What is the most important tool that you need before you move? Information. I don’t mean just any information. I mean information from a variety of sources. You want to go to a country with an open mind. In order to achieve that, you need to explore all possible areas of knowledge. Here are the kinds of sources I suggest:
Do you have friends who live in the country that you are moving to? Pick their brain about life there. I have friends who are open to answering my questions about life in Canada. Canadians are big on job networking, so I am establishing business contacts in Canada through LinkedIn. The alum network at my college has been useful too. Long-term expats from your home country can be especially helpful. I have often found them friendly and happy to answer questions. Also, read blogs of people who have lived overseas. It doesn’t matter if they are expats from your home country or not. Wisdom from people who are expats goes a long way!
Follow news stories in the country you are moving to, if possible. I know some news links don’t work if you’re in another country. Keep trying though! Get recommendations on good news sites from people you trust. Sometimes, that’s not possible, so I find a general rule of thumb for figuring out a good news site is seeing if it appears in other sources. I found this especially helpful with moving back to the US from London. I admit I got into a negative spiral from reading news about the US. Then I repatriated and found out the news was overhyped.
A Personal Story:
I remember a professor I had in college once met the French ambassador to the US. She asked him what surprised him most about the US when he first arrived. He said that he was surprised Americans don’t know much about world news. He traced it back to how news is presented in the US versus the world. In any other country they start their news programs with world news, then national news, and if there is time, local news. In the US, news programs start off with local news, then national news, and if there’s time, international news. I think the French ambassador had a point. I think the news programs show what they prioritize by the order of their news.
What’s the point of me telling this story? If you are in the US and want to get quality world news, you have to actively search for it. I follow good news sources, but I am skeptical sometimes. It’s a struggle to get good international news in the US if you don’t know where to get it. I personally think it’s disgraceful that it’s a struggle to get quality world news in the US. People should be able to access quality world news no matter where they are. I have often run across the attitude in the US of world news saying, “What has this got to do with me?” Answer: Everything. Surely the pandemic should have shown that? We’re a globalized society and one country’s actions have global repercussions.
Websites on History and/or Culture:
I recommend reading about the history and culture of your future home before you leave. When I moved to London from the US, it was before the internet really took off, and I was a kid who just took life as it came to me. I was in for a big culture shock! Now that I’m an adult and the internet is readily available, I can explore information at my own leisure. I didn’t research anything about the US when I repatriated. I thought it wasn’t necessary because I was American. However, my point from above about finding news from the US being overhyped in London was an important lesson for me that news is not always trustworthy. Listening to that overhyped stuff made me crash emotionally when I was going through reverse culture shock and I discovered that it wasn’t true.
Books and Movies:
I recommend watching movies and reading books to whet your appetite for your new country. If the actors, film location, or stories are related to your new country, it can be your own guided tour. Beware of cultural stereotypes though! You don’t want to embarrass yourself for believing stereotypes. I’m currently listening to Canada by Mike Myers on audiobooks (since I’m packing my books). I definitely intend to watch Brokeback Mountain before I leave, which is set in Alberta. Fly Away Home was one of my favorite movies growing up! Amy is a Third Culture Kid and the movie shows her personal journey adjusting to another country. No wonder I related to it so strongly! I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I want to see it again soon!
Your Own Personal Experience:
I made the mistake of not visiting London before I moved there. I felt I would have got a lot more information before making a decision to move. A long time ago, I visited Montreal. I must have been about 8 years old at the time and I remember loving it! I haven’t visited Canada since then, but I am confident I am going to love it there.
I’ve been soaking up information like a sponge! Even though I have been through culture shock before and I know what to expect, I am hoping the information I get will lessen the blow. I can’t forget that I am moving at a time of political turmoil and social unrest in the US and it has adversely affected how Americans are perceived overseas. I have always said that there is nothing more humbling than moving away from your own country and seeing it through the eyes of the world.
When I was living in London, I was acutely aware of how the US was perceived abroad, and I don’t believe it has improved, to say the least. The fact that the EU has not included the US in the countries that are allowed to travel there speaks volumes. My hope is that if I show that I love Canada, I’m not a careless idiot, and I can adapt to their culture, that people will be accepting and understanding that I wanted to move to escape political, economic, and social turmoil.
Do you have any other sources future expats should utilize? Do you like the sources I came up with? Let me know in the comments! See you next time!