail redirected after you leave can prevent you from missing something important. You will generally find that the postal service in your home country offers a fairly inexpensive service for redirecting mail within the same country, but if an overseas redirection service is available this may cost considerably more so you may need to decide whether it is worth the expense.

Ensure that important correspondence such as bank statements, tax letters etc. is sent to you at your new address or to an alternative address for forwarding, and cancel any regular mail you no longer want to receive. If it is too expensive or impractical to have all your post delivered to your new location, consider redirecting it to the home of a close friend or relative, and leave them with a stack of large ready-stamped envelopes for use in forwarding anything important.

Find out how reliable postal deliveries are in your new country, and use special mail or courier services if necessary. You should take into account likely delivery times – it may take several weeks for airmail to reach you if you are going somewhere remote, and you should allow at least a week for delivery between continents.

Check whether your new country has a mail delivery service to your door; if this is not the case (common in remote areas) you will need to open a post office box or use your employer’s address if permitted to do so.

Make New Friends

Don’t forget to inform friends and family of your new address as soon as you know it (unless you don’t want them to find you, of course!) In the near chaos which accompanies most expat departures it is all too easy to forget those outside your immediate social circle who you are leaving behind. Too many friendships are lost in the transition to another country which might have remained strong with a simple email or phone call. And don’t forget, you might be returning sooner than expected if things don’t work out abroad so keep those ties with the home country strong for your own sake.

On arrival in your new country introduce yourself to other expats, neighbours and colleagues as soon as possible. A good social network of friends will be an invaluable source of advice and support. The extent to which expats and locals mix socially varies between different countries and areas, but in general you are likely to benefit more fully from the experience of living in a different country if you get to know the locals. Making friends with the locals can provide you with information and support which expats are unable to offer, no matter how long they have been resident in the country. Being able to see things from a local perspective will also help you to better appreciate and integrate into your new homeland. In the majority of cases you will find the locals friendly and welcoming if you make the effort to fit in with their culture.

When considering ways to meet people think about the activities and hobbies you enjoyed in your home country and look for opportunities to continue them abroad. In addition, think about what new activities you might like to try - perhaps something which was not available in your home country or something you always fancied but never did anything about. Starting a new life abroad is the perfect time to try new things! Try to go to local exhibitions and meetings or join a local club or two. Even if the prospect of watching old silent films in a foreign language once a fortnight doesn’t quite get your pulse racing, make an effort anyway - you’ll meet local people and get relationships underway.

Try giving a little of your business to local shops and services from time-to-time. That’s not to say you should ignore bargains elsewhere or the large supermarket in the next town, but a few groceries or other items purchased locally on a regular basis won’t break the bank and may yield relationship-building benefits. If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, try the local bar periodically as a drink or two can really get communication going!

In smaller villages and towns there are usually a few notable locals. Typically these are the mayor, perhaps a councillor or two, the doctor, the bank manager, one or two larger landowners, a head teacher etc. It would be a mistake to underestimate the influence these people have in smaller communities and they frequently pass on to each other their perceptions of newcomers. Make the effort to introduce yourself and try to arrange the odd social event such as a drink at your home. Such events are not only fun but they will help you become known and part of a local relationship network that you may well need in due course. If you are moving to a closely knit community the locals will naturally be curious about the new arrivals - get to know just a few people and it won’t be long before everyone knows who you are.

Remember that a lot of good work in building local relationships can be destroyed in seconds by an ill-judged remark. Many societies are far less mobile than those in the English-speaking world. To put it simply, people tend not to move about as much and may stay in the same area for long periods. This is particularly true in rural areas where many people know each other and their families may have been friends for several generations. Remember that before rubbishing the local shop in the next town - you may well be talking to the owner’s sister or cousin!

Many nationalities form expat groups, clubs or associations abroad and meet on a regular basis. These organisations are a valuable source of practical information for the new expat (existing members will probably have encountered similar challenges to those you will face) but membership can also help to counter feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Deal With Homesickness

When the novelty of moving has worn off, don’t be surprised if you or family members start to feel homesick or experience aspects of culture shock shortly after arrival. This is part of the normal process of adjusting to life overseas which most expatriates experience at some stage, particularly children and non-working spouses. Focus on the positive aspects of life in the new country, and accept that the feelings will (hopefully) pass.

It is normal to go through a “honeymoon stage” on arrival in a new country in which the “foreign-ness” is exciting and exotic. However, this is often followed by a period of time during which expatriates experience negative feelings such as frustration and irritation with the way things are done in their new society, homesickness, depression and an acute awareness of being “different”. Over time, a process of adaptation and integration into the new society usually occurs and the negative feelings disappear, but the time that this takes varies considerably between individuals.

To minimise the effects of culture shock, it helps to find out as much as possible about life in your new country in advance, and to learn at least some of the language so that you can communicate with the locals. Maintain an open mind about different lifestyles, and try to stay focused on the positive aspects of life in your new country.


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