Moving abroad is a life-changing experience, especially when you have a family. You have to deal with big changes both for yourself and for your children. Moving abroad as a family means leaving your home, leaving friends, changing a routine, and being in a totally new environment.
Parenting is difficult enough as it is, but even more so when you’re suddenly parenting in another country away from family, friends, and everything familiar. Having been parents for 8 years we kind of felt that we’d got the hang of it all (mostly!) but since moving to Spain we’ve had lots of new things to deal with and work through, including school, friends, a new language and plenty more.
If you are a new expat mum as well or are planning on moving abroad with your family soon, here are some tips for new expat mums from myself and a couple of other mums who have moved abroad…
Give yourself time to adjust
Moving to a new country will take a bit of getting used to – don’t expect everything to settle down quickly. Things will be unfamiliar for a while but it’s important to give yourself time to adjust to your new way of life. You’ll probably so be busy focusing on getting the kids settled at first that you don’t focus on yourself for a while. Be realistic about how long it will take for things to feel ‘normal’ and don’t stress if you don’t feel at home for a while. We moved over in May and it wasn’t until school started again in September with a more normal routine that we felt back to normal rather than just being on holiday.
Embrace the culture
A great way to start feeling more at home and like you belong is to become part of the community. Attend any local events, learn about the customs of your new country, and try new things.
We went to lots of fiestas over the summer that helped us to meet people, see how the locals celebrated, and have fun in our new town.
Ruth from Mummy and the Mexicans is a British mum living in Mexico “I’ve been in Mexico so long it feels like home now. The best way to help yourself to adapt and feel happier and more comfortable in your new country is to be open to things that may be strange and different and willing to accept the new culture on its own terms.”
Make sure you have enough money
Until you have lived in your new country you won’t know if there are big differences in living costs. You’ll also probably have to shell out a lot of money initially on things for your new house, as well as on days out to explore your new area. You don’t want the added stress of worrying about money so it’s a good idea to have some savings to fall back on for the first 6 months or so while you get used to budgeting.
Learn the language
If English isn’t the main language spoken in your new country, it’s important to learn as much as possible before you get there. As well as needing to speak the language in everyday situations such as the bank or doctors, you will need to be able to speak to teachers, fill out forms, and help with homework. There are lots of apps to help and there will probably be classes in your new town that you can attend.
Check out this post for some tips on learning a new language as a family.
Making friends as an Expat mum
One of the most important tips for new expat mums is to make your own friends. Making friends as an adult is hard enough, but when you are in a new country you really have to put yourself out there to meet people since you have left all your friends behind in your home country. The first people you will probably meet are fellow parents, and as much as you might not want to it’s important to be brave and chat to other mums at the school gates or when you pick the kids up from their clubs. You can also join clubs and classes yourself to meet new people, as well as joining Facebook groups for expats.
Karalee from Tales of Belle moved to Denmark from the US and had to make new friends in a country where she didn’t speak the language – “When I moved to Denmark from the US with my daughter and partner, I left behind my family and friends. I also did not speak the language therefore it was very isolating especially since I was not working or studying. However, the nurse who did home visits to checkup on my daughter suggested I attend the international mothers group in my city. Me and my daughter attended the meetups, and I was able to meet mothers who were just like me. We were all from different countries, but we all spoke English and had young children. It was great being able to connect with other mothers, and I did not feel as isolated anymore. As an expat mother, I definitely recommend looking into a mother’s group in your city to meet other mothers who are in a similar situation as you.”
Join expat groups
You’ll have a lot of questions both before you leave and even more once you arrive, and who better to ask than fellow expats. Joining expat groups for your country/local area on Facebook will give you a large group of people who have been there and done it already. You can ask for recommendations on places to go, where to shop, activities for kids, and lots more.
Encourage your kids to mix with the locals
It can be really daunting for kids to start a new school at any time, but even more so in another country where everyone speaks a different language. It can be tempting to stick with expats who speak English but it’s so important to mix with the locals, especially for children. The more they mix with local kids the quicker they will pick up the language and learn more about local customs and events.
Sign them up for clubs and activities outside of school so they get to mix with local children. Playing with children who speak another language is a great way for kids to pick up new words as well as making new friends.
If you have recently moved to a new country or are planning your move at the moment I hope these tips for new expat mums have helped. If you are an expat parent and have any other tips, feel free to leave them in the comments section!