You left your home country and transferred your life into the unknown…
But where is home now? How can you feel “at home”?
Moving abroad is not just a physical move. Besides exploring a new country, you also have to consider many other aspects of your life: how you find a place to live, school(s) for your children; understand healthcare, learn about the local regulations, taxes, insurances, etc. These are all practicalities… But how do you make sure you build a social network, break the language barrier and feel at ease in your new environment?
The Netherlands is a popular destination for expats, a majority of whom find it easy to adjust to the Dutch way of life. Recently I did a research in the expat community by conducting an online survey called Expat Adventure. I had responses from hundreds of expats living in the Netherlands, from 32 different nationalities.
Even though more than 70% of the respondents said that they didn’t find it very difficult to integrate into the Dutch life, there are major challenges they faced after moving abroad.
Below are the top-5 challenges according to expats:
- Missing family & friends
- Language barrier
- Culture shock
- Feeling lonely
- Making new friends
But do not worry, you are not alone. The challenges of living abroad form a pattern many people have become familiar with. You will also be able to overcome your difficulties. As a first step, you can reach out to me.
Let’s go through a few tips that will help you easily get through the first months abroad.
1. Bring a positive mindset
Before starting to get to know people, make sure you have settled yourself, psychologically. Give yourself time to settle in. That’s what it takes to find your place in a new society so don’t be too harsh on yourself when you still miss your loved ones back at home or feel lonely. You also need to be open-minded to be able to fit in your new society. Remember, things over here may be a little different, people may have different perspectives and governments may not be run as you are accustomed. Accept these changes as a necessary part of your life and try not to be overly critical. Accept that things are what they are, and it is you that need to adapt your way around the situation. If you find it difficult, I will help you get through this, all you need to do is reach out to me.
2. Get to know The Netherlands
Before your move, you can already read about the country, its history, culture and social rules. Pinpoint your likes and dislikes about your new country and have a “how to handle strategy” for the dislikes. Think about what you will miss the most from your home country and check the possibilities to substitute them in The Netherlands. Once you arrived you can start discovering places and experience all you’ve already read about. Set some fun goals, like learn biking in the morning traffic in the center of Amsterdam 😉
3. Prepare for the change
Think about major changes in your life; how did you handle? Was it easy or difficult to get through? Being aware of your reaction to change is already a great start. If you normally find change difficult, the best thing you can do is to prepare for it. Start with the end goal in mind and reflect on what makes you want to make this change. It might sound simple and unnecessary but writing down the steps towards your goal will help you enormously. Also handy to have a plan B by thinking of what could go wrong. It is not about being negative but ensuring you have a possible solution for hurdles that may come up during your expat life. What also helps is to talk to someone about your fears. It can be either family or friends, or you can also reach out to me for help.
4. Get engaged in social networks
One of the toughest parts of moving abroad is building a social network. Dutch people are fairly extroverted, but you need to make an effort to find a way into their circle of friends and family.
On Facebook, there are plenty of expat groups that you can already join before your move. Search for expat groups and meetups or become a member of a club of your interests. You can get involved with volunteer organizations as well. Giving your time to the community is a good way to meet new people and also beneficial for the society. And remember, it takes time to make friends. Once you get to know some people properly, they will introduce you to their friends and your network will grow organically.
5. Start learning Dutch
Improving your language skills will help you appreciate local cultures and also makes life easier for you. Think about grocery shopping, making a call to the local municipality, tax office or the doctor. People will appreciate when you make an effort to learn their language. Upon arrival, find a class or use an online course. There is no better way to integrate into a society than to speak their language and there is no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in their culture. My recommendation would be to join physical classes, as you will meet people who are in the same situation and chances are big you will make new friends as well.
I know it is easier said than done but focusing on these 5 tips will help you settle down with less stress:
- Positive mindset
- Get to know the Netherlands
- Prepare for the change
- Get engaged in social networks
- Start learning Dutch
My biggest challenge was facing loneliness when I moved to the Netherlands. I was used to a busy social life back in Budapest. When moving to the Netherlands I needed to build up a new social network. It took time…
My last tip would be: Stay positive, enjoy your adventure in the Netherlands and if needed reach out for help!