…with yourselves and your prior relationships. When moving to a new country, there are a few issues that you and your family face, and it’s important to get here with a plan. I know of one couple that has been here about 7 months and are now leaving because the shift away from home was too much personally and financially. Another couple I know left after 1 year because the wife felt too lonely. So it’s good to think about it early, before you get overcome by stuff.
I think a big part of settling in is making friends here and thinking of this as home. We’ve tried to do both of those and our transition has been relatively easy and rewarding.
Culture shock. While things are pretty similar here, they are different enough to throw you off kilter some. I think the best way to face this is to just jump in and engage with your surroundings as quickly as you can. You’ll have to learn to ask lots of questions and make mistakes in front of others. Get on the bus, try out the trains, learn celcius, and just try out stuff. Our opinion is that this is home now. That way, we’re not always pining about getting back. Kids are great at helping you engage the culture, especially if they are school age.
Make new friends. This can be easy or hard. In my opinion, you have to come in expecting to put in a little more effort than you did back home to connect with people. This isn’t because people aren’t friendly here, but without cars it makes it harder get to other people’s places. Hearing of the couple that left after a year, my wife and I came knowing that we’d need to take the extra effort to make friends. We’ve had more people to our house here in 7 months than we did in our whole time in Dallas, but it’s been great for building new relationships. Church is also very helpful for meeting the locals too.
One of the few downsides to not living in Keenan House with the other N. Americans is that it is that much harder to connect because of transportation. However, we’ve got a bigger lounge (aka ‘living room’) to have people over, and there are people that live on this part of town. Also, it’s also helped us to make non-N.A. friends too by being away. There are trade-offs, either way.
Your Prior Relationships
Start a blog. We started a family blog several months before we moved, and it has been a great way to let others get a peak into our daily life here. Plus everyone wants to know something about living in another country.
Vonage/Skype. We had Vonage* back in the States as our phone, so it was natural to keep it when we got over here since it just runs through the internet. That way, all our friends and family can still call the same Dallas number that we’ve had for several years. It makes things easy for people, since there’s no special work for them and you use a regular phone on your end. Plus you don’t feel guilty for calling anyone as much as you want. You just pay $25/month and you get unlimted calls in the US and free calls to land lines here in western europe (all landline calls here cost about 5p/min–there’s no difference b/t local and long distance here). Another option is Skype. We don’t use it since we have vonage, but it’s popular here for internationals. You have free calls to others that have Skype, and I think it’s 2c/min, or something, to those that don’t. However, I belive you are tied to your computer instead of a phone (like vonage). (I’m not biased or anything.) Anybody that’s got real experience feel free to comment.
Web cam. MSN, Yahoo, AOL, etc. allow you to do webcams along with instant messaging. We’ve got friends here who have noted how much better their relationships with family are because the connection that seeing one another creates. It’s free once you buy the web cam, but again you are tied to the computer.
* For Vonage you’ve got to get it in the States before you come. You get to pick virtually any area code that you want.