Moving Across the Globe
AMERICAN IN VIENNA
oving to a foreign country is above all an adventure.
It’s glamorous, exciting and rewarding—but it also comes with challenges. When you’re thousands of miles away from friends and family, don’t speak the local language very well and feel like you’re out of step with the culture’s customs, it can be an overwhelming experience.
I’ve been there. I threw myself into the deep end two years ago, moving from Connecticut to Vienna without much planning or expectation. It was an emotional whirlwind and I felt totally uprooted. I was tempted to go home, but slowly I put down new roots, founded a community of English-speaking women and rediscovered my own strength.
Going through the process of adjusting to life here in Vienna taught me a lot about myself and what I need to do to feel empowered, no matter where I am. Below I’m sharing five ways to feel at home in a foreign land, so that you might find your footing even faster than I did.
What to Expect
The more you know going in, the less intense the culture shock will be. One of the most supportive things you can do for yourself before moving to a new place is research. Create a document (or have your assistant do it) that tells you all about the local culture and customs, any laws you need to know, the country’s basic history and politics and the typical diet. Source recommendations for where to shop for healthy food, which doctor and gynecologist to go to, etc. You’ll also want to know how the system there works, from visas and paperwork, to when stores are open, to transportation options and car services.
It’s so essential to connect and meet with people who are in the same boat as you, who have experience in this new place and are willing to answer your questions, lend an ear, or be a friend. Not only will you feel a sense of belonging, but you’ll become more grounded and emotionally stable. Today it’s easy to find a community online and in person. Facebook has one of the best platforms for expat groups, as well as Meetup.com and Internations.org. Connecting specifically to a women’s group may be just what you need to feel at home. And if you can’t find one in your area, start one yourself! You may be surprised by the growth and support of it.
It may feel like you have to start all over in creating a new routine for yourself. Now more than ever, the important thing is to make sure that your emotional and physical wellbeing are prioritized. Make eating nutritiously and exercising regularly a non-negotiable. I also recommend committing to blogging or journaling to consciously work through all the changes in your life. Always stay solutions-oriented as you vent your frustrations over living in a new place—overcoming these challenges is part of your journey and the wisdom you will gain in the process will be totally worth it!
Stay Present & Love
Where You Are
No matter how much you prepare yourself beforehand, adjusting and feeling comfortable in a new place will take time. You’ve gone from the familiar to the unknown, so it’s normal to feel anxious, lonely, or homesick. Even when you’re halfway around the world, there are always people, places, sights and smells that trigger pangs of nostalgia and longing. When it happens, just breathe, let the thought go and realize that this time of adjustment is NORMAL and that everyone who moves to a foreign country goes through it. Acknowledge your emotions, but keep your head in the here and now. It’s okay to allow yourself to miss home, as long as you also make an effort to focus on what you love and appreciate about where you are right now.
Staying connected to what’s going on back home is a great way to establish a sense of grounding. Try committing to a routine, like spending certain mornings listening to your favorite radio station or reading your usual newspaper online. Schedule daily or weekly Skype chats with friends and family, send regular letters and postcards, or request your favorite products and treats from home. It may be painful sometimes to be so far from your old life, but with consistent communication you can find strength in your loved ones and still be there for them as well.