‘When we lived in England/South Africa/France/South Korea …’ Nothing is more likely to irritate the locals than conversations that begin like this! So how do you try to integrate into a new society in a new country, particularly when you feel homesick for your old life?
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before you set off on your life-changing adventure, find out as much as you can about life in your new country. The Internet is a wonderful source of information, offering advice about the pitfalls facing new immigrants, as well as sharing the experiences of people who have settled successful. Go armed with the contact details of organisations in your area, and use these networks to ease your passage into your new life.
If you do not speak the language, make every effort to learn it as quickly as possible.
IT’S ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE
Emigrating to a new country is high on the stress scale, and it would be silly to expect it to be easy. However, your attitude will largely determine how quickly you start to feel at home.
Don’t be hard on yourself when you have the inevitable down days, but realise that the only way up is through planning. See if there is a pattern to your most difficult times – such as the weekends – and then plan things to keep yourself busy when you are most vulnerable.
TAKE A TIP FROM THE TOURISTS
We all know that immigrants are NOT tourists, who will soon pack up and go back to their homes, full of stories about their adventures abroad. But what can be learned from the attitude of successful tourists?
* Use your new life as an opportunity to seek out and enjoy different places and experiences. Tourists don’t love everything about the places they visit, and neither will you, but they wake up each morning keen to discover and appreciate new things.
* Many tourists turn their negative experiences into hilarious stories that may become their best memories of a holiday. Try to find the funny side in the things that don’t work out quite as you hoped. It is hard to be miserable if you can laugh about things, and also about yourself.
* Many tourists travel on tight budgets, and take advantage of all the money-saving offers around. You can do the same, so that your excursions do not have to break the bank.
* Tourists get out and about on their feet – the best way to experience new places. The exercise is good for your health, and will help to keep the blues at bay.
BUILDING A NEW CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
It takes a while to become comfortable in a new environment, but there are things that you can do to help the process along.
* Join expat groups in your area, and network with other migrants.
* Don’t fall into the trap of idealising your old life, and moaning about the things you find strange in your new country.
* Go to places where people congregate, like public parks. It is always easy to start a conversation about people’s children or their dogs!
* Join the public library, go on an organised outing, join a hiking, walking or cycling group (much less expensive than becoming a member of a sports’ club), do Tai Chi in the park, or volunteer your services to a local organisation. It doesn’t matter what you do, just get out and interact with other people.
* When you are asked how you like your new home, keep your criticisms to yourself, and share your positive impressions.
* Never refuse an invitation to socialise, even if you are not particularly interested in an activity or outing. It’s all about building a network of acquaintances, who may turn out to be new friends.
* If money is tight, reciprocate the hospitality of others by inviting them to a picnic, to breakfast, or for coffee.
* Invite neighbours or colleagues to share your national festivals in your home.
The day will come when someone will ask your advice on how to cope, and you will suddenly realise that you are at home!