Moving to another country can be an exciting and demanding challenge. Moving from London to Sydney adds an extra dimension in terms of distance with the feeling of being on the other side of the world and totally cut off from friends and family. Here is my friend Nikki’s story on that move to Sydney.
You’ve done it
You’ve taken the plunge to move across to the other side of the world, taken the huge decision to relocate. Extended travel or a live/work holiday isn’t the same as a week at the beach. You might have uprooted your family and if you’re single you’ve said your tearful farewells to those loved ones, friends and colleagues you’re leaving behind. You’ve sorted out the logistics and ticked off everything on your moving abroad checklist.
So, what’s the problem?
It’s easy to get a bit lonely and isolated after a long-distance move, as you are away from support networks that have always historically got you through the tough times. Even worse, when moving to the other side of the world, (London to Sydney, or Perth to New York) can be extremely unsettling. Knowing your whole world is not just thousands of miles away; but also generally asleep can increase the feeling of isolation and alienation.
Ways to stay connected
The internet revolution has truly changed how we communicate, not only at a local level, but also globally. The distance barrier can be breached by reaching out in all kinds of ways:
Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and so many more options. If you haven’t already, do make sure you register yourself on the most popular Social Media sites for your friend groups, and consider training the parents on how to use Facebook if they are not yet proficient silver surfers. Even if they seem reluctant, once you demonstrate to them how they can be involved in your life whilst you’re thousands of miles away, the benefits should become clear. Something important to remember is make sure that you use the Facebook privacy settings to restrict what others can post about you without your approval.
Skype/Video Messaging – it’s hard to understate the importance of actually seeing someone’s face when you talk to them. Being able to see a person’s facial expressions and body language whilst you talk to them makes such a difference and this is as close as you are going to be able to get to talking “face to face” without clocking up the air miles and buying the first plane ticket home.
The biggest challenge with this method is getting the timing right. You can’t just call them up as and when you feel like it. You might be getting up when they’re thinking about getting to bed and vice versa, so it will be important to schedule this time when it’s suitable for all participants.
Homesickness and separation from loved ones, can be made so much better with a skype call on special occasions. A friend told me a great story about their last Christmas. Her brother was working the ski season in Canada so the family skyped him, positioning the laptop at the dinner table and set a place so he was visible to the whole family. Whilst the timing might have been different for Charles it really curbed his homesickness during one of the most family oriented occasions of the year, and it was good for all the extended family to be able to catch up with his experience so far from home.
Instant Messaging Services –A more intimate but still cost-effective option, Instant Messaging apps and facilities like WhatsApp and Skype facilitate “chit chat” and everyday style conversation which is more like the day to day to day contacts that you would normally have. As with video messaging, timing might be awkward, but conversations can work quite well in a stop start fashion as and when you are all online at the same times.
It’s also a great way to exchange files and photos for things that you might not want to be sharing more publicly via social media channels.
Don’t dismiss more traditional methods of communication, such as emails, post and phone calls. There is somewhat less “immediacy” in email exchanges as to social media, but in many respects this slower paced exchange can allow for more in depth exchanges and more considered responses. Phone calls are essential for those times when you just need to hear someone’s voice and that’s something we can all identify with at any time.
One of my favourite ways to stay connected to home is receiving parcels full of the creature comforts that you miss. When you’ve moved abroad, it’s inevitable that some of your favourite products won’t be available. (Let’s not get started on the Vegemite/Marmite thing)!
Opening up a parcel and finding all those little things that you’ve been pining for since the move, those familiar smells, can really make a difference and mentally transport you home for a short while.
What to watch out for?
Be careful about the amount of data that you use on a mobile device! You don’t want to get stung with a large data bill in your first few months in the new place, particularly if a lot of this is being done on a mobile (and even worse on a tariff from the country you’ve moved from).
You also need to be really careful that you don’t get so caught up in “staying connected” that you start to neglect the real world. Phubbing is a hot topic in the media around the world at the moment, and when you start looking at the psychology behind it, it’s easy to see how obsessive behaviour can develop through over use of the internet on mobile devices; particularly at this vulnerable time.
In this context, you might not find someone’s company boring, and might instead be pining for the contact you used to be able to get at home, but in the long run, you’ll need to form more intimate relationships in your new surroundings. It’s natural to want to stay connected to your loved ones wherever they might be in the world, but it’s important that you don’t do this at the expense of your new life.
Set a regular weekly catch-up with mum or a loyally waiting partner when there is a good hour of reasonable overlap. Maybe 8am for you and 6pm for them is a time when everyone feels coherent and articulate. Having a regular contact time set aside will keep you grounded and involved and reduce feelings of uncertainty. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with catching people when you can, if these times are unsociable for either party, communication can be effected, with tiredness leading to misunderstanding and feelings of vulnerability.
Whilst it’s important to stay connected to your old life, don’t snub the new opportunities – get out there and engage all these new opportunities with both hands!
My Number One Tip: During my time in Sydney I joined a netball team, meeting twice a week after work. I can honestly say the benefits of regular exercise in a team environment was the difference between “getting along” and being immersed. There are so many studies into the positive psychological benefits of exercise, but in particular I found participating in a team sport was very much part of the Aussie culture and far better (for a newcomer) than a gym membership. Joining a team gives you immediate access to a whole group of people to make friends with and you will almost certainly find a team becomes a surrogate family.