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How to Adjust to a New Country

Moving to a foreign country is a challenge. Don’t make the adjustment process too hard for yourself. SDC International Shipping’s tips on living in a foreign country.

How to Adjust to a New Country

SDC International Shipping helps hundreds of families and individuals move from the United States to countries around the globe every year. While many of our clients are moving temporarily for employment or academic reasons, and know that they will be returning to the US in a few years, most of our clients are permanently relocating to another country. Some of these clients are foreigners living in the United States returning to their native countries, others are people retiring to a location with a milder climate or where there retirement salary can afford them a comfortable living, some are young families looking to experience living in a different culture.

Whatever your reason for moving, you have to keep in mind that you are moving to a different country. Even moving from one state to another within the US can be challenging, moving to a different country will be great, but you have to be prepared. 

Make a Preparatory Trip

We presume that if you are moving to a foreign country, you are at least fairly familiar with it and have visited several times before electing to relocate there. However, being a tourist is far different from being a resident. There are many things that you need to arrange before your move, and a preparatory trip before relocating is a must.

Even if you are a native of the country you are moving to, there are many things that you will need to get in order. You might have close family or friends who can help you out with a lot of things, but there are some things can only be accomplished by you.

Health and Health Insurance

One of the most important things for you to arrange is for health insurance. Adjusting to the health care system in your new country is of upmost importance.

Many countries offer basic health care to all their citizens and legal residents, but this care is often inferior, or doesn’t meet the standards to which our clients are accustomed. Usually, traveler’s insurance will not be valid if you don’t have a return ticket. This means that you need to arrange for medical insurance either before your arrival, or immediately when you move. 

When you arrange for health insurance, make sure to ask what kind of health records they will require in your destination. In most countries, English health records are sufficient for the doctors, but the insurance companies might need documents in the local language.

Don’t forget to inquire about immunization requirements. SDC International Shipping recommends that all clients review both the general immunization recommendations and the specific recommendations for the country you are travelling to. Check this list, and make sure that you use the most inclusive list. Critically for retirees, there are some vaccinations like Shingrix which are available for those over 65 via Medicaid, but might be very expensive to buy in another country. There might also be some vaccines that you haven’t even heard of, but are necessary in your destination.

Also, find a family doctor or general practitioner. If you have an existing condition, it will be really important to find a specialist in your new home, to discuss how you will adjust your drug and treatment regime to what is available in your new country.

Bank Accounts

It will be hard to adjust to a new country without any money in your pocket. Current banking regulations sometimes require that you be present in the United States to facilitate a bank transfer to another country, at least the first time. In order to get this done, it is easiest if you have a bank account on your name set up in your destination, and then you either set up a standing order to transfer money or have an easy way to do this while you are abroad.

If you are retiring, or entitled to receive Social Security benefits, then you will want to have your payments deposited directly into your bank account in your new home. Consult the Social Security Administration site for information.

Mobile Phones

Will your phone function properly in your new country? It might. When you go on your preparatory trip, ask a friend to let you put their SIM card into your phone and see if it will work with it. If it does, you can expect your phone to work fine. If not, you might have to get another phone, or have your phone unlocked. If you buy a new phone make sure that you get a model that is unlocked and check on the internet that that phone supports the frequencies in your new country.

Take a Look at Houses

If you don’t already have a place to move into, make sure to visit a realtor. Measure the rooms in typical houses you might buy or rent to make sure that we will be able to fit all of your furniture into your new home. In some locations, bedrooms are notoriously small, and it might make more sense to down size to a new queen sized bed, for instance.

Learn the Language

You have to learn the language of the country that you are moving to. If you are moving to the UK or Australia, you are good to go. However, there are lots of countries where you can get by in English, these are the most dangerous. If you want to adjust to your new home properly, you need to speak the language. If you are a returning citizen, you more than likely can already speak the language, but does your spouse? Have your children learned the language?

Without speaking the language, you will never be more than a glorified tourist. Even if you are moving to a region with significant expat population, the locals will take advantage of you constantly if you don’t speak the language. If you limit yourself to the plumbers, electricians, hair dressers, etc.  who speak English, you will be limiting yourself to the most expensive, and not necessarily the best.

Appreciate the Local Culture

You have undoubtedly chosen your destination country because you enjoy their culture, so give them a chance. Things will be different there. Some things that may have endeared you as tourist might drive you crazy as a new resident of the country.

A great way to adjust to a new country, is to participate in the local culture. Go hear local performances. Go to local restaurants and bars, the ones that don’t have menus in English. This is where you will get to know your new country.

Outside of learning the language, adjusting to the new country will include adjusting your clock. There are places where people wake up early, in others they are late to bed and late to rise. The selection in the local supermarkets and drugstores will be drastically different to what you were accustomed in the US. Embrace this. Learn the language, learn the music, and learn the local sports. Get in touch with local religious communities.

Also, as an English speaker, you might be really appreciated in your new country, for instance to help kids learn English. Take advantage of these opportunities as they will get you in touch with genuine locals and help you not just adjust to your new country, but become a part of the community to where you are moving.

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By Kfir Cohen

Kfir Cohen is handling global operations, cargo shipping, negotiation, and management of different suppliers around the world. He has more than 15 years of experience in the avant-garde of relocation and the sea/air freight business.
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