How to research your move abroad

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6 tips for making research fun

When you’re about to move abroad most people’s automatic response is to find out as much as you possibly can about the country you’re going to. Some things you have to research thoroughly like legal requirements, schools etc. However, some people absolutely love doing research and some people don’t. If ploughing through text books or online research isn’t your thing there are other ways to find out about the way of life and culture.

It’s important to understand what your new life with be like, so here are some different ways to find out more about the country you’re going to.

Get cooking

Look for a cookbook about that country’s food in your own language before you go. For example, if you’re going to Mexico find a Mexican cookbook in English. You’re more likely to find it in your own language in your country than abroad. Living overseas means you’re going to have to deal with the local foods so grab a book, and see what kind of foods are going to be the local favourites. It’s a fun way to get your taste-buds drooling about your imminent move. And your children can get involved too.

Find out what special ingredients are used and research them too – especially the names in each language – so you are prepared when you go grocery shopping there.

Get reading

There are a plethora of novels set in foreign countries. Travel has inspired the writer for centuries and it’s one of my personal favourite research tools. I choose a novel set in my destination, tuck myself up in an armchair and get reading. It’s amazing how it can stir your imagination in a way that a dry, academic travel book sometimes fails to do! So look for novels that are set where you are going. They’re also great to read once you’re actually in your chosen country and a novel way (excuse the pun!) to go sight-seeing. Find locations or landmarks from your favourite books and see them literally come to life.

Kids like to learn this way so perhaps have a look for some books about myths and legends of that country.

Get watching

Similarly, search for movies which are set where you’re going whether they’re films which have been made there and have sub-titles, or made by people from your country but set there. Watch some of those to get a feel of what it’s like. Watching a movie is a great way to take a break from the guidebooks. One word of caution here, don’t take all the films or books at face value! The French might be into philosophy but if you only watched French movies you’d think they would be very intense! Rest assured, they’re not all like that. Literature (in film and books) tends to draw on stereotypes so try to look beyond this.

You can also start to learn the language by watching a favourite and familiar movie. Just change the language settings to the one you need to learn – you can set subtitles if you prefer – and enjoy. Because you will already be familiar with the context and plot of the story, you will find it easier to pick up words and phrases in your new language.

Learn a new language just by watching TV

Get chatting

Get chatting to other people who have been, (preferably who have lived there) or even just visited. Often they will be more than happy to talk about their experiences and show you any photos.

Chat and ask questions on an online expat forum such as Expatability Club Chat and get ahead before you move.

Get funny

There are lots of non-fiction books and travel guides on different countries and cultures, including many comical books. Moving overseas doesn’t have to be all heavy research – you can have a bit of fun with it too. See if you can find some light-hearted literature on your new country and have a few laughs with your research.

Get the kids involved

Children are an endless source of enthusiasm and energy, so why not make use of some of it? Get them to see what they can find out. If it’s the kind of country where they keep pets, what’s the most popular pet? What’s the national dish? What’s the climate? National sport? Get the kids to find all this stuff out. You could even make a quiz out of it and award prizes to the one who has got the most new facts.

Ultimately, how much fun you have with your research is up to you. But one way of diffusing the stress of moving overseas is to inject some light-heartedness into the whole process. Have a bit of fun with it and don’t take it all too seriously.

Need to talk 1-1 about your move and life overseas with someone who 'gets it'? Consider me your own, personal expat expert! I'm here for you.

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