The Editorial Staff at SmartyGirlLeadership (SGL) Media give a standing ovation to our SmartyFella Blaine Brount. Our prolific journalist who covered topics from tech news to music will no longer be stateside. He’s moving to the land of You are Here Cafe.
Without Mr. Brount’s writing and interviewing contribution, SmartyFella and SmartyGirl readers would have missed out on perspectives by Filmmaker Joe Nicolosi, insights from Wired’s Clive Thompson, branding best practices from Guy Kawasaki and persuasive arguments for marching band. Miss him already? Follow @BlaineBrount.
Moving is always really hard. I tried to find how stressful it ranks on lists from every website that Clickhole makes fun of, and Google instead gave me a page of articles dedicated to switching homes. Suffice to say, there’s enough going on when finding a new apartment in your city, or even moving across the country for your first job out of college. Preparing for a long term stay abroad is another beast.
I studied in South Korea for a semester in college, and I’m moving back next week to teach English for a year, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot. There’s plenty of advice out there on what to bring or how to pack for any move, but here are a few extra things to consider when you’re leaving your home country:
Learn about the culture
This one should be pretty easy, as you’re probably pretty pumped about wherever you’ve decided to go. While reading up on customs, history, and food is really exciting, it’s also going to be incredibly helpful. No matter how adventurous you are (And you must be if you decided to move abroad), culture shock is a real thing that will probably affect you at least a little bit. The fewer surprises, the easier it will be.
Another benefit that you might not have considered is how much your research can endear you to the people of your new home. I made friends with my Korean classmates relatively quickly just because I was familiar with some of the customs and was eager to try the food. Most countries don’t export culture through media like the United States does, so your hosts might be excited at your interest.
Study the language
Not quite as easy. You might’ve loathed taking Spanish/French/German in high school, but it’s hard to argue that there’s a bigger part of culture than language, so give it a shot. Besides being necessary for communication, locals will appreciate you at least trying to live within their world. And it’s a lot easier to stay motivated knowing that you’re actually going to use the language in your daily life outside of asking your teacher if you can go to the bathroom.
Get going now. Whenever you start, you’re going to wish you did earlier. The good news is there are tons of resources to help you out. You’re especially lucky if you’re learning a common language, like those spoken in Western Europe. If you don’t like textbooks, look for podcasts that teach your target language. Duolingo can be great if you’re looking to study one of the offered languages, and the community at www.reddit.com/r/languagelearning can help you get started no matter what you want to learn. I highly recommend Anki flashcards for reviewing vocabulary. Oh, and shout out to TalkToMeInKorean in case you’re in the same boat as I am.
Alright, no more culture stuff. There are tangible things to prepare for, too. You’ll probably need to at least get some outlet converters for your electronics, as the plugs will be different. These will be sufficient for things like your laptop and phone charger which have AC adapters, but you may need a wattage converter for appliances like electric toothbrushes, razors, and hair dryers.
You also want to think about your cell phone situation. If your current phone will work abroad and you plan to bring it, talk to your wireless provider and ask them about getting it unlocked. It shouldn’t be a problem if you’re not currently under contract. This will allow you to get a SIM card and sign up for service in your new country, instead of paying insane international fees. If you won’t be gone for more than a year, you might want to get your old phone number when you come back. There are a number of services that can help you out with this.
If you’re not bringing your phone with, think about selling it at a site like Gazelle. They’ll send you a prepaid envelope so you can drop your phone in the mail right before you leave, and you’ll be able to buy a few more beers when you land.
Stock up on clothes/personal care products
There’s a good chance that wherever you’re going won’t sell the type of clothes that you’re used to wearing. Maybe you’re fine with that, but make sure you’ll be able to find clothes that at least fit. This is probably most important to think about if you’re moving to Asia, but if you’re really tall, pretty fat, or have big feet, you might not be able to buy what you need when you get there. Don’t forget that the weather will probably change while you’re there, so pack accordingly.
The other thing to consider is pretty much everything sitting on your bathroom sink. South Korea’s selection of shampoo/soap/skin care/beauty products is so big, I’m surprised my girlfriend isn’t moving with me based on that alone. One thing nobody told me before I moved there the first time? They don’t use deodorant. Contrary to the standard reaction, no, they don’t stink. I guess they’re just superior beings. Luckily, I made friends with a foreigner who felt my pain. We had to go to a black barber shop in the international neighborhood to buy old spice at $10 a stick. I’m bringing a Costco-sized supply this time.
Spend time with friends and family
The real reason it took me way too long to write this article. (Sorry, editors!) You’re probably talking a lot about how much you’re going to miss everyone; you might want to change your behavior to reflect that. I quit my temp job a couple months before departure largely so I could hang out with people. That’s not an option for everyone (and might have been kind of dumb of me), but do what you can. Don’t say no when your friends ask to go out just because you like Netflix and sweatpants. Take your dog for an extra walk. Find time to have dinner with your mom. It’s little stuff, but no matter how well you adjust to your new life, you’ll miss everyone back home.