Top tips on how to feel happy in a new destination abroad

Everyone knows there is no place like home – but when you leave the country to live abroad how do you overcome the stress of moving to feel happy in your new destination?

It’s a question that millions of people are asking right now as the world finally starts to get moving again. Some are moving abroad for a change of life, others to work, others because of a relationship and many because their employer has sent them there.

We have researched the subject and revealed the anxieties and stresses people feel on arrival in a new country are common, deep-rooted and often psychological. The bad news is that these issues are amplified by the stress of coping with coronavirus regulations and travel complications. The good news is there are solutions; tips and techniques which allow people to feel happy in a new destination no matter what their internal fears.

Hear from three experts from three very different fields – a psychologist, a relocations expert and an author on the topic – provide exclusive tips on how to cope. The trio, who have all moved home, show how place attachment can happen anywhere we live, and not just where we’re raised. Which means there is hope for everyone.

Here are their top tips on how to feel happy in a new destination abroad: 

Melody Warnick, author of This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are

New home town: Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

1. Build relationships
Number one is you cannot escape the importance of relationships. If you come to a new city and you love everything about it but you don't have friends there, you will be unhappy. So, the best thing you can do for yourself and for your family is to quickly try to acquire some of those human relationships.

2. Seek out what the city is good – and do it
If you move to a town or new city, it’s normal to compare it to places you’ve lived in the past and feel disappointed. Maybe they don’t have an art museum or great night life. But every town is good at something, and a key to developing place attachment is figuring out what your town is good at and doing it. Where I live, I had to learn to appreciate American football because it’s so important here.

3. Be helpful 
Finding a way to deepen your engagement with the community and what's going on there is vital. Volunteering, for instance, deepens our engagement with the place where we live and gives us a sense of ownership. You start to think: “This is my place, I care about what happens here."

Joanne Danehl, Global Director, Crown World Mobility & Crown Relocations

New home town: Chicago, USA

1. Plan
Write plans and accept those plans might need to be adjusted, that they're going to be fluid. But definitely have a plan that covers how, when and, crucially, why. Why am I doing that? Why is that important to me? Why do I have to get that done? That will help you prioritise.”

2. Don’t underestimate the challenge
Don't underestimate how much of an adjustment it's going to be. I’m not saying it’s going to be bad or negative, but don't minimise it. Go ready to embrace that change.

3. Learn the language
Learning the language is incredibly important, and not just because of the need to communicate but also to provide a glimpse into the country’s culture. My advice is give it a go. You've got on a plane and you moved to a foreign country, how hard can it be to say ‘please can I have a cup of coffee’ in the host language and laugh at yourself if you get it wrong? Because then people will laugh with you.”

Dr Alesia Moulton-Perkins, Chartered Clinical Psychologist and Cognitive Behaviour Therapist

New home town: Normandy, France

1. Don’t compare
It all comes down to attitude and your way of perceiving the new place that you are in. If you are constantly comparing it to where you honed previous attachments – and especially if you are the kind of person who is a little bit anxious or prone to see the glass half empty – then every time you make that comparison your new country will probably fall short.

Intentionally focus on the positives about the country you are in and the new relationship you are making with it. Then your wellbeing will be greater.

2. Prepare yourself mentally for a challenge
Don’t expect moving to a new home abroad to be a walk in the park, expect it to be tough and prepare yourself.

One good tip is to contact with people in the local area before you go, perhaps through Facebook for instance, and organise social events for when you get there. This will make you feel ‘welcome’ in a new place and means you are starting the process of forming attachments to your new place. Human contact is so important and it makes you feel more safe and secure – and less anxious.

3. Don’t be afraid to seek out familiarity
It can be tough being in a new country if you don't speak the language and the culture is different to your own. So, be realistic. You need to be open to new experiences but as human beings we also need some stability and familiarity in our lives. 

We all need security and sometimes that comes from familiarity. Finding a café or shop that’s like the one at home, a restaurant that sells your home food, a group of people who speak your language can help. Know what makes you comfortable and seek it out sometimes.

For a complete guide on how to feel happy in a new destination abroad, download the full version of this article from Crown Relocations.