How to survive relocation

When I moved to France, there were definitely moments where I doubted that I could ever feel like I belong here. The language was alien, my friends were miles away and the only career I knew had gone out of the window. Relocation is surely not that simple as an adult and even so when you don’t speak the language. But I can vouch that it is doable as I’m here to tell the tale. In not so many words, here are my survival tactics

  1. Learn the lingo. Easier said than done I know. But as English speakers, French is not so alien to us. Our language comes from French and German so it’s fair to say that learning French for the English is easier than for the Chinese. I immersed myself in it. I took an intensive course which was brutal but in the end it paid off.

  2. Make friends. Loneliness is such a killer when you move abroad. Friends become vital in fulfilling this void. But where do you start? This can be tricky as you are just new in a country. Perhaps there are people in your situation, for example in a language school? You might want to get super friendly with the neighbour, the door man and what-have-you, so as to sustain encounters with people. 

  3. Keep busy/take up hobbies. The quicker you continue to live the kind of life you led back home – the better. I was a regular at the gym and so it was natural for me to carry on. Try not to let the language barrier stop you, sports speak a universal language. Although if you like classes like me, you might be the only one turning left at Zumba while the whole group is facing right 😉

  4. Join events/organisations. This is also another opportunity to meet like minded people. Organisations like “Internations” exist just to fulfil this purpose. I’d say avoid going to such groups just to be with ‘your own kind’ but rather try to mingle with lots of people from different nationalities. Remember that the aim is to be able to integrate in the new country.

  5. Work. It might not be possible straight away due to administration issues or due to the language barrier but as soon as it’s possible, get a job. I knew that it was sayonara to my scientific career as I didn’t have the skills required in France. Incidentally, I spotted the need for people to learn English and so my new career was born. Moving abroad can be an opportunity to explore new dimensions so I wouldn’t worry too much about doing the same thing as always. If not now, when? Try something new. 

As for me, I had many ups and downs during my course of integration. They say culture shock comes in four waves: the honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and finally acceptance. I experienced every single one of them. After the novelty of being in love with the city and food had worn off, sometimes I just got angry and frustrated because I couldn’t communicate. I remember a time when I blurted out hysterically that I wanted to fly back to England because nobody in France could relax my hair! There were also times where I felt a big void in my life since I didn’t feel needed in society. Frankly, that’s what a job does. It gives us a purpose in life, a reason to get out of bed and a role to play within society. I felt OK again after I started working and speaking French.

How about you, have you lived in a different country? Please feel free to share with me your experiences abroad. I could have said a lot more but I know that we are all busy so I’m keeping things short and simple.  

Marie x

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