Whilst relocating to another country can be exciting and rewarding, you need to be fully prepared before you go to ensure the best possible experience.
By ‘preparation’, most people would assume that you mean packing up your belongings, booking your travel, arranging or confirming accommodation arrangements, organising school enrolments if you have a family in tow…in short, the practicalities of a move like that. And of course, it’s essential that these things are sorted before you depart.
Equally as important preparation-wise, though, is some thorough research into the language and culture of the country that you are headed to.
There are varying degrees of integration when in comes to foreign living, and often relocation can involve living in blocks or areas that are home largely to expats. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make an effort to learn some of the local language, and read up on the culture, though. Even if you are living in an expat environment, living your life in a foreign country and working in an office with domestic employees will demand that you have some understanding of how they live, and of their cultural practices and values.
If you are relocating through work, companies will normally pay for language lessons prior to your departure, which can be tailor-made to your needs and level. In larger organisations especially, you may find that you’re learning in a small group with other employees who are relocating. Anyone who has chosen to relocate independently of their work has lots of options for getting some basic language training, although one to one lessons or evening courses are the most common way to learn.
The learning doesn’t have to stop when you move either – of course, your linguistic ability will improve when you’re immersed in the foreign country, but you can continue to learn via one to one lessons. Often companies like Cactus can arrange for tutors living in your new country to teach you, although it is also possible to continue with UK, or US-based tutors via Skype and other distance learning means.
It’s also possible to combine your language training with cultural training sessions, which can be priceless when it comes to settling in to your new environment. On top of this though, it’s also important to do some research yourself into laws and regulations that may exist in your destination country. There have been several incidents that have attracted international attention of late whereby expats living in foreign (particularly Middle Eastern) countries have ended up in jail, or deported, because of not adhering to local law. Sometimes there can be a mentality amongst ex-pat communities that some local laws don’t apply to them – especially where drinking alcohol and showing public ‘displays of affection’ are concerned.
At the end of the day, ending up in a situation like this would not only end your foreign experience, but it may also cost you your job, so it’s worth finding out about the ‘dos and don’ts’ as soon as you arrive, if not before. The UK foreign office website and the US Department of State website are particularly good resources for this kind of information, as are guide books like Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.