Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
How exciting! A fresh start, setting off on a new adventure and the next stage of your life. But wait, you’ve left your friends and family behind, you’re adapting to a new language and a new culture entirely. Everything you’ve known your whole life has changed, and you now have to get used to your new ‘normal.’ It’s a huge transition and, naturally, you’re bound to feel anxious in the process.
Anxiety is a normal part of our everyday life. Nearly 30% of adults will experience anxiety at some point. Symptoms of anxiety commonly manifest in both physical and emotional ways, like difficulty sleeping, nausea, worry and feeling overwhelmed. Especially when making as big a commitment as moving to a foreign country, it’s entirely normal to feel anxious or nervous after your big move.
But now that you’ve made the brave transition, feeling plagued by anxiety is not something you want to have to deal with when you’ve already got plenty on your plate. You want to be embracing all of the new and exciting prospects that come with living abroad, without the burden of your worries and anxieties getting in the way.
So, what aspects of living in a new place might be making you feel anxious, and more importantly, how can you overcome dealing with anxiety after moving abroad? Here’s how.
Losing friends, but making new ones
No major life transition is easy on friendships. When we’re so used to seeing and speaking to friends on a regular basis, the changes that come with moving to a new country undoubtedly take their toll on our relationships. Different time zones and new and increased commitments make it somewhat difficult for us to stay in touch with old friends, and can strain or even ruin relationships. This, understandably, is a huge source of anxiety for some people, and raises a lot of questions: will my friendships stand the test of moving abroad and will it be easy for me to make new friends?
Your friends are there to support you through both your ups and your downs, so naturally your move to a new country is something they should be cheering you on in, and I have no doubt that your real friends will be. But also, as time goes on, some friendships form, and others fall apart. That’s just a natural part of our progression through life, so don’t worry. Just make sure you’re doing your best to keep in touch with your friends back home if this is something that’s causing you worry.
Schedule regular zoom calls or arrange to meet up as often as you can afford to. If you’re trying your best to maintain relationships with those from home, they’ll be trying their best to do the same, and this isn’t something you should be feeling anxious about – life is too short.
But remember that a new country calls for the opportunity to form new friendships. You’ll have plenty of places where you will be able to form new friends after your big move. Local activities, clubs and classes are a great way to find individuals with shared interests. You’ll also most definitely be making friends in your new workplace, or if you’re moving to shared accommodation, there’ll be many people that you can form new bonds with. Equally, migrant Facebook groups are also useful for you to connect with people who are in the exact same boat as you.
A new job
Starting a new job can be stressful, and it isn’t made easier by being in a foreign country at the same time. You want to do well, impress your boss and form good relationships with your colleagues, which can all cause you a tonne of stress and can lead to your feelings of anxiety. It takes time to adjust to a new situation. Like any situation, you need time to adapt and you need to give yourself this time.
Don’t feel pressured and make sure you’re becoming familiar with your new role and working at a pace that is comfortable for you. You need time to get to grips with things, and don’t feel anxious if this is taking you longer than you’d expect, everyone is different and that’s ok.
Make sure you’re effectively communicating how you’re feeling. Your situation is unique and not an easy one at that. If you’re struggling with work, or your big move, it may be worth communicating this to your colleagues and superiors. Communicating with others when you’re feeling anxious can be freeing and a big relief for you. Your colleagues may even be able to help you resolve some of these anxieties, and your openness may be beneficial in strengthening your relationships with others in your workplace. There is always support that you can seek at work and that can help you in dealing with anxiety after moving abroad.
A new culture
Immersing yourself in a new culture that you’ll be living in long term is an experience unlike any other, but is so daunting. It’s a lot of foreign concepts that you may have never heard of, and may take you some time to adapt to – concepts such as what is socially acceptable in your new home country, religious and cultural beliefs that you should be considerate of and cultural norms. It’s a lot to learn, understand and may be anxiety-inducing.
Remember how I previously mentioned making friends in your new country? They may be able to help and even mentor you in understanding the cultural norms and socially acceptable behaviours of your new society. Even simply going for a walk and taking notice of your surroundings in your new culture may help you see and immerse yourself in the day-to-day life of your new country. You’ll never learn until you’ve made mistakes, and that’s ok.
For example, when I visited Japan, I entered a house without taking my shoes off, a huge no-no in Japanese culture. But I quickly realised and learnt – a brief source of anxiety for me, but that’s okay and I never did it again. Maybe you might make some mistakes too, but you learn quickly through your actions and you shouldn’t be anxious about that, and it shouldn’t stop you from doing new things.
Missing home is an obvious source of anxiety. You’ll miss everything you’ve left behind, family, friends and so much more. The anxiety of leaving everything you’ve ever known for a strange and unfamiliar (and not to mention permanent) change of scenery and lifestyle is bound to be upsetting. But this is to be expected.
Try your best to keep in touch with family and those who are your biggest sources of support; this is made so much easier thanks to social media and the internet, keeping us connected even when we’re thousands of miles apart. You shouldn’t be anxious about starting your new life without your family and loved ones, as they will always be there to love and support you, even after your big move abroad.
It’s quite acceptable to take things you know and love from home and replicate them in your new home country. For example, having your favourite comfort food from home might help reduce your anxiety when you’re feeling homesick. You could find an ethnic food store and buy the ingredients you need, or find a local café or restaurant that cooks authentic food from your country. This might even be a source of friendship for you, where you could possibly seek advice and reminisce about your experiences and life in your home country.
Your move abroad may be a huge source of anxiety for you now, but don’t let it get in the way of the scary but exciting experiences that come with living in your new home country. You decided to make this change for a reason, and you have every right to enjoy and embrace the life that awaits you now that you’ve moved abroad. So, what are you waiting for?