If you’re just joining us for this series, be sure to start with “Getting Mentally Prepared”. And don’t forget to share this series with anyone you know that is preparing to move abroad!
Our family has lived at seven different addresses in the seven years my husband and I have been married–and each move has been to a different state or country! We’ve had the opportunity to get to know a lot of new places.
When you move, especially with children, there’s a tendency to establish your comfort zone as quickly as possible and stay there. You crave some consistency and familiarity in a new place. But it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life and miss out on truly experiencing your new culture. So before settling into your comfortable routine:
Act like a tourist. Some of the best advice we’ve gotten is to spend time up front being a tourist. Do the touristy things right when you arrive. We resolved to do this before we left the States for this move. When we arrived in Europe in the middle of winter, however, without car and trudging through snow, we let our resolve slip. Consequently, when spring and our first visitors arrived, we weren’t ready to give tours! Be sure to ask other expats in the area for the best restaurants, playgrounds, museums, cultural sites and other places to see. And yes, read the guidebooks. For some reason, I hadn’t even considered it. I suppose I thought I’d get to know the city simply because we lived there. But family members did read the guidebooks, and I was embarrassed when I knew less about my city than they did!
Explore. While out and about, take a notebook with you. Write down what you want to revisit and where it is after you pass by if you don’t have to go in–it may be hard to look up! I saw a cute stationery store from the tram one day, and tried to remember the name of it to Google later. It turns out the “name” I remembered was actually the word for stationery store. With many stationary stores here, I couldn’t find the specific one I’d seen. I spent a morning looking for it and couldn’t. Still, the morning wasn’t a waste; I found an English bookstore instead! You never know what you’ll discover. You can’t always rely on the internet to do your exploring for you.
Develop new rhythms. We found out that our new life here includes a lot more walking than we used to do. I’ve come to love it, but it’s not an easy transition when you’re used to driving everywhere (anyone else?). Our four-year-old complained for our first two weeks about his legs being tired each time we left the house, and then one day, he stopped. He hasn’t said a word about it since. It’s just the way of life here. You (and your family) adjust. How do the locals travel? Bus? Metro? What are their meals like? Do they have siestas and eat late dinners? Do they eat several courses over a few hours? Try out some new routines and decide which are beneficial for your family to keep.
Travel. Coming back makes your adopted city feel like HOME. When you travel to new places where everything is once again unfamiliar, you’ll realize how nice it is to return to the place where you’ve begun to settle in. It’s relaxing to come back to your new home after a trip. Even just a day trip to a different city can make you appreciate your adopted one.
When did you realize you started thinking of your new city as home? What local traditions have you enjoyed embracing?