Having moved around quite a bit, I honestly thought I had this whole Beyond Borders way of life figured out. That was until death struck again just over a week ago. Unexpected and unforgiving, the realisation of its undeniable permanence hit me full force.
It reminded me of how far away from everything, everywhere and everyone Australia actually is. There you have it… A gloomy example of what can trigger a BeBeyondBorders shock. In this case, it had nothing to do with the customs and behaviours of my new environment. Though not a ‘culture shock’, it was a shock nonetheless.
With this in mind, I thought I’d share a few pieces of advice on how to overcome such BeBeyondBorders shocks. These tips are far from being a magic wand but they have definitely helped me settle down and ground myself in each of the new cities and countries I’ve lived in over the years.
1. Research your Destination
Before moving to a new place, take the time to do some research. Find out more about the local culture, customs and way of life especially any major DOs and DONTs. The latter will be things that you might consider ‘normal’ or harmless but that will come across as rude or offensive in your new environment. As part of your preparation, you may also check out what there is to do or see in your destination, which associations or groups might be able to help you settle in as well as learn a few words in the local language if you don’t speak it already.
I will always remember the moment I found out that Bergen, the city I was moving to in Norway, is the rainiest in Europe! According to the Wikipedia article I was reading at the time: ‘It rained every day from the 29th of October 2006 to the 21st of January 2007, 85 consecutive days’. I flew over on the 11th of August 2007…
If you don’t believe me, search for Bergen on Wikipedia
2. Define your Why
Next step is to answer – for yourself – the question: why are you moving to this new place? It could be because you want a change, you’re following a dream, a loved one or a career. Whatever the reason is, write it down on a piece of paper and keep it in a safe place. It will come in handy in the tough times – the moments when you ask yourself: why am I doing this? Then, read it as many times as you need until it all makes sense again.
During my internship in the US, I was asked to rub old labels off drawers full of medicine in a cold room. I spent days stuck in there with just a bucket of water, soap and a sponge to talk to. I kept asking myself… why? Why? WHY? What kept me going was remembering that I’d come over to learn English, build up my CV and explore New-York City at weekends.
3. Keep an Open Mind
Once you arrive at your destination, all I can say is do your utmost to keep an open mind. You will witness ways of doing things and behaviours that will shock and bother you. Try not to judge locals too hastily and harshly. Remember that though they might act differently, they too are humans and ultimately share the same emotions and aspirations as you.
There is no doubt about it, I faced such challenges in China. I found the lack of personal space and the language barrier to be the toughest. Although I did all I could not to let it get to me, sometimes it did. When that happened, I would have a good rant with friends behind closed doors. We’d end the conversation with, ‘This is China!’ before moving on and embracing it all again.
4. Anchor Yourself
Routine is a crucial step in making your new environment feel like home. Repeating certain things – for example, going to the same coffee shop every morning – will anchor you day after day. Once grounded, you’ll be able to observe your surroundings, adopt all the things you love and accept the ones you don’t as simply being different.
When I first moved to London, going to work terrified me. It had nothing to do with the job itself, it was the journey that seemed overwhelming: a 20-minute walk, a 15-minute train ride, a 5-minute bus ride and finally a 5-minute walk. However, doing it time and time again made me feel more confident about exploring the whole city and beyond.
5. Find an Outlet
When the BeBeyondBorders shock hits you, find an outlet to release all of the tension, frustration, anger or sadness you might be feeling. It could be sports, socialising and meeting new people, catching up with friends and family or travelling – whichever is right for you.
Personally, I use a balance of them all. However, my favourite is and has always been travel. Whether it is with family, friends or on my own, I love to explore new places even if it’s just for a few days. During my time in China, it’s taking weekend trips away that helped me cope with Shanghai’s challenging weather and air quality conditions.
6. Be Aware of the Shock
Keeping the BeBeyondBorders shock model in mind will help you know where you are at and what you can expect. If nothing else, its aim is to reassure you: all the feelings you are experiencing are an inherent part of this incredible experience of moving to a new place. Remember to tune in and listen to yourself. How are you feeling today?
Personally, this last point is the one I struggle with the most. If it was up to me, I’d break through every wall, every challenge, every change with strength and determination – leaving both my body and my heart behind. However, having started to realise the pitfalls of such an approach, I am slowly learning to be more aware of what’s going on within me. I’ve found practising yoga particularly helpful though you may also try mindfulness, meditation, energy work or whichever practice suits you best.
Curious? Try these podcasts a friend of mine recommended as a gentle introduction to meditation: Hay House Meditations
There you have it, a few ways of coping and overcoming a BeBeyondBorders shock. If you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them. The challenges of such an international lifestyle haven’t put me off it but some days can be tougher than others… All that’s left for me to say is stand strong, keep going and never stop doing YOU.
Wondering what a BeBeyondBorders shock actually is? Check out my previous article on this topic ~
Do you have other ways of coping with BeBeyondBorders shocks? Share them in the comments ~
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Well written and so true. I’m spending half my year in Argentina (almost exactly halfway around the world from Asia where I’ve lived for years). And a welcome reminder – yes one has to remind oneself about WHY :-). And it does help. No matter how many years one has been moving around … the shock can always hit you.
Thank you very much for leaving a comment Anthony! I am really glad the article resonated with you and I totally agree… the shock can always hit you, even sometimes when you least expects it.