How to Kickstart a New Life Abroad


Today’s aviation industry offers countless rewarding yet challenging opportunities to move abroad. Pilots looking to land their first job below 1,500 hours can choose to fly in Indonesia, or later in their careers, relocate to Germany or Thailand, for example. 

Anyone who changes course will leave the highway and embark onto an adventurous, winding path. Along the way, great experiences, unexpected opportunities and new people will be encountered. But also obstacles, challenges and dilemmas might cross your route. Here are nine suggestions to give your life abroad a flying start! 

1 – Be prepared for culture shock and its reciprocal, reverse culture shock.

Once landed, adapting to the new country of residence and its culture can be challenging at times. Suddenly, the notorious culture shock can hit. Remember, culture shock is completely normal and can happen to anyone. Even though culture shock is usually unavoidable, by recognizing, understanding and accepting the phenomenon itself, both social and physical effects can be strongly reduced. It is important to realize all of the following symptoms are temporary and will fade away eventually. They are:

  • Homesickness
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of sadness / anxiety / helplessness / dependency / disorientation / isolation
  • Rapid onset irritation or anger
  • Displaying a critical attitude to host-culture and stereotyping
  • Concerns over safety and illnesses (hypochondria) 
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of focus
  • Sleeping and eating disruptions (too little or too much)
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches

Try to keep looking for the positives when recognizing culture shock. Talk with friends and family and spend time with local people who display positivity. 

When returning home after a long period away, a similar challenge can occur. Mentally prepare yourself for so-called “reverse culture shock” as you prepare for the return home. The following tips will help prevent both culture shocks. Remember, be patient with yourself during the transitions, and allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.

2- A good start is half the work.
Be prepared! Learn as much as possible about the new host-country, their culture, language and customs. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to adjust for the longer term. It might help you cope with unavoidable cultural differences and to prevent misunderstandings. 

3 – Take care of the administration. 
To help shift your mindset to moving, make sure to allow plenty of time for the administrative work that has to be done before moving abroad. Make a checklist or search online for emigration checklists to enumerate what has to be done before leaving your home country and entering the new country of residence. 

4- Get closure.
Take time to say goodbye consciously. There is no good hello without a good “bye.” Prepare yourself and your family for what is to come by talking about what will change. Make appointments to stay in touch and plans for when to come visit. 

3 – Talk to your new neighbors.

Building relationships takes time and patience, and speaking the language can make a crucial difference. However, learning the language is not an easy thing. More important is to use what you learn and to keep trying and learning, even when insecurity emerges. Talking, and therefore social connection, is more important than formulating a grammatically correct sentence. You are encouraged to practice by talking to as many people as possible. Talk to your neighbors, people in the bus, compliment a cashier. This will boost your social skills, self-esteem and eventually your network! Those whose language you are attempting to speak will be receptive and appreciative of your attempts. 

4 – Be open minded.

Someone who is open minded will not be hindered by his beliefs or experiences from the past. Having an open mind, means that you are open to new ideas, experiences, theories, people and ways of life. With an open mind, it is easier to discover and accept your new home. It might be a bit frightening at first, but all these once unfamiliar things will eventually become normal, too.

  • Get in touch with other views.
    We can learn from each other through our exchange of ideas which contribute to our personal growth. Expose yourself to new visions, new world views. Talk to people, read (travel) books and watch documentaries about your new country.

  • Connect with new people.
    Making a connections with others will help you be less likely to judge. You will better understand what is going on in their minds. Again, make contact with people, talk to as many people as you can. Every person has a story, and every story is educational. 

  • Defeat your prejudices.
    Prejudices are convictions that are ingrained in your value system. Your prejudices influence your opinions before knowing all of the facts or circumstances. Everyone has prejudices, but do not let these prejudices take over. Notice them and eliminate them.

  • Keep asking questions.

Listen twice as much as you speak. By asking questions you will learn and understand more about a new culture. Understanding the world around you, will make it easier to accept it. Keep asking, keep learning.

5 – Relax.

Missing your home country and longing for “how it used to be,” is normal. When adapting is particularly  challenging or when you are feeling down, it is advisable to take a step back and take a break from everything that is new and unfamiliar. Do something that is enjoyable and relaxing. Undertake familiar habits or routines that will have this effect. Listen to music, watch a movie, work out or read a book in your own language. Doing these can help boost your mood and energy, and can help tackle future challenges with new confidence. 

6 – Be as flexible as possible. 

Emigrating also involves grieving because you are letting go of the life you had and accepting the new, which is a work in progress. If you were full of ideas about building a new life before leaving, and it turns out to work completely differently than anticipated or to not work out in your new home country, you can grieve. But, try to be as flexible as possible. Remember, things rarely go according to plan, which is not necessarily bad. Let go, move along, dare to take a different path. That too, is an adventure!

7 – Stay in touch. 

The world is no longer as remote as it was fifty years ago. Even when living in Guam or Hong Kong, contact is easily made via Skype and Whatsapp. However, it does take time and effort to maintain your relationships while overseas. 

  • Set appointments. 
    Before going abroad, make appointments to be in touch. For example, try to call on special days or set appointments with your closest friends and family once a week/month. This way, there is always the possibility to be in touch – even if you don’t have as much to talk about at that specific moment. For both sides, this is a moment to look forward to, especially when life is a little tougher. 
  • Take initiative.
    Do not expect everyone to call or text you. When you feel the need to talk to someone back home, pick up the phone and take the lead. This will be much appreciated, and will allow you not to have to wait for someone to call you. Send cards, presents or flowers on special days and make sure you are showing interest in other people’s lives too. 

  • Share your adventures.
    Not everyone always knows exactly what is going on in your new world. A good way to keep people up to date, is to write blog posts, weekly/monthly emails or share pictures on social media. This way, there will be plenty of subjects to talk about when using FaceTime or Skype with friends or family. 
  • Accept the change in relationships.
    Try to accept that relationships do change over time. This is natural and may have happened had you stayed home. 

Final thoughts

Living in a new country is a tremendous change. It is guaranteed that things will go differently than expected or hoped – sometimes in practical matters, sometimes in personal. The first year is primarily adjusting to your new life. The real landing comes after that. Keep in mind that this adventure will be rewarding in the end – both professionally and personally. 


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