Erin has moved to England, and seven years later back to Canada with a new baby, and then more recently to Germany, this time with a child in tow. Believe her when she tells you she’s thought a lot about what can make that first week in a new country less of a headache. Here are Erin’s tips for how to survive your first week in a new country.
How to get through your first week in a new country
1. Don’t try and do it all
You will be tempted to hit the ground running, and try to do everything as soon as you arrive. Sure, make lists, and lists of lists, but give yourself permission to not cram it all in right away. It is exhausting navigating a new country. Even if you’re technically speaking the same language, they do things differently, and absolutely everything is new. Give yourself time to adjust, and not understand things. That’s fine. That’s expected. Break down what you really, absolutely need in that first week and build in lots of time for resting, and for things to go not exactly to plan.
2. Grocery store, bank account and phone
I find the key things are getting some groceries, sorting out a bank account, and getting myself a local phone number. Be well rested and not hungry when you first go to the grocery store, because this is going to take longer than you expect, and be frustrating. Every time I’ve moved, I’ve nearly broken down in tears in the grocery store on one of my first trips, and that even includes on moving back to Canada. Things are not where you expect them, they are called something different, and if you’re coping in a place that has a different language, absolutely everything takes ages to understand at first (ask me about the time I bought a jar of something I thought were pickled beets and it turned out to be something… else). It’s okay. This gets easier. But don’t go in expecting to nip in and out with a few days’ worth of food. It’s going to take an hour, minimum.
Bank accounts and phones just take forever, no matter where you are, so bring every piece of official paperwork that could possibly be required, make sure you’ve eaten first, and be prepared for spending an hour or two on each.
3. Find a new local
Congratulations, you’ve got through some challenging things in your new home! Now is the time to start building your new life, and for me at least, that means new routines. Even if you’re not in your new home yet, it’s worth finding a café or a pub and just go there every day. Routine is comforting, and every single other thing in your life is new, so make a new normal. This is your local, and even if it’s a chain coffee shop location, the barista will start recognising you, and that will save your sanity when you’ve had three official appointments in a row and you are just so incredibly tired of not being sorted out.
4. Take time to enjoy it
This is an exciting adventure you’ve embarked on, and it’s worth reminding yourself why you did this. Go to that amazing art gallery, have a drink at that rooftop bar, stand on that famous street corner. You are doing it! You have moved to a new country, and you are taking on a million new things every day. Sure, you might not have found a flat yet, and you have no idea whether you’ll ever find peanut butter ever again, but this is really cool. Make time to enjoy those new amazing things, as well as the mundane and endless form-filling.