I’m really enjoying my move to Copenhagen but no matter how much the sun is shining, how friendly and nice the new people I’ve met and will meet are, there’s no doubt that I will experience a pang of homesickness or loneliness every now and then. This is normal and I will get over it soon enough. If you’re experiencing the moving blues, here are some tips from some of my friends who have done or are going through the moving thing:
1. Get your feelers out!
Accept help from friends and family – this could be in the form of bringing you some of your belongings or foodstuffs you miss, or connecting you with people they know in the city you’re moving to! Before moving, tell your colleagues as well as your friends and family, especially if you’re moving for work. Your colleagues might know the work place or city you’re moving to or other people who have also moved there and they can hook you up. If you kinda know someone who’s moved, you can always use Facebook or other social media to reach out to them. Don’t be shy. (This is how I found my new flat mate/Copenhagen friend and a place to stay in Copenhagen!)
2. Organise yourself
When you’re abroad not being able to do the simplest things can get you down sometimes, especially when your network of friends and family is not around. So before you go, do some research and preparation to limit the bumps in the road.
Look up expat blogs, listen to podcasts, talk to people who’ve been to your next destination, etc. Find out what you need to do for when you arrive (registration, set up bank account, find a flat, etc). These kinds of routine administration, as my friend who’s moved to Cologne nearly 8 years ago remembers, were one of the most challenging things she had to do. “It has taken years of gradual progress to get to the stage where calling the doctor or bank is no longer something to agonise over!” (If you’re moving to Copenhagen, I’ve written about the important admin here.)
Write a list of things to do or stuff to pack on your phone so that it’s easy to add to it when you think of something else. For example, will you be needing photocopies of certain documents, your last three payslips, passport photos, plug adapters or any medication? (And to stop you worrying while you’re out there, do you need to contact the Student Loans Company, cancel your gym membership?)
Learn the language, climate and culture. Download the Duolingo app or learn online, or go to language courses. You’ll feel more settled knowing some key phrases. Look up the weather and compare with where you are currently to get a feel for what it would be like and what you should pack. Quite a few of my friends wished they’d packed more of their clothes. Expat blogs and podcasts are very useful for doing culture prep because they have probably picked up on the nuances only kindred spirits would. One of my dearest friends moved to the UAE and she discovered that there was a difference in people’s work attitudes and sense of urgency in doing business but she’s adapting and learning to be more patient – it would’ve been useful if someone had warned her beforehand!
Save some money! Be prepared that the initial move will be costly. You might be forking out a deposit for an apartment, a new travel card….Check out the price of everyday items where you’re going, because if you’re thinking, ‘I’ll just buy it out there!’ It’ll start to add up. Think carefully about what you might need and pack it! You don’t want money to be an additional worry.
3. Stay connected to your family and friends
It’s very easy to stay in your own bubble, particularly if you and your friends are separated by time difference. My friends and I find communication via email, Skype, Whatsapp, iMessage, Facebook and other social networking apps helpful. Even if you can’t schedule a Skype call, leaving a message in their inbox is just as effective. It doesn’t have to be an essay, it could just be an update of what you’ve been up to at the weekend. The key point is to actually do it.
Missing family and friends is probably the top reason for the moving blues but it makes you spend more quality time with them when you do see them. For example, a lot of us invite our friends to holiday with us because you know, we’re now in new cities with free accommodation! This is great because you either become motivated to explore your new city before they arrive – so you can be the best tour guide – or you now have buddies to explore with you! You can send all the pics and updates you have but you can’t beat providing a firsthand experience of your new city!
4. Making new friends
Making new friends when you’re older is relatively more difficult than when you were younger. This is largely due to not being part of a ‘system’, where you’re beginning a new adventure/course/job with other people in the same situation as you, at the same time as you. And if you’ve been excellent at staying connected with your existing friends, you could be feeling too complacent to go out there and get involved with new people. Be careful not to isolate yourself. If a colleague or your new neighbour or flat mate invites you out, even if it’s far easier to stay at home watching Netflix all night, go for it! If you’re feeling more brave than usual, why not be the one to initiate after work drinks or activities? When I was in Cologne I didn’t really have time to meet any new people except those I worked with. It was daunting at first but inviting my colleagues to the cafeteria for coffee and cake to celebrate finding my apartment and then for summer BBQs at said apartment was one of the best decisions I ever made. These occasions allowed us to get to know each other outside of work and become good friends and they also started a series of regular socials and created some very fond memories! And funny pictures!
A couple of my friends suggested joining Meetup, which is a free to join organisation that helps people from all over the world meet up with others alike or locals who want to meet people like you. Another similar group that has been mentioned is InterNations. Enrolling on a language course would also help you connect with other new movers. I was part of the Manchester Yelp community which was awesome because I was meeting new people who also loved food. Although it was quite nerve-wracking at first, the regular meet ups kept me busy and I got to turn these new acquaintances into new friends! I’ve now changed my Yelp location to Copenhagen and I’m looking forward to exploring the city and making some new friends here! This morning I got an email from Google Maps inviting me to join their similar review social network called Local Guides. Maybe try this if you use Google Maps a lot already and want to earn ‘points’ to enjoy benefits of testing Google products before they are released.
5. Keep your goals in mind
Although they will not disappear altogether the moving blues will subside after a while and you will get to enjoy the best things about moving. Write down a list of what you hope to achieve from being away to help you focus on your goals. With moving, you can look forward to new experiences, a new city, new friends, being more independent, becoming a teeny bit wiser and most important of all, following your dreams! My friend who is doing a postdoc in Melbourne says, “I always think, family and friends (true ones) will always be there but opportunities of a lifetime don’t always come up and life is too short not to experience them.” And my friend who moved to Cologne eight years ago? Well, she met her wife out there! So you see, your next adventure is just waiting for you to overcome your initial bout of the moving blues!