Steve Thairu Mbaki

Foreigner : What it means to move to a new country

People dream of moving to a new country or have thought about it. Moving to a new country is a life-changing decision with numerous benefits and opportunities. The big move exposes you to different cultures, traditions, and ways of life. It broadens your perspective, enhances your understanding of diverse perspectives, and allows you to develop a greater appreciation for diversity. This will make you step out of your comfort zone and adapt to unfamiliar surroundings. It will foster personal growth by building resilience, independence, and adaptability. You learn to navigate through new situations, overcome language barriers in some cases, and develop a sense of self-reliance. Many individuals like myself chose to move to a new country to pursue higher education. This provided me the opportunity to learn from world-renowned professors, gain a globally recognized degree, and be exposed to cutting-edge research and knowledge. Then comes the career opportunities which allow you to gain international work experience, expand your professional network, and enhance your marketability.  This is to say that it is an adventure in itself where you will find your independence and become a global citizen.

What most people don’t mention is, before making the decision to move, it’s essential to research and plan carefully. The Netflix hit show Emily in Paris has romanticised the idea of moving to a different country (Paris, France) without addressing the realistic challenges and complexities involved. What they do not mention to name a few are factors such as immigration regulations, job prospects, cost of living and quality of life in the destination country. It’s essential to approach fictional portrayals like this with a critical eye and understand that they may present an idealised version of the experience. Moving to a new country requires effort, resilience, and adaptability, but don’t be worried because the rewards can be immeasurable, shaping your life in ways you never imagined but it also involves realistic challenges and a period of adjustment.

When moving to a new country, there are several aspects that people may not mention. Here are some important considerations that are often not discussed. The first is culture, adjusting to a new culture can be challenging. Sometimes people want the culture to work around them and not the other way around where they have to immerse themselves into the culture and this may lead to potential culture shock, the need to adapt to different social norms, customs, nuances and communication styles. It definitely takes time to acclimate and understand the nuances of the local culture. We also know that language barriers can present difficulties. Communication can be a significant hurdle initially, especially if you don’t speak the local language fluently. People may not mention the challenges of learning a new language and the time investment it takes to become proficient.

Being in a new country for a period of time you need to acquaint yourself with the legal and administrative procedures. If possible, this should be at the top of your list with friends that can help you understand how to navigate this as moving deals with various legal and administrative processes. These may include obtaining visas, work permits, and other necessary documentation like health insurance or taxes. Navigating the bureaucracy and understanding the local legal system can be complex and time-consuming. You will need a strong social support network both at home and in the new country as the sense of being alone will creep in. This sometimes is often looked past and it might lead to anxiety and depression because of the emotional impact of leaving behind familiar surroundings, friends, and family and adjusting to a new environment.

However, this might be the best thing you do to find yourself. Through all the ups and downs and the questions that arise about identity and belonging, you learn how to love yourself more and be patient with yourself. It is important to recognise that moving to a new country is a transformative experience with both challenges and rewards. Therefore, being prepared, open-minded and proactive in seeking support can greatly contribute to a successful transition.