Newcomers Network Seven Best Settlement Strategies
By Sue Ellson
After extensive primary and secondary research and as the Founder of Newcomers Network, I recommend the following seven best settlement strategies to help you overcome the common challenges of relocation, migration, expatriation and repatriation.
These principles apply to any location anywhere in the world. These strategies can be used for a domestic relocation (within a country) or international expatriation, repatriation or migration (to another country).
1. Find a Friend
People of any age and background can make great new friends. Most importantly, friends can answer questions and share stories with you. Meaningful reciprocal relationships lead to a good quality of life and are important to your wellbeing.
Regardless of how long you plan to stay in your new location, make an effort to attend events where you will meet other people who share either a common interest or who have also moved.
Most newcomers will say that the moment they felt like their new location was home (or happier) was when they found a friend.
It is extremely important to discover new friends (and of course keep in touch with your existing friends and family). Aim for a mix of friends – people who are ‘locals’ as well as other people who may have a similar background to you (from the same country or speak the same language) or people who have also moved from another location (as they know how important it is to find new friends).
When you meet people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures, life can be even more interesting and it will feel more like an extended family network. To maintain your relationship with previous friends and family members, keep in touch at least three times a year to maintain the connection.
Newcomers Network hosts various online and offline events and we encourage you to join us at these.
2. Collect Local Information
Most western style communities around the world have local information booklets, resources and websites. Find this information and read through it. Naturally you need to ensure that the source of the information is reputable (is it from a government, non-government, commercial or private enterprise? Are there any conflicts of interest or commercial goals included?).
Find out if there is a local ‘New Resident’s Guide’ or ‘Community Information Booklet.’ These resources (either in print or online) provide information on local activity groups and details of local services (like garbage collection days).
You can also visit your nearest public library or visitor information centre – many of which have computers with internet access available to the public and a lot of local information brochures. Many state and national government websites provide useful links to further information.
Familiarise yourself with local public transport options and find easy ways to get around. Find a new doctor, dentist, vet (if you have animals), hairdresser etc so that when you need one of these services urgently, you can reach it quickly.
If you have moved within a country, update your details on the electoral voting role and tell your friends and family your new contact details.
It is helpful to make a list of services you have used in your previous location and collect new information for your new location. Check if you need medical insurance, ambulance cover, automobile membership, a new driver’s license etc – as they usually need to be arranged within three months of arrival.
Ask people that you meet where are the best sources of local information. To confirm accuracy, see if you can source the same advice from more than one publisher (that’s the reason most people request three quotes if they are requesting professional help from a tradesperson).
3. Start New Activities
Starting or continuing a hobby, sport or interest will help you meet people with similar interests in a non-threatening environment. These people will also be a great source of practical information, like where you can find a good hairdresser or the best food ingredients (you don’t want to become foodsick as well as homesick!)
As you already have skills or knowledge in this interest, you will not be starting from scratch. You will be able to share your wisdom and connect with people based on your shared passion.
Listen to the local radio, read local newspapers and brochures and some of the major daily newspapers (online or offline). Consider attending various events, exhibitions and a major sporting event, particularly if the country you are moving to is well known for a particular interest (for example, in Melbourne, it is Australian Rules Football).
4. Expect it to be challenging
A successful transition is largely dependent on your expectations – if you expect it to be challenging, you are less likely to find it difficult. Do not be surprised if settling into the new location takes longer than you anticipated – even if you have only moved one suburb (sometimes friends who are only 20 minutes away disappear after a move when your regular routines change). New friends can share your joys and challenges and provide friendly advice and support.
Your move has affected you, any family that have moved with you and people from your previous location. Nurture distant relationships by using technology (email, sms, phone, Skype, online networks) and send photos so that they can ‘see’ you in your new location.
It usually takes about three years to feel like a ‘local.’ For more information, search the internet for articles on ‘Culture Shock.’
Did you also know that the success of your settlement can be greatly affected by your first impression when you arrived in your new location? If you arrived and had a good first impression, you are much more likely to have a successful settlement. If you had a bad first impression, it can take a little longer to adjust.
5. Develop new routines and rituals
By creating new routines, like visiting a new place every month, you will create new memories and enjoy new experiences. Celebrate your new lifestyle by a regular restaurant dinner, a weekend trip to the beach, healthy activities, short vacations, group outings etc.
Act like a ‘tourist’ and discover the local attractions. Invite your new friends to join you and you will soon create another extended family. Be careful how much information you share with your new work colleagues , it may come back to haunt you or the information you share could be used against you (find independent and professional help if you need it).
6. Be curious – ask questions
Most people are happy to answer questions and provide advice (although I am aware that some cultures perceive this as a sign of weakness). If you cannot ask people directly, do some more research, but do not battle on without finding the information you need.
With so much to organise when you first arrive in a new location, it is sometimes a good idea to write down your questions so that when you do find someone to ask, you can ask all of your questions at once. Questions are also a good way to start conversations with new people.
Sometimes you may need to consult a professional adviser and pay a fee. This can sometimes save you more money and time in the long run – but it is also a good idea to do some preliminary research first so that you can decide how much to spend and compare it with what other service providers charge. Be an informed consumer.
Also, if you are paying for professional advice and the person suggests that you complete certain tasks, do them! What is the point of asking for advice and then not implementing it? The difference is that if you ask a professional, you will in theory complete the right steps first without making all the wrong steps first and then having to fix them up.
It can be a good idea to confirm your arrangements in writing before making any payment for goods or services. There is an old saying about ‘saving cents and wasting dollars,’ so if you have been given a qualified referral for a good service, it may be worthwhile spending the money.
Significant topics or decisions involving a lot of money (real estate, investments, health) usually involve sourcing a professional and paying for their advice. The most successful people who change locations know that moving is not just about changing the location of your personal items.
You need to learn new ways to understand the local rules, regulations, norms, culture, traditions, procedures, policies, community expectations etc
7. Implement these strategies in your own personal style
These strategies are most effective when you apply them in your own personal style. What may be suitable for you may be different to someone else from the same location. You may be more extroverted (and gain energy from being around other people) or introverted (and gain energy from spending time on your own).
An introverted person may find it much more helpful to spend time with people who share a similar passion or interest rather than someone who is just fun to talk to. Sometimes online techniques can be better than face to face – but ultimately, I believe humans are social creatures and we need to have people around us to really enjoy our lives.
Finally, remember that these strategies can be used for relocation (within country), expatriation, repatriation or migration (another country).
All the best with your move/s!
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