Moving to a new city is hard. Moving to a a foreign country? Significantly harder. I think we can all agree that moving, in general, sucks.
First off, when you decide you’re moving, you have to pack up your whole life into boxes. You always have way more things than you think you have. And then you hate life. I hate packing. If I were a rich person, I would hire someone to pack for me. It’s overwhelming to look at all your things knowing that you’ll have to somehow fit everything into boxes which you will then have to physically move somewhere else. When it comes to travel, packing is probably my least favorite aspect of traveling. There’s always the anxiety that you’re bringing too much, you’re not bringing enough, or the constant fear that you’re forgetting something. And then the whole stress of lugging your stuff around. And that’s just for traveling! When you have to move. Gawd… So much harder. I’ve addressed packing for travel a number of times in previous posts (What’s in my bag? A breakdown of my packing strategy, Must-haves for any journey) and this post has to do with moving/traveling to a foreign country (Preparing for an adventure).
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on moving and getting settled in a new place. I’ve moved several times in my life. When I was in high school my family moved houses, when I went to college I moved to a different state, upon graduating college I moved states again. And finally, I’ve lived abroad for 3 and 9 month stints, respectively. As of right now, I’ve been living in Vietnam for 9, almost 10 months. I’m going to share some of my experiences with moving and then offer some advice on how to get settled somewhere new based on my experiences.
- De-clutter and minimize. When I went away for college I was such a novice regarding packing and knowing what things to bring with me for my big move. I brought entirely way too much stuff with me to college which most of it went unused. Moving is a good excuse to look through your things and assess what you really need, want, and what you can throw out or donate.Keep in mind, there’s a difference in mentality when your move is permanent or temporary. I’m lucky that my parents still store a lot of my things so there isn’t a need for me to go through absolutely everything I own. At the same time, it’s not good to accumulate things you’ll never use. Unless it’s something that you’ve used in the past year or has sentimental value attached to it, you probably won’t miss it if you get rid of it or donate.
- Be thoughtful about your wardrobe. This is probably the thing that has taken up the most space when I’ve moved. And as a lover of clothes, what I wear can do wonders to my mood. Seems superficial, but it’s true. So this is something I put a lot of thought into. As I’ve gotten older my wardrobe has gone through many changes. For me, the older I’ve gotten, the more clear I am on my own style, the things I like, and what looks best on me. I’m a big fan of basic but quality wardrobe pieces that are versatile. Which means that my wardrobe has downsized in recent years, but that also means that I like my wardrobe more than I ever have before.When I moved to DC, I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be there, so I moved with one piece of luggage with mostly work clothes. It didn’t even occur to me what I would wear when I wasn’t at work, which was a mistake. I think I only brought like one casual shirt and a pair of shorts with me. Luckily, things worked out for me in DC so I was able to get things sent to me from my parent’s house. I could’ve saved a lot of money on postage though if I had thought things through.Moving to Vietnam, I only packed pieces of clothing that went with at least 3 other pieces. Your wardrobe will go far if you do this since you can create a lot of different outfits with very few pieces.
- Bring home with you. Whether you’re moving temporarily or permanently, you want to create a home for yourself wherever you are. For me, that means taking some key things wherever I move. It also means purchasing some key comforts.Decorating your new place will instantly make your new home feel like a home. I like to bring some small prints or pictures with me that I can use to decorate my walls. I also like having a few of my favorite books with me.I’m a bit of a picky person about my sleeping space. I didn’t do this for my move to Vietnam because of the weather but when I moved away for college and to DC, I splurged on some good pillows, sheets, and comforter (I warn you though, once you try sheets that are a 300-count thread or more, you’ll never be able to go back). I’m one of those people who love having lots of blankets and pillows on my bed. If it weren’t so hot in Vietnam, I would’ve packed my favorite blanket with me. When I moved to Vietnam, however, one of my first purchases was a new pillow. There’s nothing like slipping into a comfortable bed at night to make you feel at home.
Regarding getting settled in a new place:
- Get acquainted with your surroundings. Whenever I move to a new place, I like to wander around and see what’s around me. Getting to know my neighborhood is really important to me. Finding your neighborhood grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants will make you feel more comfortable in a new place. It’s also fun to try new places. Now that I’ve been living in Vietnam for awhile, it’s nice having my favorite places to eat, drink, and lounge. I like the feeling of being a regular in places. Sometimes I need to run on autopilot and don’t want to think about where I’m going to get my next meal. Having some sort of familiarity or routine established in your life is super helpful to getting adjusted to somewhere new as well.In Vietnam, I’m by myself a lot so finding a place that I’m familiar with or that’s not too intimidating to go to by myself is really nice.
- Establish a routine. To add to the above point, establishing routines in a new place really helps me. People really do like their routines. If I’m in a new place, doing something as little as eating at the same time everyday does wonders with helping me transition to a new place.In DC, I went to dance and yoga classes regularly which did wonders for my physical as well as mental health. Especially after a particularly stressful or crappy day. Meeting up with friends for weekly happy hours or night outs were also great. Carving out time for socializing outside of work life is really important.In Vietnam, I have weekly Friday soccer games. I also go on daily bike rides and spend time at cafes on a daily basis to get work done. I have an established group of friends here, too, where we regularly eat or get drinks together.May not sound like much, but those little things that you establish in your life make a huge difference. Establishing some semblance of familiarity in an unfamiliar place is important.
- Have a support system. When I moved to DC, I didn’t really know anyone besides two people from college. I luckily became pretty good friends with these people, but it was really scary moving to a place without having any friends. The older I get, the harder it is to make friends. Life in college compared to post-college are worlds apart when it comes to making friends. In college, you basically have a built-in environment where you’re constantly surrounded by people who have the same interests as you. And by virtue of vicinity, you become friends with people. Post-college, you have to try a lot harder to make friends. Who knew you had to put effort into friendships, right? Just kidding. Sort of.It’s really hard and scary to step out of your comfort zone to make friends but if you want any, you gotta do it. If I didn’t want to sit by myself every Friday and Saturday night staring at a wall, I had to make an effort. I tend to be more on the outgoing side, but I’m pretty shy around people I don’t know and it takes me awhile to make friends. I’ve gotten better the older I’ve gotten, but it’s still hard to really put yourself out there and be like I LIKE YOU. LET’S HANG OUT AND BE FRIENDS FOREVER. And then the other person would reply. YES. I’M ON BOARD. PENCIL ME IN EVERY WEEKEND. Because, let’s face it, things don’t really work like that. I wish they did, but they don’t. And the older you get, people normally have more established friends groups so it’s harder to break into those friends groups.When I moved to DC, I had to try really hard to make friends. Which meant always being the one to reach out to people and make plans. It also meant that I joined a kickball league to meet new people. Yes. I joined a kickball league. For adults. It worked though. I met one of my best friends in DC through kickball.Anyways, you just have to not be afraid of being a little vulnerable. Moving to Vietnam, I literally knew no one. And of course things were made more difficult with the whole language barrier thing. It took awhile to make friends but I eventually did. I’m lucky, though, that Vietnam has some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered. Keep in mind, social life in Vietnam is a bit different than in the states where a lot of my Vietnamese friends spend a lot of time at home and don’t stay out very late so I’ve had to adjust the way I hang out with people. Coffee dates are a normal occurrence in Vietnam.Making friends regardless of the country you’re in is basically the same anywhere. Trying and being friendly will get you pretty far, normally.Reaching out to your friends and family when you’re having a hard time is also really important. Building relationships in Vietnam has helped me a ton but also keeping in touch with people from home. I try to maintain a balance. If I spend too much time talking to people from home, makes me feel a bit homesick. But at the same time the time I’ve spent keeping in touch with friends from home has made a huge difference for my happiness.
Regarding moving to a foreign country:
- Make a real effort. I mean. This is advice for life in general, but it’s especially important in a different country. And even more so in a country that is very different from your home country. My Vietnamese isn’t spectacular or anything but just knowing a little Vietnamese goes a long way. The fact that I took the time to learn a little bit of the language here has improved my relationships. I spend most of my time with those who can speak English, but getting to know the local culture/language has earned me more respect from people. Also learning about current events, history, and culture makes a difference. If you’re going to move to a new country, then you should learn about the country you’re living in. It’s the right thing to do. Period.
All in all:
The things that have helped me most with the many moves that I’ve made in my life so far come down to realizing the things that make me happy and comfortable. Which really is an important thing to know in life, in general. And learning how to be independent and comfortable doing things alone. Moving a lot also takes a certain amount of independence. I remember when I was in college, I could barely eat a meal by myself but now I don’t have a problem doing it. Learning how to be comfortable in my own skin and being truly independent has helped me in all aspects of my life. Of course I love having company, but alone time? Totally underrated. I don’t think people really appreciate doing things alone. If you’ve never gone to a movie or concert alone. I highly recommend it.