10 tips on moving to a new country and being happy there

Guestpost by Katie Billotte on Apr 20th

Edmond Mille - Vegetable Fruit & Potatoes

Photo by Lightmash. Used under Creative Commons license.


My adult life has been characterised by international moves. While I won't even begin to pretend this is not awesome, the first weeks and months in a new country can be disorienting at best, completely depressing at worse. I am facing another international move come autumn, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share "Katie's Top 10 Tips for Moving Abroad without Jumping off a Ledge."

  1. Pick one or two items (preferably light ones) and take them with you — no matter where you live. I take a pillow my mother bought me before I left for college and a little dog my uncle gave me one year. No matter where I am living these two objects live with me and remind me that I am at home.
  2. Sign up for a language class. If you already speak the language join a book club. Language classes are helpful because you'll not only develop ever-so-important linguistic skills, you'll also have a chance to meet other new arrivals — people who are probably just as desperate for company as you are.
  3. Figure out where the locals buy their groceries and go there. This will save you tons of money and make you feel so much more at home. Plus, it will expand your culinary palate in ways you can't predict!
  4. Throw down the dollars for a rental service when shopping for your first flat. It might cost a bit extra but you will find a better place to live and save yourself a significant amount of unnecessary stress.
  5. Download Skype. Buy Skype credit. Love Skype.
  6. Get a mobile phone. I know this sounds weird, but the sooner you have a local number the better. For one thing, it makes it WAY easier to make friends.
  7. Go for a wander, get lost, and find your way home. This is the best way to learn any new place, foreign or not.
  8. Make an appointment you cannot miss on the third day you are there. This will force you to get with the programme, get in the right time zone, and get a life. Sooner than three days is too soon. Later than three days is too late.
  9. Give yourself permission to be homesick. I happily left Denver, CO when I was 18 years old after a countdown that had begun when I was about seven. The fact is ,however, every time I move to a new place, I want to go home — home, home — to Denver. I embrace this feeling. When you feel homesick, recognize that the feeling connects you to the place in which you were born or grew up and to the people you love still living there. Heck, book your holiday ticket home during this period. It soothes the soul and you might save some money buying in advance.
  10. Be grateful. The first few months in any new place, especially a foreign place, is going to be stressful. The fact is that most people live and die very close to the place they are born. You are experiencing something wonderful and unique — no matter how much it makes you want to cry, scream, or rip your hair out.

Some of you Homies probably have some tips you've picked up. If you could add one suggestion to this list, what would you tell someone about moving to a new country?

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About Katie Billotte

Katie, a Denver native, is finishing a Ph.D. in London before she heads off to who knows where? She has many anxieties and has written about many of them on Offbeat Mama.