Choosing to move abroad and become a digital nomad can come with exciting experiences, new friends and even a change in job.
But it can also be overwhelming. You might find yourself feeling stressed out as you adjust to your new surroundings.
During the honeymoon phase of the first few months, there's the novelty of new adventures. But when the excitement wears off, this can quickly become frustration, homesickness, anxiety and feelings of being out of place.
You’ll eventually adapt but many people who choose to make the move abroad experience this phenomenon known as ‘culture shock’.
It's good to get some tips on preparing yourself before you leave. Despite how it may seem, there’s a lot you can do to make the transition less painful. Insurance provider, William Russell, has put together some of its top tips for overcoming culture shock.
“Although culture shock can be challenging, there are many ways to mitigate its effects,” says Sharon Clarkson, a medical insurance nurse for the company.
“It can help to understand that culture shock is completely normal and that it’s something that every expat goes through to some degree.”
Based on years of experience helping people who have moved abroad, here are some top tips on preparing for culture shock.
Languages: Learn the basics before you go
It seems pretty self-explanatory that being able to communicate would help you to feel less lonely. But many digital nomads don’t make the effort to improve their language skills before they depart - especially when it comes to regional dialects.
It is particularly important if you are moving to a place where few people speak your native language. Those moving to Japan, for example, won’t get very far without being able to speak at least some Japanese.
Recently, content creator and language lover Arieh Smith shared with us his top tips for learning a language. Check them out if you want to get proficient fast.
Get online to connect with other foreigners before you arrive
There’s no substitute for the advice of people who have already done something successfully. Reaching out to local digital nomads or expats before you arrive also means you will already know some people on the ground in your new location. There are usually social media groups for expats of the same nationality or in the same local area, region or country.
While you are still in the planning phase, it is a good idea to check out which countries rank as the most (and least) friendly.
You can also try looking for a digital nomad community or village to join. These have sprung up all over the world in the last few years in popular destinations like Croatia and Portugal. Everyone here will be in the same boat and you’ll likely meet others with wisdom to share about living as a digital nomad.
Establish a routine in a new country as quickly as possible
Wherever you are in the world, establishing a routine is a quick way to feel like you have some normalcy in your life. Even more so if you are dealing with the sleep deprivation of changing time zones or making the switch to entirely remote working
Try to get your daily schedule set as soon as possible. This could include new choices like taking a 'siesta' afternoon nap, to adjusting your bedtime and even adapting to local cultural routines.
Avoid comparisons with your home country
It can be hard not to think about what you are missing at home after making the move to a new country. But aren’t new experiences one of the main reasons people choose to become digital nomads?
Remember this if the homesickness starts to creep in and keep your mind open. Even the most famous locations have brand new things to discover, however long you have been there.
Don’t believe what you see on social media about digital nomads
As with most things in life, we often only share the good bits of moving abroad on social media. Don’t let glamorous posts about people seemingly living the dream mislead you.
Instead, seek out realistic portrayals of life as a digital nomad in the country you are moving to. There are plenty of YouTube channels, videos and podcasts out there that deal with the more nitty-gritty details of what it is like.
Keep exploring and stay curious about your new home
Once settled into your routine, it can be easy to forget why you left home in the first place. But it's likely that curiosity was one of the things that led you to that choice, so embrace it whenever you can.
Keep up to date by watching local television and reading books instead of relying on international media. It might even help your language skills too as you find yourself understanding without having to read the subtitles.
Talk to people about how being a digital nomad makes you feel
If you start to feel sad, homesick or even anxious, don’t bottle it up. It's something that many digital nomads go through and you should never feel like having doubts is weak. Reaching out to people in the groups or communities you have joined could help you to find an answer or shared experience that makes everything better.
If things get too much to deal with on your own and you start to feel depressed, don’t be afraid to speak to a healthcare professional about your options. There are also coaches for expats who can be at your side as you go through the ups and downs of a whole new life.
Stay fit and put your health first
Beyond everything else, your health is the most important thing to take care of. Look after yourself by eating healthy, staying active and going to the doctor if you need to.
Part of that means making sure that you understand the healthcare system in the country that you move to - whether you need to pay out of pocket, set up insurance or contribute to public systems.