Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
Now, Hmsies is no stranger to moving and living abroad. We both did our Erasmus in Munich where we had a fantastic time, made many friends, explored the city and even became experts on Munich’s best breweries, beer gardens and best places for Currywurst.
However, when you move abroad for work – it is definitely something much more challenging. As a student, many things were already done for you, you just needed to get some papers signed, stamped and sent off. Accommodation was usually already a given, you had the opportunity to meet people in your course and participate in Erasmus events and you even received money for it! When you go off to work though, not only do you have to get everything done, but you also have to be fresh faced at work for your new job and hope to God that you can find some people your age you can make friends with instead of sitting in a flat in your own with no heating or internet for the first month (as it was in Olesya’s case).
So, although it will never be easy, there are many things which we’ve tried and tested that helped us with this transition.
1) Firstly, be a “yes person”! This might come rather unnaturally to some but it is probably one of the best ways to start your expat experience. It not only means doing the things you usually do, but also the things you probably wouldn’t normally do – if someone invites you over to a dinner with a few of their other friends, say yes! If someone invites you to a party and you know absolutely no-one there, say yes! The more people you get to know, the easier it is to find those friends that’ll be there for you. And not only that, but you’ll get experiences in your host country that your newfound friends can relate to – after all you can only speak about home for so long. For the shy ones amongst us, this may seem pretty daunting but if you can be brave for the first few weeks or months of your stay and step out of your comfort zone, then this will really help you out in settling in. After all, if you were brave enough to move to a new country and live life somewhere else, you’re more than brave enough to take that extra step to meet others!
2) Secondly, make friends with Mr. Google! As the only people Olesya knew at first were her work colleagues, it was pretty hard to imagine meeting other people and there didn’t seem to be many opportunities around to say “yes” to. However, after a quick Google search, she found a few Expat groups which had meet-ups and events in Paris where you can meet other people over an activity you enjoy.
The 2 best ones we like are:
http://meetup.com – a website that organises a lot of get togethers for expats, we ourselves used it for a tour around Paris!
Just type in the city, create an account and list your hobbies and you should find many great events at the click of a mouse!
Alternatively, have a look and see what is around your area. Are there any sports clubs around your area? Do you like helping out and want to do some volunteering at local schools or youth centres? Even if you have moved to a relatively small place, more often than not, there will still be things out there which interest you so get searching!
3) Thirdly, why not use this time to get to know yourself better? Being away from friends and family can leave you feeling quite lonely and frustrated at the beginning, however it can also a chance for you to really try and stand on your own two feet without having anyone to rely on. So why not take up an exercise class or follow a Youtube video before work for example. It is a great start to the day and puts you into a more positive and relaxed mood (ooh those endorphins) which in turn help you tackle the day ahead and not get too bogged down with work. Olesya usually likes to end her day with a short meditation to really calm the mind and remember the little things in life that we forget we have and we are grateful for. When you are abroad, taking care of yourself and setting up a routine is something that will make you feel more comfortable, confident and relaxed, especially when a lot of other things may not be going quite to plan.
4) Fourthly, get a cat! Everyone loves cats. Unless you’re allergic to them. In that case, get a cactus! Or a Buddha, or just try online dating or something. But really, this is where you can use your imagination and really try out something new!
We know that it can be pretty tough when you first move abroad and as you probably well know, these things really do take time so do not get too discouraged at first. Remember, you may think you’re the only one but hundreds of other people are probably experiencing the same thing not far from where you are! Being pro-active and hopeful will help a lot and eventually everything will fall into place – just take those first few steps and soon you’ll have a place you can truly call your second home!