‘No one is the same; how people deal with moving from one country to the other is a personal experience. This is where I help’, says Suzanne Veeken, founder of Growthsparks, and specialised in expat coaching.
However, Suzanne has seen a few similarities in people who take the bold decision to make a new life abroad. Here she shares three insights for (fresh) expats:
- This sounds simple, but makes a big difference; for many it starts with the acceptance it will take time and patience to adjust. So when you’ve just arrived to a new country try to block some ‘settle-in’ time. During this time try to be particularly easy on yourself; If finding the right ingredients in the supermarket to cook a healthy meal is wearing you out, order take-out food once in a while. Or go for a walk when you don’t have the energy to find a gym just yet. You have plenty of time to get into a routine.
- Invest in help. Settling into a new country takes effort and energy, the great news is: you don’t have to do it all alone. Bring in that cleaner from a colleague quickly, ask for help with organising insurances, look for a real estate agent, or work with a coach that helps you find a job.
- Know what gives you energy, and spend time on that. That can be yoga, watch movies, going to a pub to watch a match, shopping where you can buy the food you like. These are the things that make you happy, and will help you tackle the other challenges in your new country. Do your kids love to dance? Make it a priority of finding a dance school for them.
Suzanne, who is Dutch and an expat herself: ‘I personally love to be outside, so when I was working in China I rented a bike on a non-smoggy day. This gave me an energy boost, something I needed to deal with a completely different work environment. Here in the Czech Republic Foreigners.cz found us a great house, we invested a little, but it saved us a lot of time and energy searching. For myself the reality check came after six months – which is common and can happen after the ‘honeymoon phase’ is over – so I decided to schedule in vacation time to see my family.’
The advantage of expat coaching is that it increases your awareness and helps bring focus to how you want your new life to look, gives a clear approach on steps to take, makes you feel more at ease by reminding you that you are not alone, and it helps you to deal with cultural differences effectively. In other words: it gives you a kick start in your new country.
More companies are starting to recognise the mental challenge of the transition from one country to another. And that even with the hard matters like housing and insurance taken care of, expats also need help with the soft matters; like feeling at home, dealing with a large amount of uncertainty, or setting up a new life outside the workplace. This means that it is well worth looking into the possibility of a budget being available at your company or your partner’s company.