It has been 9 months since I left the Philippines and moved to Melbourne.
In the past, I’ve lived in the US and in Hong Kong in varying periods of time, but I didn’t make a conscious decision to move in both countries as an immigrant. Conscious decision are the operative words, and let me tell you why.
I moved to Australia for love. As cliché and cheesy as it may sound, it is the truth. I made a conscious and wholehearted decision to leave my beloved Philippines for the love of my life, Shaun, who is an Australian (and part Panda in most days). Our love story is nothing short of a beautiful poetry, and I will save the sappy details for another article in case you’re thinking “BLOODY HELL – IS THIS ANOTHER HOW TO FIND LOVE ARTICLE? FOR &$@%*#^@*^ SAKE!”
Calm down. It isn’t.
Moving was a decision I’ve made on my own. I was not forced, nor sold to guilt. I basically told Shaun, “You’re not going anywhere without me.”
Moving is said to be one of life’s most stressful events. If you’ve moved houses or cities in the past, you’re probably nodding your head right now in agreement. It’s tedious, meticulous, and you may have subjected yourself and your loved ones to a roller coaster of emotions that leave a bad taste in the mouth. Now, think about moving from one country to another country. Absolute pandemonium on steroids!
The adjustment period is a highly critical factor in the end to end process of the move. How you manage, react, and learn from it would be your determining elements to success.
Our first 3 months in Melbourne was the toughest moment of our adjustment period. We arrived in the coldest week of winter, moved into a temporary home, and started our jobs on the weekday that followed on the weekend we landed. Since we both started new jobs, the pressure of delivering was high so we were both spending long hours at work. Our stuff we’ve shipped from the Philippines weren’t schedule to arrive for about 2 months so we were making the most of what we brought with us in our luggage. So in the middle of winter, we were juggling our new jobs, running to apartment viewings for a place to move to, buying furniture/appliances, building routines, while at the same time, painfully missing the structure and familiarity of our lives in the Philippines.
As I write about it now in hindsight, it does not sound too bad at all, eh? And we were quite lucky as we had the administrative support of our company who assisted us throughout the move, and the emotional support of both our sets of families and friends in the Philippines and Australia. But it’s a different story altogether when YOU are in the middle of the experience. The tendency to lean towards panic, confusion, and negativity is quite strong – which are common and immediate human reactions to change.
After 3 months, we found a lovely apartment, completed the purchase of furniture/appliances, quit a job I wasn’t happy with, familiarized ourselves with our bearings, and finally found enjoyment in our new home. And now at 9 months, we can happily say that we’ve fully and successfully adjusted to our life here in Australia.
The adjustment period can vary from person to person, couple to couple, and family to family. We’ve had talks with friends who’ve gone through moves and some took a year, some took longer than a couple of years, and a few who have not fully adjusted still after several years.
I believe that my adjustment process wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be because I have had experience in moving countries before, albeit not as an immigrant, and the fact that I had the loving (and incredibly patient) support of my partner, Shaun. When we’ve gotten the approval for my Partner Visa a year before we were scheduled to move to Australia, he made huge efforts in providing me mental/emotional support, encouragement, and a ton of information to prepare me for the move. I honestly do not know how I could’ve “survived” the adjustment period without him. During my few moments of being in the brink of breaking down, he’s the one who lovingly got me through.
The thing is, every person will have different sets circumstance when they move. And I’d like to share these five components to help you get through your adjustment period during the move successfully:
- Have a mindset change.
This is the most critical and most difficult component of a move. If not done in the right and timely manner, or if not done at all; it could break one down, prolong the adjustment period unnecessarily, and/or even progress to depression.Easier said than done, but you need to “embrace” the fact that you ARE moving to another country to LIVE there. You aren’t there temporarily, you aren’t there visiting, and you aren’t there to test your threshold until you come running back to your home country.
If you view the move as a “temporary” process, then you will NEVER be happy in your new home. Why? Because you will never regard this new country as HOME. There is absolutely nothing wrong with regarding the country where you came from as home. In fact, I will always consider the Philippines as my home country. BUT, I also regard Australia as my home. Like in real estate, you can purchase two houses, spend as much time on both, and regard both as your homes. The problem comes about when you only regard one as home and the other as a holiday house (temporary), thus creating unnecessary comparisons that cause homesickness or longing.
Changing your mindset is key and critical. It’s not easy, but it’s incredibly necessary.
- Conduct a “proper goodbye.”
I know a lot of people who migrated to other countries, and had HUGE regrets about not having the chance to visit a particular island/place in the Philippines, or not having the chance to eat their favorite food more often when they were in their home country cause the country they’ve moved to did not have it at all, and/or not having the chance to spend a lot of time with their family and friends whom they’ve left behind in their home country. They ended up longing for these as they did not have a proper “closure.”In relation to having a mindset change; when you’ve decided that you will migrate to another country, I encourage you to create an excel file (or whichever platform you deem works for you) and take note of all the places you’ve always wanted to visit or return to in your home country, all the food/drinks/restaurants you’ll miss, all the activities you’ll miss, and all the family and friends whom you’ll miss when you finally move to your new home country. Put them in an event map with timelines until your big move, and tick them off by giving every “item” on the list a “proper goodbye.”
Keep in mind that when you visit a place or eat at a restaurant serving your favorite food, this is possibly the last time you’ll see or have them for a long period. I found that having this mindset provided me an ability to close chapters and look forward to writing a new one. Don’t get me wrong, we still missed a lot of these in our new home country, but it helped a lot that we had a form of closure in our last few weeks before the move by savoring our last moments with them.
- Prepare to leave and prepare to arrive!
I call this component of the move “housekeeping.” For some people, this can be considered as the most tedious and least fun part of the move.The key element is to be as detailed as you possibly can. There are a lot of things to consider and it’s so easy to forget or overlook something. It helps to have two heads looking at lists, reading over instructions, responding promptly to emails, and doing the actual work. We were also lucky because we had the great support of our work organization in the move so we did not have to look for move suppliers, nor review price ranges.
You need to have a “prepare to leave” and a “prepare to arrive” bucket.
In the prepare to leave bucket, one of the major things you need to do is to assess your current household and decide on which ones you’ll take, and which ones to leave behind. For the ones you’re taking with you, you need to assess the repercussions/costs of bringing them over; will it cost you a lot more to bring them or should you just purchase a new one? Is the make of the items you’re bringing allowed in your new home country?
In this bucket, you also need to consider tying up loose ends such as ending your work contract, utilities contract, lease contract, changing the addresses on your mail, transferring money from country to country, ending school for your children, etc.
In the prepare to arrive bucket, you need to research thoroughly about the country you’re moving to! Learn about the weather, the public transportation system, the possible jobs you can get to in the market, the pay rates, the characteristics of the suburbs, culture, demographics etc. You need to assess all the components of your lifestyle that you need to kick start in your new home country such as the following;
New apartment/new house – location, price range, commuting to and from, distance from work or from CBD, size, will all the items you chose to bring over fit in in terms of size and style?
Car/transportation – price range, make, size, etc.
Personal elements such as tax file numbers, driver’s license, home insurance, health insurance, new school for children, pet insurance, gym membership, new job, church, where to shop for food, utilities, etc.
- Get to know your new home country with passion!
Passion is the key word!If you personally know Shaun and I, then you know that we spend as much time exploring the world and our immediate surroundings with passion. Even when we were living in the Philippines, we always had a “tourist” mindset. And we bring this type of mindset everywhere we go. Getting to know your new home country, or any place for that matter, with a passionate explorer mindset is highly beneficial. Up to now, we make it a point to try new restaurants, new routes to bike through, new places to visit for road trips, and new experiences to try out, in a regular basis. By doing so, it helps us understand and be more mindful of cultural differences, and it also makes us appreciate living here.
In line with the “prepare to arrive” component, you need to get to know the culture of your new home country; how do people live, how do people regard one another, and how can you immerse yourself amongst it all.
There are a lot of people who migrate to a new country and do not immerse themselves to the culture. They stick to the same way of life that they’re used to from their home country, and refuse to learn the way of life in the new country. This is a troublesome approach. There is nothing wrong with sticking to your roots, but you also need to embrace the change, and immerse yourself with your new environment. After all, you chose to move to your new home so it is beneficial for both you and the people around you to adjust and adhere to the culture.
Get to know everything about your new home country; the history, the people, music, food, school system, sports, things/ways that are unacceptable in many facets, the laws of the land, the government, social ethics, etc.
When I lived in Hong Kong for two years, I had a miserable time. You’re probably thinking, “Are you nuts? Hong Kong is one of the most amazing cities to live in! How can you be miserable?” Looking back, I would absolutely slap myself (the backslap type that reverberates to the core) had I met me back then. The reason for my misery was not because Hong Kong was a terrible place to live in. I was miserable because I vehemently refused to take note of all the positive things about the city. I was only looking at the negative side of things, and wasn’t open to exploring the fact that I was actually living in one of the best cities in the world. I came there with a mindset that I was only there for a 2-year work contract so there was no point for me to learn and explore.
The more information you learn and live by, the easier your adjustment period will be.
- Keep it positive!
Lastly, and also incredibly important, is the component of keeping it positive.In the beginning, during, and in the adjustment period – you will experience MANY moments where you’ll feel highly challenged. You will go through a circus of negative emotions that can take you places you’ve never been to before, or have not been to for quite some time in your life.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, MOVING is one of the TOP 5 most stressful events in life that anyone will ever go through. You are literally and figuratively uprooting and planting yourself from old soil to new soil. It is twice more difficult when you’re doing this at the peak of your life (late 20s to late 30s) because you’re at a part of your life when you’ve started or gotten used to a lifestyle already that includes routines from waking up at a certain time of day, to walking your pet, to eating a particular type of meal, to knowing where to go every Sunday, to knowing exactly what to order in certain places, etc.
Moving to another country means all of this will change, and that you will need to slowly find yourself building a new routine, or essentially, a new life. New environment, new culture, possibly new job, new home, and literally, new air to breathe. There will be a lot of changes to take in, and it could get overwhelming. It gets tougher when you do not have someone or something to draw your strength from.
I know it is easier said than done, but truly, the key to getting over the hurdles is to keep the positivism going, or simply to just keep “looking” for the positive side of things.
It is highly critical to find elements where you can draw positivism from. And the first source is yourself. You need to always look at the bright side of the situation. I know that this is tough especially when you are running through the rain in 3 degrees cold weather, after leaving work at 8pm due to a stressful busy day, hungry, and worried that you won’t make it to your apartment viewing at 8:15pm. It is a lot easier to just curl up in a ball, cry, and give up. But don’t. Trust me, you are MUCH stronger than you give yourself credit for. And you will get through it eventually. Resilience and survival are innate human traits.
Another element to draw positivism from are your family and friends. If they can’t physically be with you to provide support, use today’s technology. Talk to them daily via Skype, Whatsapp, emails, etc. When I was having difficulty adjusting to my new job in Melbourne, it helped that I was able to talk to my family and friends from all parts of the world about my challenges. If I could get a dollar for every negative moment turned positive by just hearing their words, I’d be filthy rich. Also, make new friends in your new home! I know that it can be daunting to break into an established group, or introducing yourself to new people, but do it anyway. Let them know that you recently moved to your new home – use this information to start conversations. You will be surprised at how interested people are about your move process, your old home, and how you are finding your new home.
The most important element that has helped me beautifully go through my adjustment period is my partner, Shaun. If you’re moving to another country with your partner, husband/wife, and/or children, you have to draw positivism from one another. Shaun and I were one another’s rock and source of positive energy every step of the way.
I would like to reiterate that every person deals with change differently. Every person may deal with moving countries differently, too. Unfortunately, there are those who do not truly get to the point of successfully adjusting in their new habitat so decisions need to be made.
But before you give up on your decision, your new home country, and yourself; do me a favor and give it a shot. Give it a passionate, no holds barred, and mighty shot! Remember Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music when she was singing “I Have Confidence” with such conviction? Let her be your “move” spirit animal. Get your heels clicking, and stop thinking about the life you’ve left in the abbey. I wake up daily thinking “I’m Julie Andrews” and everything gets better. Ok, shared waaaay to much information.
If all else fails, and you truly need to move back to your home country, then learn from your experience, and appreciate the positive side of things. Life goes on.