Bonjour friends! Happy Monday! In anticipation of the WorldTowning launch (we are almost there folks) I will be sharing oldies, but goodies from the past several years of blogging.
I can’t wait to share our new adventure with you. If you want to get a jump on the WorldTowning launch you can sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this post. Early newsletter subscribers will get a special pre-launch goodie. Let’s just say that there will be a drawing (after launch) that will involve time in a country outside the US. And those of you who sign up pre-launch get your name entered three extra times.
Published September 20, 2106
Bonjour, friends. Today marks the close of our third week here in Hyères, France, where we plan to live for one year. Should we share our 10 tips for surviving your 1st week in a country? Tip 1: drink wine! Ok, just joking. I’m happy to report that outside of some internet bumps (still working these out) we are settled in. Drum roll, please… It took us 6 months to settle into Costa Rica, 4 (ish) weeks to settle into Ecuador and only 2 weeks in France. We have learned much the hard way over the last three years. And before you say, “How hard can it be?” we all think that until we step foot in a foreign land, don’t speak the language, and can’t even order our own meal. It’s tough, folks. Let me share what has worked for us and maybe it will save you some tears.
In no particular order, the magic formula…
1. Don’t cook. Yes, I put this in writing. DO NOT COOK. Don’t even attempt to cook. Find the restaurants that deliver, the establishments who offer take out late at night, grab some nonessentials to put in the refrigerator and call it a day. Don’t try to set up a kitchen, figure out the oven, and make recipes with ingredients you have never seen before. There will be plenty of time for experimenting and learning about the local foods.
2. Be thankful. Sometimes it’s really hard to see the good when you’re knee-deep in internet issues, forms to fill out, and time change adjustments. Try to remember that this madness is only temporary and the faster you “do the work” the quicker you can get to a normal schedule. It’s important to take the time to be thankful. For us, this usually means taking a small token of appreciation to anyone who helped us before we arrived. For example, school officials, the landlords, and neighbors. Also, we take time at dinner to talk about what we are thankful for. Even in our most trying times, we need to still remain thankful.
3. Skip routine. If the kids are staying up late, eating junk, bingeing on movies and skipping hygiene, remind yourself that this is only temporary and that once you find your groove, all will fall back into place. Sometimes I think this is one of the hardest obstacles, especially for us mamas who want the transition to be smooth as pie for our kiddos. It is important to remember that struggle and learning to cope outside of our regular routine yields tremendous growth and adaptability for us and our children.
4. Unpack immediately. Yes, get your “stuff” out of those bags, put it in the drawers, find your underwear, and get your space organized. We are becoming masters at this because I cannot seem to function professionally or personally without certain things, one of those things being deodorant. Ha. I cannot tell you how many moves it took me to learn this one. I am big time OCD when it comes to unpacking. We hit a record with this move, we unpacked nine bags and eight carry-ons in under 48 hours.
5. Get Wifi. The only requirement we have when we sign a lease for a new apartment is good internet, as good as the area can handle. We need it to make money. If you end up at your location (this has happened to us every time) and the internet is not what you were initially told then you need to act on it immediately. Many countries do not have systems in place that are quick and efficient. It could take days or weeks to get an internet connection that is suitable for work. Lack of internet or a good connection can prove to be very stressful when you are using technology to make money and educate your children.
6. Personal care. Work hard to settle in quickly, but don’t neglect your well-being. Be sure to drink lots of water, get sleep, and eat as healthy as possible until you can cook. Breathe, meditate, take a long walk, and remember to exercise a bit even if it seems like your time should be spent elsewhere. I am going to be honest here. I fail miserably in this area, every single time. I wish I did not, but I am a work in progress as well. I usually don’t sleep much, opt for caffeine over water, and never exercise. As a result, I know the harm in doing this. Once things settle into place, I have to do a caffeine detox and a big regroup back into exercise and healthy eating.
7. No guests. If anyone wants to come visit during those first couple of days absolutely advise against it. Actually, I prefer to abstain from guests for at least the first six weeks, primarily because I don’t feel it is fair to our guests. We are usually barely settled, we have had to back burner a lot of our paying work (which means we are overloaded with work) and we are tired. As a result, we have had barely any time to explore the area, find the great restaurants, learn the culture, investigate the history and much more.
8. Take a vacation. Did I just say that? Move to a new land and take a vacation? Really? Yes! Now I am not talking about margaritas on the beach and endless sunsets. I am talking about a vacation from work in order to settle into your new country without the stress of work. I (we) are speaking from personal experience when we say that things go wrong, internet is not always what you were promised, and then you have deadlines on top of it all. Give yourself at least a three-day vacation from work to adjust to the time change (if one exists), work out the internet kinks, observe the culture, unpack, and be present for your kids. In the end, it will reduce your stress level considerably.
9. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask locals you know for help, to hire help, or to bring the kids in for extra reinforcement. One person should not be expected to get the family moved in. If you have to hire a local to cook some meals, clean your apartment, or something else, don’t be shy. If you have children old enough to take responsibility, then by all means, give them tasks to help with. If you know some locals ask them the pertinent questions you would spend hours researching and translating online. Don’t be shy, folks. We all need a little help here and there. Pay it forward to another person who needs a help.
10. Don’t stress. Stress will only complicate the settling in process, plus it is not good for you. Don’t stress because you haven’t found a piano teacher on day one. Don’t stress because your daughter needs to find the used book store today. Don’t stress because you missed your online language class due to an insufficient internet. It will all get done, you will be unpacked and settled before you know it. Remember to breathe. Take a moment if you need it. Go for a coffee all alone. Read a little before bed. Maybe even sneak in a date with your partner for 30 minutes on the patio. You are strong and resourceful, you will survive this, but if you stress about it the process will not go as smoothly as it could.
I hope the 10 tips for surviving your 1st week in a country helped those of you on the cusp of another move or those of you just starting to dream about a life of travel. Those first weeks in a new country bring up so many emotions in a family. On one hand, it is exciting to be in a new place. The sounds, the smells, the yummy foods, the weather, the rich culture. But it can also be exhausting and that’s okay. Try to step outside your head and look at your situation from the outside. I would have to say that these are some of the tougher parts of travel, right behind applying for visas, but luckily it passes very quickly. Plus, the longer you are at this, the better your systems work and you learn what to do to make the process go faster.
Tell me, do you have some suggestion for how to make these first weeks run smoothly in a new country?
p.s. And if all else fails then eat loads of bread and cheese.