So you are finally moving abroad to a new country? Are you excited? Are you prepared? Well before you up and leave, there are a few things to keep in mind when you finally move. Please note that these are points that I believe are important and are from my own personal experiences!
1. Be Overwhelmed!
Especially if you are moving to a country where their culture is completely opposite to your own, know that you will very likely get overwhelmed by everything when you arrive or even get culture shock. If you are moving to a country where their main language is different to your own and you are unfamiliar with it, be prepared for being completely surrounded by that foreign language from buildings and signs in front of you, as well as hearing it from the people walking around you.
I personally exposed myself to Korean television, movies and music a lot before I came here in an effort to reduce culture shock, but it still didn’t prepare me for the bombardment of another language spoken and written EVERYWHERE. Even when I first went to the local grocery shop, I couldn’t properly buy my groceries because there were so many foreign brands I didn’t recognise and everything was written in Korean (of course). I ended up buying the absolute basics that I could recognise.
But DON’T PANIC! Take some time to adjust to your new environment, such as arriving a week or two before you start your new job to figure out your new surroundings and adjust (and maybe get over the jet lag you will experience the first week).
2. Meet other foreigners!
Being surrounded by people and a culture that is not your own, and may be very opposing to your own culture, can be very intimidating! But finding other people who are from the same culture as you or are able to speak your native tongue fluently is always a relief and can make you feel less lonely.
They can also be great sources of advice and information about the city or country you are staying in and can help you source stuff for your accommodation or even things from home!
From my experience, my favourite memories in Korea are with my foreigner friends! They made me feel so welcome and less lonely when I arrived, and they also helped me so much with adjusting and making me feel at home here. It’s great fun experiencing something completely new with new friends!
3. Learn the customs & language!
Knowing the language of the country you are moving to is not necessary for getting a teaching job abroad (though it probably does help a lot!). Take Korea, for example, the only thing you need to teach in Korea is a degree and passport from a native English-speaking country.
But surely, you don’t want to be rude or offend anyone while you are here? Then it’d be a great idea to learn about the customs and even some simple language so you can say please and thank you! By learning even a little of the country’s native tongue, it shows the natives that you are considerate and are trying to make an effort. Since you are a foreigner, you are generally forgiven for bad pronunciation but some natives will be kind enough to correct you so you don’t make the same mistakes again.
Regarding culture customs, remember that what might be considered rude in your culture is probably normal in their culture, and vice versa. I’m from Northern Ireland, where showing the backward ‘V’ sign (where the palm of your hand is facing you) is considered very, very offensive. However, here in Korea, it doesn’t matter what way you hold the ‘V’ sign, it’s basically a peace sign that is commonly used as a pose in pictures and selfies. You just need to remember that you are no longer in the same culture you grew up in and their societal rules are just a bit different than your own.
4. Locate your nearest police, fire station, hospital, & your native country’s embassy!
Rather than this being a necessity, this is a precaution that I’d advise just in case anything happens during your stay and you will at least know where these are.
I had scouted my embassy’s location before I arrived (both the British and Irish embassies as I have dual nationality) and when I got to my city, I found my local fire and police station are both a 10 minute walk away and the medical centre is just a bus or taxi ride away.
Also, this is where your foreigner friends can come in handy with advice! They may know the locations of good doctors or even whether your local stations have English speakers in their branches. Just remember, the more ruralised you are, the less likely there will be an English speaker in the branches.
5. Wifi / Internet access!
When you arrive, you obviously won’t have internet in your new accommodation (unless it was set up beforehand, then lucky you!). If you are without it for a few days, locate the nearest internet cafe, computer rooms or even free wifi hotspots! This way you will be able to get in touch with your loved ones back home and update them on your safe arrival or even to update your facebook status.
Make internet one of your priorities to set up in your accommodation when you arrive. When I arrived in Korea, I had no internet access in my accommodation as there was no wifi and my mobile had difficulty connecting into the free wifi hotspots (I recommend resetting your phone when you arrive if you are a numpty like me and leave your phone on all the time. Solved my problems), so I was incredibly lonely the first few days here as I was unable to get in touch with the foreigners near me or even to message my family. Let’s just say I went a little stir-crazy and had to go for a walk…
Regardless of all these points, the important thing is that you have an amazing time, make awesome memories and just enjoy yourself. Life is an adventure, so make every adventure worthwhile!