Tips on Self-care For Expats While Moving Abroad

Self-care has become a buzzword of our time. You can find advice on self-care from a simple Google search. I’m not going to give you advice on how to do your own self-care. However, I can’t emphasize this enough: You need to take care of yourself when you’re doing an international move. If you need Me Time, whatever that involves, take it. Want to eat a certain food? Do it! If you can’t bear to pack your books before reading some of them, go for it! Need to sleep 12 hours a night? That’s okay! You’re exhausted and your body is telling you how much sleep it needs. 

Problems I have had:

I exhausted myself when I was preparing to repatriate to the US from London. I would spend a long day packing and dealing with logistics. Then I would pig out on Chinese food watching House M.D. and then sleep for 12-14 hours. That wasn’t the way to handle the move. I had two months to get ready to move, but I could still have made time to take care of myself. By the time the move was complete, I was burned out. That experience made me indecisive about moving to another country again. 

What I do now:

It’s not about the amount of the things you have to do before you do an international move. It’s about how you plan to do those things and taking care of yourself along the way. When I was moving to the US, I was not good at taking care of myself. If anything, working myself to death was a badge of honor. Now, I know how to take care of myself, so I’m more consistent about planning relaxation into my day. I take regular breaks and treat myself now. So far, that has helped me immensely in coping with any unpredictabilities about moving abroad.

To be honest, writing this blog is a good self-care thing for me. It’s a common thing for me to need to sleep a lot when I’m moving. Making time to chill during the day doesn’t completely alleviate my fatigue. That can be scary because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been staying at home, but I still worry if my fatigue is normal preparation fatigue, or if I’m sick! So far, it’s been my paranoia talking. I love listening to an audiobook or music while I’m packing. 

Nature is a great stress reliever as well. Sometimes I forget to go outside and get some fresh air regularly, so I keep some photos on hand to enjoy. I have included them in this post for you to enjoy as well.

Pet Peeves:

The hardest things for me to deal with during an international move are a sudden change in plans. Normally, I am adaptable, but being fatigued about moving tries my patience and adaptability. Sometimes I need to vent, cry, or express any feelings about notifying another company that I’m moving overseas because it was unexpected! I let myself do it though. Sometimes, certain unexpected things aren’t emergencies, so I can watch a movie, take a nap, or read until I feel better and then take care of the problem. If it’s a high priority item, I can grit my teeth, sort out the problem, and treat myself afterward.

When I am packing I set small goals for a day and remember to treat myself. If I don’t know the next step with packing, I take a break until I know what I want to pack next. I don’t spend a whole day packing anymore because there will always be time to take care of it.

A Word About Unsupportive People:

One thing I would suggest as a self-care move to anyone moving internationally is to reach out to other expats or have someone you can talk to. International moves create their own set of problems and pet peeves that only people who have been through the process can understand.

Sometimes, people can be unsupportive or ignorant, even if they don’t realize it. When I moved to London when I was 10, the people I told usually responded with, “You’ll hate it!” but they would never say why I would hate it. It can be hard to tell people why you want to move to a new country. There is always someone else who finds a reason to disagree with you. It’s hard to express your hopes and desires for what you want to achieve in your new country, because those same people tell you something along the lines of, “You can do that here!”

On behalf of expats, I would just like to say to those people’s faces, “I’m glad you think so”. I also want to say, please don’t do this. It’s unsupportive because our feelings and reasons for moving are not up for debate. It’s starting to become common knowledge to use language to listen and not dismiss people’s feelings and experiences, so please apply what you know about that. You don’t have to understand why people want to move to another country. You just have to be supportive of people’s reasons and listen so they feel heard.

To my fellow expats past, present and future, hang in there! I know it’s stressful to deal with this stuff from people who don’t understand, even if they are your closest friends.

Doing Your Research And Where to Gather Information

What is the most important tool that you need before you move? Information. I don’t mean just any information. I mean information from a variety of sources. You want to go to a country with an open mind. In order to achieve that, you need to explore all possible areas of knowledge. Here are the kinds of sources I suggest:

People:

Do you have friends who live in the country that you are moving to? Pick their brain about life there. I have friends who are open to answering my questions about life in Canada. Canadians are big on job networking, so I am establishing business contacts in Canada through LinkedIn. The alum network at my college has been useful too. Long-term expats from your home country can be especially helpful. I have often found them friendly and happy to answer questions. Also, read blogs of people who have lived overseas. It doesn’t matter if they are expats from your home country or not. Wisdom from people who are expats goes a long way!

News:

Follow news stories in the country you are moving to, if possible. I know some news links don’t work if you’re in another country. Keep trying though! Get recommendations on good news sites from people you trust. Sometimes, that’s not possible, so I find a general rule of thumb for figuring out a good news site is seeing if it appears in other sources. I found this especially helpful with moving back to the US from London. I admit I got into a negative spiral from reading news about the US. Then I repatriated and found out the news was overhyped. 

A Personal Story:

I remember a professor I had in college once met the French ambassador to the US. She asked him what surprised him most about the US when he first arrived. He said that he was surprised Americans don’t know much about world news. He traced it back to how news is presented in the US versus the world. In any other country they start their news programs with world news, then national news, and if there is time, local news. In the US, news programs start off with local news, then national news, and if there’s time, international news. I think the French ambassador had a point. I think the news programs show what they prioritize by the order of their news. 

What’s the point of me telling this story? If you are in the US and want to get quality world news, you have to actively search for it. I follow good news sources, but I am skeptical sometimes. It’s a struggle to get good international news in the US if you don’t know where to get it. I personally think it’s disgraceful that it’s a struggle to get quality world news in the US. People should be able to access quality world news no matter where they are. I have often run across the attitude in the US of world news saying, “What has this got to do with me?” Answer: Everything. Surely the pandemic should have shown that? We’re a globalized society and one country’s actions have global repercussions.

Websites on History and/or Culture:

I recommend reading about the history and culture of your future home before you leave. When I moved to London from the US, it was before the internet really took off, and I was a kid who just took life as it came to me. I was in for a big culture shock! Now that I’m an adult and the internet is readily available, I can explore information at my own leisure. I didn’t research anything about the US when I repatriated. I thought it wasn’t necessary because I was American. However, my point from above about finding news from the US being overhyped in London was an important lesson for me that news is not always trustworthy. Listening to that overhyped stuff made me crash emotionally when I was going through reverse culture shock and I discovered that it wasn’t true.

Books and Movies:

I recommend watching movies and reading books to whet your appetite for your new country. If the actors, film location, or stories are related to your new country, it can be your own guided tour. Beware of cultural stereotypes though! You don’t want to embarrass yourself for believing stereotypes. I’m currently listening to Canada by Mike Myers on audiobooks (since I’m packing my books). I definitely intend to watch Brokeback Mountain before I leave, which is set in Alberta. Fly Away Home was one of my favorite movies growing up! Amy is a Third Culture Kid and the movie shows her personal journey adjusting to another country. No wonder I related to it so strongly! I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I want to see it again soon!

Your Own Personal Experience:

I made the mistake of not visiting London before I moved there. I felt I would have got a lot more information before making a decision to move. A long time ago, I visited Montreal. I must have been about 8 years old at the time and I remember loving it! I haven’t visited Canada since then, but I am confident I am going to love it there.

I’ve been soaking up information like a sponge! Even though I have been through culture shock before and I know what to expect, I am hoping the information I get will lessen the blow. I can’t forget that I am moving at a time of political turmoil and social unrest in the US and it has adversely affected how Americans are perceived overseas. I have always said that there is nothing more humbling than moving away from your own country and seeing it through the eyes of the world.

When I was living in London, I was acutely aware of how the US was perceived abroad, and I don’t believe it has improved, to say the least. The fact that the EU has not included the US in the countries that are allowed to travel there speaks volumes. My hope is that if I show that I love Canada, I’m not a careless idiot, and I can adapt to their culture, that people will be accepting and understanding that I wanted to move to escape political, economic, and social turmoil.

Do you have any other sources future expats should utilize? Do you like the sources I came up with? Let me know in the comments! See you next time!

Previous Posts:

How to Organize the Timing of an International Move

I’m Moving To Canada! Read On To Find Out Why!

 

How to Organize the Timing of an International Move

How long does it take to prepare for moving abroad? Simple answer: as long as you want it. In the past, I have moved abroad a few months after deciding to do so. I made the decision to move to Canada last April. I am moving as soon as the border re-opens. The border may reopen at the end of July this year, according to recent updates. I am prepared for the border to reopen later than that though. Restrictions will relax, but not completely go away. I may have a chance to move soon, but we’ll see! It’s about finding a window of opportunity and grabbing the chance!

Know Your Timeframe:

My friends who are international students have said that it generally took them a year to get ready to move. Applying to universities and getting visas processed can take a long time! I have heard of other people who get a job overseas and then move a few months later. The International Experience Canada visa rules state that I have to get the visa first before I can look for a job. Therefore, I decided to go to Canada on a visitor’s visa first. While I am waiting for the IEC visa, I can get settled and then I can start working. Even if your timeframe keeps changing, like mine is, you can still do a lot of preparation.

Set Goals that work with Your Time Frame:

Sometimes, you have an established goal to move, such as starting a job or university. If you don’t have that, make your own goal. Right now, I’m staying up to date on the border situation. I can get my IEC visa processed once I move to Canada. Visa processing and other services are delayed because of COVID-19. I can still be efficient in my own plans and preparation for moving though. The time you spend planning is not a waste of time!

A Note on Getting Settled:

It takes a long time to get settled in a new country. That’s the main reason why I’m going to move when the border opens. I do not want to rush the process of settling into a new country. It takes a MINIMUM of two months to get settled! It’s a variable, unpredictable time and you have to plan for that. If I waited to move until I got my IEC visa, there would be too much to do and too little time to do it.

I’m Moving To Canada! Read On To Find Out Why!

I get asked this question a lot. Here are my reasons why:

I Am A Third Culture Kid (or TCK):

What is a Third Culture Kid? Sociologist Ruth Useem developed the term to mean “a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up.” So what’s my TCK story? I have lived in four countries, so far. I was born a US citizen in Switzerland, but my parents were dividing life between there and France. My childhood in the USA was spent in three different states during an eight-year period. I grew up in England and obtained dual UK nationality. I repatriated to the US seven years ago, intending to stay permanently. So, I have itchy feet! Plus, the election results in 2016 were an utter disaster! Trump and his ilk go against everything I stand for as a TCK! At least I can rely on my experience of moving to other countries to help me in the process.

Good Quality of Life in Canada:

Growing up, I learned what qualities make a country good to live in. Canada has consistently scored high in quality of life, happiness and health in international rankings. It’s further ahead on those rankings than other countries I have lived in, with the exception of Switzerland. I guess I will find out soon why that’s the case!

I Want A Better Life:

The main reason why people move to another country is to achieve a better life for themselves and their family. Deciding to move to a new country takes a lot of honest self-reflection. At first, I did not want to move to another country. I know the challenges and stressors that can happen during the process of immigration. I had hoped that the US would recover from the disastrous 2016 election results and I wished to be a part of the process. Then, I saw the shock waves of the disastrous election are being felt most strongly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to more disastrous consequences. I cannot see myself having any sort of future in the US anymore. The more I learned about Canada, the more convinced I am of moving there. I shall continue my reasons for wanting to move to Canada in future posts.

More About Me:

Here’s some more about me. I recently graduated from college/university as an Economics and Data Science major. I am moving to Canada on the International Experience Canada (IEC) visa through InterExchange. Any students or graduates out there who wish to learn more about this visa? Please leave a comment and I will direct you to the right places!

If you want to follow me on social media, you can find the links on my Contact page.

Coming soon: Packing tips, finance tips and doing your research. Stay tuned for more!