It's been about 10 months since we first began our journey living in a foreign country and boy, has it been a whirlwind. (Well, technically, I guess I've only actually lived in Germany for about six of those months since I spent a few back in the U.S. throughout the end of my pregnancy and in the first couple of months after having Miles.) Almost a year in, I finally - FINALLY - feel like I've adjusted to our new home after a roller coaster of excitement, anxiety, and feeling all the feels. I tell ya - moving to a new place - whether it be a different state or a different country - is not for the faint of heart. Now that I feel like I'm on the other side of it, here are a few things that I believe have helped ease the transition...
Find your people. It's so hard moving to a new place as an adult. Up until the post-college years, you've had built in systems for developing friends, but once you're in the real world, it can prove more difficult. This difficulty is magnified when you move to a place where you don't even speak the primary language. The best way to find new friends, through my experience, is to search for expat groups online. Even our city, Aachen, which isn't huge, has several English-speaking groups that get together on a monthly basis. My favorites have been the ones I found on Facebook - the folks there have been extremely helpful in answering any questions we've had about how things work over here, and it's also a great resource for buying/selling things like bikes and furniture. We enjoy meeting new people at the monthly gatherings at different restaurants and bars around town, and we've even made a few friends through the group. You're always guaranteed to have something in common as you commiserate over the woes and small joys of living abroad :)
Get outside. Last summer, when we moved here, and if I'm honest, I was probably somewhat depressed, I wanted to do nothing but mope around our apartment all day. It was intimidating to go outside and know that I might have to interact with people whom I didn't speak their language (an utterly frustrating experience) or thinking I might get lost (at the time, my phone only worked on wifi). I came up with all kinds of excuses for staying inside - it's too rainy or I'm too tired or I just didn't get the chance today. Let me tell you, sunshine and fresh air can really make all the difference in your mood. Especially now that we have Miles, if he's feeling cranky, I load him in the stroller or Ergo, and we go for a walk. It almost always makes us both feel better!
Stretch your comfort zone. Part of this is the whole finding new people thing, but there are lots of other things about living in a foreign country that take you out of your comfort zone. For me, even going into a grocery store by myself was challenging at first. Force yourself to learn at least some of the language (greetings are a good place to start... for example, when checking out at the grocery store here in Germany, it's customary to greet the cashier with "hallo" and say "danke" (thanks) and "schuss" (bye) when you've finished the transaction and bagging your items). Explore new places. Go sit and have coffee at a local cafe. Little by little, you'll find you start to feel more comfortable in your new environment.
Develop a routine. Especially not having a job over here (while I've pretty much been working and/or in school forever), I've found that it's essential to have some sort of routine. It provides me with a sense of normalcy. It's not the exact same every day, but usually looks something like this for me - wake up around 8 or so, feed and play with baby while having breakfast and coffee, get a shower/straighten up the house/pay bills/work on the few projects I still have going while Miles takes his (typically) long morning nap, eat lunch, and then we'll usually go out for a walk and run errands in the afternoon before Josh gets home, and tag-team making dinner and taking care of baby. Recently, Miles has gotten himself into an even more predictable routine - eating dinner with us, followed by a bath, and bed between 9 and 10. Having even a little bit of consistency and knowing what to expect from my day goes a long way.
Take time to do the things you love. There's no reason you need to give up all the comforts of home. Continue to do the things you love while you're living abroad. For me, those include writing (like here on this blog), travel (not only is this fun and exciting, but it also gives me something to look forward to - sort of landmarks in my time abroad), taking photos (even though most of mine these days are iPhone), and cooking (which I've just recently gotten back in the swing of). Find other people who love to do the same things - it's a great way to make new friends!
If you're struggling to adjust to a new place or in the preparation stages of moving and feeling a bit anxious, just know that some days will be better than others, but eventually, hopefully someday soon, you'll feel the fog lift. I hope that you'll, like me, learn to appreciate the adventure and seize this new chapter!