I remember the first time that I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment. I wanted to go back after three days of living alone. This gets tougher when you move abroad, even if you’re used to living independently. Living overseas means you get to contend with a totally new territory. The language will most likely be different. The food tastes nothing like you’ve ever tasted before. Even if you try to cook your comfort food, the ingredients in the grocery store are just not what you’re looking for. It’s very easy to fall prey to homesickness.
Be a tourist and a local
If you have ever traveled for fun, you’ll remember that feeling of wonder and awe at each novel sight. Whether it’s a cathedral, a majestic mountain, or an unspoiled beach, traveling gives you a longing to stay longer and find out more, soak up more. At the same time, if you’ve traveled too long, you yearn for the comfort of home, of knowing what to expect at each turn of the street. The secret to uprooting and making a new place your home is to find the right balance between the two in the beginning.
Look for beauty
The dreariest of places would still have beauty in them, you just need to find it and appreciate it. It’s like the saying, “nobody is too poor to give or too rich to receive.” Don’t let preconceived notions of a place deter you from seeing their beauty. I didn’t know what to expect when visiting Dubai, but when I went there, I found the dunes timeless, and the city itself electric. My friend took me to the Old Souk, the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, and the Fort Bur Dubai, places which were not on my initial sightseeing agenda. The immigrants that go there to fulfill their dreams also brought their own culture and their own vibe. When you’re in a new city, go out there and look for things, places, and people to appreciate.
Know its history
You appreciate a place more if you know what it has gone through. It would mean more to travel in a dhow in Oman if you knew that they have historically been used by pirates. That big open-mouthed grotesque face in Italy would take on a life of itself if you knew it was called Bocca della Verita. Or the Mouth of Truth in English. If you didn’t know about it beforehand, you would have missed the chance to test if the myths are true. Read about the history of a place to value its experiences and understand the culture more.
Understand the people
Some cultural norms can seem strange through the lenses of an outsider. You never know, you may be viewed as an uncouth stranger with no manners. It’s important to remember that what may be considered rude in some cultures is perfectly acceptable in others, and vice versa. Make sure you’re up to speed with what’s considered appropriate and what isn’t to ensure you don’t feel out of place.
You can easily put down roots in a place if you anchor yourself in. Reach out to make friends and make new memories in this new city. It does take effort but it’s worthwhile because it makes your expat life more enjoyable while you’re away from home.
Want more information on how to live your best life away from home? Read our tips for expats in our blog!