After moving from an 11 year stay in the UK to Malaysia, I felt the need to share some tips around my experience so that these may help anyone who is planning to move country. As the economies of the world throw up uncertainties, I can imagine that there will be many people who will choose to move country for a better lifestyle. Others may be forced to move in order to find work. What ever your circumstances, I hope that these tips help you transition into your new country of residence smoothly and will help squash any dilemmas that such a big change may throw up.
My notes below are about my experiences of moving country as a wife following her husband. Many of the points however, could be equally useful for a husband/boyfriend or girlfriend moving country to join their partner.
Before you Move.
1. Visit first
Visit your new country before deciding to move. Go check the place out first. Many large corporations these days insist that, when a job offer in a foreign country has been accepted; both husband and wife are flown in for an “ inspection tour”. Many companies wish to avoid employees quitting their jobs pre maturely. Aside from stress and frustration caused by cultural misunderstandings, differing work mentalities and conflict in the work place, often spouses quit their new jobs and return to their home country because their partner is absolutely miserable! A visit can give you both an indication on whether you will be happy to live and work in the new country. It can also save you months of misery because of un-fulfilled expectations and possibly your marriage/relationship which can rupture under the strain of one partner loving the new home whilst the other would even swim home to get away.
2. Cultural Awareness
Attend a cultural awareness session or do some research on the culture of your destination. Talk to people who are based out there or who have recently lived there. Be aware of the negatives but don’t let these cloud your own judgement. People’s perceptions and experiences in a place can be so misleading at times so listen to their advice but go with an open mind.
Some useful internet links below.
3. Enjoy the process
If you are lucky enough to have professional movers helping you with your beloved belongings, then leave the packing to them. If you are like me and you can’t help but get involved, then go ahead, roll up your sleeves and get stuck into it. I found it somewhat therapeutic packing certain items away and labelling the boxes. If it is not for you, leave the work to the professionals. For reminder tick lists of what to do before you move check out the following sites:
4. Immune System
Distress, meditate, stock up on multi-vitamins. Do everything you can to keep your immune system working at optimal levels. For most people moving and change are extremely stressful, especially moving to a new country. This is a huge experience crammed with worries and surprises. It doesn’t mean that things have to go wrong for the stress to manifest. The simple upheaval of packing and moving to a new and strange environment is sufficient. Therefore, find healthy ways to release the built up tension and give your body all the support it needs.
5. Leaving people behind
Moves are also extremely exciting and full of adventure. They can be just what you need if you feel your life has fallen into a dissatisfactory routine. If you happen to be moving to an exotic country, you will be envied by your friends and family. Some of you family may be full of warnings about how dangerous your new home is. Others may have visited the place in the past (like 20 years ago!) and will describe things to you that may no longer exist. Others will share in your excitement and others may become cool towards you because of a mix of envy and sadness that they won’t have you nearby anymore. Take all of this as a given, part and parcel, for when it comes to leaving others behind. Knowing this will help you with your transition.
1. Don’t judge yourself
We all can be too harsh on ourselves at times. If your move is supposed to be exciting and full of adventure and you find yourself feeling low and depressed; don’t worry. This can be one of the emotions you experience. You are in a foreign place, with few or no friends, unfamiliar surroundings, possibly a language is spoken that you don’t understand- bluntly put you can easily become overwhelmed. I struggled with this myself. Our move was to an exotic country, warm weather, blue skies, modern condominium with a luxurious pool, all the mod cons of modern living, English spoken and tropical, lush vegetation mixed with modern skyscrapers. Our dreams had literally come true. Yet the excitement was short lived and was replaced by other thoughts and emotions that I will cover further on. So what happened? Yes, I started being very critical of myself. “What’s wrong with me? Folks back home would cut their right arm off to be living here, to have this opportunity I am having. How sad am I that I am not excited and happy 24 hours of the day to be here?” This self criticism reared up its head in my case mainly because of 2 reasons: in my new country I had a lot of more free time as I was no longer working and secondly I was trying to live up to an obviously flawed expectation that a new life in a new country equals our dreams coming true which should equal continuous joy and happiness. As with all dream destinations there are pluses and minuses so take these in your stride. If you are a bit of a perfectionist, take a deep breath and tell yourself that there are challenges even in paradise and these too are surmountable!
2. Mini-warning: Idle Time!
If you are or become a “trailing wife” beware of idle time! Excuse the expression but “trailing wife” is the name given to wives who give up their career to follow their husbands abroad. Some spouse dependant visas do not allow the other partner to work in the new country. Therefore trailing wives have to become creative in learning ways to fill in time. Idle time is particularly menacing for people like me, who were career women, with regular, cut-throat routines and without any kids. Going from a stressful career that consumes your waking hours (and sometimes your sleeping hours as well) to having time to do absolutely anything you want, is total bliss at first! Yet after some time it can lead to boredom and surprisingly feelings of inadequacy. This is of course not true for the highly organised, goal focused, fearless women out there who plan exactly what they will be doing with “their spare time”. Such women have nothing to worry about. But for those of you who took an initial break and just wanted to see what came up, I have jotted down some ideas below of things you could try.
Things to try:
1. Network and make new friends. Get out there and say yes to every invitation you get in the beginning. Everybody needs support so get out there and meet some incredible people. You may even make friends for life in your new country. You can find networks or associations you can join on the site below:
2. Explore your new city, new country. Really enjoy your new surroundings. Pace yourself though. I went into overdrive and did all the city sites in my second week whilst undergoing root canal treatment in 2 of my teeth. By week 6, I was ill in bed.
3. Pursue forgotten desires. Use the time to do all of those things you always wanted to do.
B) Learn a new skill (like driving or the language of your host country)
C) Tick off items from your bucket list
E) New Career, freelance or start a business
F) Get fit
I) Start and run a blog (or spend time reading other blogs. Funny one to check out is: http://www.trailingwife.blogspot.com/)
4. Pamper yourself
Massages, manicures, shopping and sunbathing spring to mind. For most women this is a dream come true. Others however, be warned. There are only so many massages and shopping sprees you can do before your mind screams: “What next? There must be more to life than this?!”
5. Start a family
A route many people take especially in countries where a maid is part and parcel of the culture and living costs and school fees are more affordable or are sometimes included in the contract of employment. In addition housing tends to be more spacious than back home, so a spare bedroom or 2 is standard. I have heard that cities like Bangkok offer such excellent maternity services that people return there to deliver each of their children.
6. Meditation: start practicing regularly. Even if you think meditation isn’t for you, this may be one of the best times to give it a try. All who do swear by it. Sivananda Centres are based in quite a few countries and some offer free meditation sessions.
If you can’t find one in your country try googling: free meditation courses in your area and there is bound to be something.
7. Do whatever keeps you feeling happy, alive and helps you achieve your goals. If you wish to share what you did to pass your idle time, drop me an email at: expatliving@ hotmail.co.uk
Moving abroad can often mean spouses or families have to spend time apart when one of the family moves first to the new destination. This time apart can strengthen relationships or can cause others to break up. During the time apart questions may arise in each partner about the relationship, their love and what it is they really want. Time apart can lead to reflection. New experiences and change in lifestyle can lead to changes in character. Values and priorities may change. These can all be extremely positive or quite negative for the relationship. I don’t want to panic anybody but there is something known as the “Asian Syndrome.” This syndrome is usually associated with western men being continuously approached and propositioned by single Asian women regardless of whether the man is married or not. In some Asian countries single western women also find it difficult to find a date so they too, in desperation will approach married western men. This is a field day for men and offers up huge temptations for them to stray. This can be hell for wives and can really test marriages. Of course this is a generalisation and many people do not have these experiences at all. If you do however, unluckily happen to get caught up in such a situation, don’t simply let jealousy and mistrust eat you up. Communication is key, talk to each other and if need be hire a relationship coach. You may find that mistrust is causing both of you to imagine things that aren’t really there. Whatever brought you together and kept you together is greater than the frivolous temptations that you both may face abroad. Do all you both can to save what you’ve got. If that fails then maybe the move simply uncovered a relationship that wasn’t solid after all and you both are better off apart. Either way get professional help as an outsider can bring some real clarity and solution to a very emotional situation. Life coaches are a great help!
Louise Legat and Erika Zechner are experts in helping individuals and couples with their relocation problems on an emotional and psychological level. You can contact them here:
A new climate brings with it new bacteria and viruses therefore, it is imperative that you keep up your immune system and health in tip top condition. Children tend to catch things at school as is normal in every country but you can give yours a helping hand by giving them cod liver oil.. Women can also get infections in humid climate easier than back home where the winter tends to kill of most bacteria. Don’t be embarrassed if you suddenly get thrush or a urinary infection. These are apparently quite common in the expat community in tropical climes and they are not linked to sexually transmitted diseases.
Be careful of mosquitoes and take precautions to avoid getting bitten. Mosquitoes carry malaria or dengue fever. Be gentle on your stomachs as well and don’t be too adventurous in the beginning with local food. After some acclimatisation you will be able to eat most things but the body does need some time to adjust. I can say for certain that the local “mama stores” (street food stalls) have one of the best reputations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and are known for their hygiene as well as tasty fresh dishes. Other countries are not so blessed, so please be careful.
On arrival register with a good and recommended doctor. These can be found via an international company called International SOS. They also provide emergency medical cover as well as evacuation services in case of a severe emergency.
Have a look at their website for more information:
5. Fung Shui
If you practice Fung Shui then you will know that energies of a certain place and of certain configurations can mean prosperity or doom. Moving house and country will unsettle all energies, so you need to ride the anxiety and excitement of being in limbo and allow the energies to settle once you have un-packed and re-created your home. Be patient and kind to yourself during the whole process and know that any change unsettles the ego. When the ego is unsettled you feel vulnerable and your emotions act like an elevator: going up and then down. Feeling homesick and craving certain foods
from back home are just reminders that you are out of your comfort zone and long to be back where you were last comfortable. Know that this is normal and that you are not the only one who is going through this.
6. Expat life
Once you have settled in, enjoy the expat lifestyle. You will find all sorts of networks and magazines that offer expats information and opportunities for social events.
If you Google the word expatriate you will find a host of sites offering all sorts of information specific to your country.
Moving country is a great opportunity, one which many do not get to experience. You may even get hooked like some friends of mine and move country every 2 years! The 1st move may be the most unsettling one for you. Once you have the hang of it though and start to enjoy what the different countries can offer you in experience, life-style, career and business opportunities, you may never look back again. You may even start to wonder why some people stay in the same country for years and never leave. They really don’t know what they are missing!
Enjoy and good luck!