Newcomers Network Savvy Settlement Kit
A practical guide for newcomers to help them make the most of their new life in their new location, particularly if they are moving to Australia.
2nd Edition published 2nd July 2009
1st Edition published 2nd October 2007
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The information in this publication is Copyright.
You are able to print the full kit and use it in its entirety or you can use extracted information in your own publications, but you must quote that it was written by Sue Ellson from Newcomers Network. If you do quote from the publication, please tell us via email: info [at] newcomersnetwork.com
Table of Contents
2.1 Information is from a variety of sources
2.2 Good English Language Skills
2.3 Responsibility for your own success
2.4 Learn transferable skills
2.5 Your personality preferences and the local environment
2.6 Are you willing to make mistakes and ask questions?
2.7 Questions and resources included
3. My moving story
4. Deciding to move
4.1 The moving discussion
4.2 What issues are in your life at present?
4.3 Do you want to move?
4.4 How will you really cope?
5. Planning to move
5.1 Links to move planning resources
5.1.1 International movers to Australia
5.1.2 Australian Movers
5.2 Getting it all done in time
6. How hard is my move?
7. What to do before the move
7.1 Social activities
7.2 Personal activities
7.3 Household arrangements
7.4 Work activities
8. On arrival
9. Your first three months
9.1 Social activities
9.2 Personal activities
9.3 Household arrangements
9.4 Work activities
10. Three to 12 months
11. Is it time for a life change?
12. Our Six Best Settlement Strategies
12.1 Find a friend
12.3 Start new activities
12.5 Develop new routines
12.6 Be curious – ask questions
13.1 Where are you at right now?
13.2 Repatriating your work
13.3 Can you redefine your definition of success?
13.4 Get back in touch with your local environment
13.5 Finding new information
13.6 Watch what you say
13.7 Start something new
13.8 Don’t expect too much from your friends and family
13.9 Try new and innovative ways to find work
13.10 Seek professional help
14. How to help yourself and others
15. Final words
Savvy Settlement draws on both my own personal experiences and the extensive research that I have completed since September 1999.
This ebook uses examples to help you compare your own experiences of moving and is written in a conversational ‘helpful Aunty’ style. Some of the time, as you read this information, you may be thinking, this is just plain old commonsense! Well that is great news, particularly if you are already using it! How many times when you are listening to someone do you find yourself thinking – I already knew that? I hope that you have many of these experiences whilst you are reading this ebook as this will be an indication that you are on the right track and that you already have some successful moving skills.
I am certain that you will find at least one concept in here that will make your time reading it worthwhile! I encourage you to recommend it to people you know so that they can also benefit from the advice.
Whilst moving is a common transition, no two moves are the same. Like many other transitions in life, the people who find it easiest are those that have effective strategies and skills, not just the cheapest prices or the speediest service. However, it is also important to expect a few challenges – so that you can be prepared for disappointment.
Your success in a new location can be attributed to several factors:
- the first impression you have when you arrive
- how quickly you find your first friends (of various ages and backgrounds)
- your ability to source good quality information (for the many decisions and choices you will need to make)
- how you manage your own personal transition (which is often based on your expectations and awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses)
You can see from these statements that it does not depend on some of the things that people usually try and secure when they move:
- a cheap removalist
- new electrical equipment
- unpacked boxes
I mention ‘Savvy Settlement’ because a successful settlement in a new location is much more than some predefined date after you have moved. I usually suggest that you are a ‘newcomer’ for three years (but this can be reduced if you use good strategies from day one).
When I talk about ‘settlement,’ I am talking about that feeling you have when you are in ‘charge’ of your new life in your new location. You have access to your own inner strength and you know how to find what you need and want. You have something to do on the weekend (aside from visiting another tourist attraction). You have things to look forward to, new relationships to enjoy and amazing experiences to write in your journal/blog/online profile.
This ebook will focus on strategies and skills rather than specific information for moving to Australia although it will include several website references if you wish to collect further information. Once you have these abilities, you will be able to move many more times in the future, to various locations – with even greater success!
This ebook has been written with several assumptions in mind. Most importantly though, it is based on the best advice I have given to people over many years in a condensed ebook format. I have assumed you are settling in Australia, however the skills and strategies can be used in other locations.
This information has been written entirely by Sue Ellson and it is based on articles that have I written for the Newcomers Network website and various other publications and research that I have completed. However, the main topic here is settlement.
Do you have a good command of the English language? This is essential for living in Australia and for learning the most you can from this ebook. If you need to improve your English skills, make every effort to attend further training or courses and practice your English whenever you can. For instance, start talking in English at home and watching television programs in English. If you are in a group of people who can speak your native language but one person cannot, then always use English if you are in Australia.
Are you prepared to take responsibility for your own success? It doesn’t matter how much information I write for you here, it will never cover every situation – and quite often, the source of information, resources or assistance will change.
Sometimes, you might be in the right place, talking to the right person and they might be having a bad day and no matter how well you explain your situation, you cannot get your message across. Do not despair. In these situations, I usually say ‘thank you for your time’ and end the conversation and either source someone else or contact the organisation at another time and hope that I find a more receptive service representative (and if not, I ask for the supervisor).
On other occasions, you may have to accept that what you want may not be possible. This can be a good thing – depending on your attitude! It can also be hard to accept if it is something that is very important to you. I would never have started this enterprise if I wasn’t sacked from a previous job!
Are you committed to learning transferable skills that can be used in many situations? Many of the tips and advice I share here can be utilized in other areas of your life. As you read this ebook, think of other situations where you might be able to use this information. For instance you may be able to use these skills at work or at your local sporting club.
Are you settling in Australia? I have lived in Australia for my whole life and in an urban environment. It is important for you, regardless of where you are settling, that you utilize strategies and skills that match your own personality preferences and the local environment. Techniques that you are comfortable with are more effective than those that you try and implement because someone else suggested them.
For instance, if you are moving to an isolated remote community with a small population, you will need to be much more understanding of the challenges of the local suppliers than if you are moving to a highly populated affluent suburb close to a major city. Sometimes no amount of money or selling skills will help you get a soy chai latte!
You may assume that because you are a business migrant, a student, an expatriate, a domestic mover, a trailing spouse, a refugee or some other ‘type’ of newcomer, that the information you need will be different. At the end of the day, you are someone that is moving and you will need access to information and resources just like everyone else. The way that you use the skills and strategies may be different, but the techniques are for everyone. My aim is to help YOU make the most of YOUR new life in your new location.
It takes courage to move out of your comfort zone and try new things – and you run the risk of making mistakes. This is an important part of learning. After all, as a child you learnt to crawl before you walked and you probably fell over many times before you had regular success.
By reading this ebook and learning good strategies and skills, you are reducing the risk of making common mistakes and you are more likely to have success much sooner. Unlike some countries and cultures, it is a good idea to ask questions in Australia.
In some sections, I list further resources that you may like to explore and provide you with checklists that you may like to print and complete. Throughout the ebook there are many questions that you can ask and ANSWER yourself. Don’t just read them and move on…think about how you would answer each question – you might be surprised to hear your own answer.
I don’t really remember my first move – from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woodville, a suburb in Adelaide South Australia where I was born to a home unit in Largs North in the 1960’s. I don’t remember my second move either, when my parents moved into their first home in Morphett Vale (another suburb of Adelaide). But I do remember the next move from Morphett Vale to the suburb of West Beach when I was 14, a distance of less than 30 kilometres.
Morphett Vale was a ‘new suburb’ when I moved there and I grew up with many children whose parents were recent migrants from England. In a very natural way, I believe that I learnt from these children a sense of trying to fit into a community in an alien environment – but I was fortunate to also have a deep sense of my own heritage.
I am the eldest of 23 grand children. My parents, grand parents and great grand parents have all spent most of their life in South Australia. My father grew up on Kangaroo Island (off the coast of Adelaide) and I spent many vacations there so I felt as if I ‘belonged’ in this country community as well.
When I moved to West Beach, my world changed. I had already spent two years in secondary school and had moved up the pecking order and was well established with friends and had a comfortable sporting and academic record. When I transferred to the new secondary school, with a much more academic focus, I was much closer to average marks and required a tutor to move up to the basic standard. Their sporting program was much less active and I moved into new sports.
It took an enormous effort to reach the academic standard I wanted – but I did it within two years. Unfortunately, I also burnt myself out in the process and in my final year at Secondary School, I lost a great deal of motivation and commitment to my studies. Fortunately, my academic ability meant that I still passed, but well under what I could have achieved.
Life went on, I started work 13 days after my final secondary school exam, got married three years later and pursued my career. Then in 1994, my husband was offered work in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I had always felt that Victoria was also where I was from (as my Dad’s mother grew up here). We decided to move to Melbourne and stay for at least six months. I finished the job I had started when I left school on the day we moved here. I continued studying my university degree part time by correspondence.
When I moved to Melbourne, I had a very difficult time making the transition from newcomer to local. I wasn’t yet 30 and I had never spent any significant amount of time away from my family of origin. I had a sense of who I was by what my friends and family told me. Now, when I looked in the mirror, I saw myself for the first time – and I didn’t really know how to describe that person.
I had always worked full time and completed part time study whilst I was in Adelaide and now I had to find a new job. It only took six weeks, but it felt like six months. Every time I applied for a job and missed out, I felt that I had failed. When I changed my attitude to ‘it is their loss if they don’t hire me’ – I was offered three jobs in one interview! I took the highest paying one!
So now I was in a new job in a different style of organisation – and I made the unfortunate mistake of regularly saying ‘in Adelaide I …..’. I soon realized that they were not interested in what I had done in Adelaide.
Adelaide’s population is about a third of the size of Melbourne’s so whenever I went out and about in Adelaide, I would usually see someone or something that I recognized. Now, every time I went out during my lunch break from work in Melbourne, it seemed as though everybody was wearing black and they were all looking at me. I spent weeks looking for someone that I recognized and then one day I did.
I smiled at this man and he smiled back. I was ecstatic. It took me about three days to work out who he was. To my horror, I realized that he wasn’t really someone I knew, he was an actor off television!
About a month later, I discovered that I was pregnant. Not long after that, I was told that my job was no longer required and then two weeks later the job was advertised in the newspaper. Now I was hormonal, unemployed and very angry. I couldn’t secure another job so I did some voluntary work. When I became a mother, I was offered several jobs – but I did not want to work full time so I was even more frustrated. I did not adjust well to motherhood after so many years working as a professional career woman.
I became part of a mother’s group and met with a variety of local women every week for almost a year before I realized that I had nothing in common with these women apart from the fact that we had all had our first babies within a three month time span.
In the first year after our move to Melbourne, a lot of people we knew came to stay with us so we were always busy visiting tourist attractions. I started doing some part time consulting work and I was still studying part time. In 1997 I gave birth to another child. In 1998 we moved to a nearby suburb in a property with more bedrooms. This move was very straightforward as so many networks and support systems remained exactly the same. Essentially, all that really changed was the house we were living in.
Five years after the move to Melbourne, I returned to full time work – but this was also the time when I was encouraged to take my concept of a ‘From Out of Town Club’ to something more substantial.
In the first half of 2000, I gained permission to look at the Issues, Expectations and Realities of Moving to Melbourne as part of a research project for the final subject of my degree. As a result of these findings and a range of additional research, in May 2001, I launched Newcomers Network – an online guide that publishes information from a variety of sources suitable for people who have moved.
It had to meet a number of criteria to ensure that it would best meet the needs of newcomers. Some of these included:
- independence (so I could publish information from any source and not be limited by a committee or board who would need to approve content or concepts – I wanted to respond directly to the needs of newcomers not bureaucracy)
- informative (to appeal to male movers and not just women looking for a social network. I know it sounds sexist, but as a general rule, I have found that men like facts not sympathy and women can utilize good information very quickly)
- appealing to newcomers from a variety of locations (so I chose a business model so that it would not be associated with government or charity as some international movers do not trust anything associated with government and view a not for profit organisation as charity and not ‘genuine’ or useful for people with a higher level of education)
- relevant for domestic and international movers (as I was a domestic mover and I could not find resources for these newcomers)
- accessible pre departure (as it is often ‘too late’ once people have arrived to focus on settlement issues)
- free (so that everyone could have access. Unfortunately movers will pay for a removalist but not for settlement advice which is essential for success)
With these issues in mind, it was necessary, considering the relative small size of the Australian ‘moving’ market, to view it as a long term project. Whilst the population in the United Kingdom or the United States of America could support a socially responsible business model resource, there was no precedent for this in Australia and local businesses had no record of advertising on a newcomer resource.
In 2004 I completed another research project – this time focusing on Moving in the 21st Century. After surveying 541 people worldwide, a ‘Newcomers Kit’ was produced that provides information for individuals and communities wanting to establish a local newcomer resource and it also included tips and advice for seasoned movers.
Now back to my personal story. In 2005 I moved just one street block, but I went through a major personal transition at the same time – one of separation from my husband of 19 years and then a divorce in 2006. I have been amazed at how many of the skills and strategies for moving can be applied to this life transition.
In September 2007, I moved to another new residence. This property was just a few suburbs away but I had to re-establish my networks and resources because the existing ones were too far away to commute to and many of my ‘regular’ friends found the drive to my new location too far. I moved to a much older area and a much older home, so I had a number of other challenges to manage – and I needed to be realistic about how long it would take to achieve my new goals.
In the future, I assume that I will be moving again – Australians are well known for changing locations. One of my priorities though is reducing the amount of boxes I have to pack next time. So before I move again, I will be recycling my old study records, text books, computer equipment, Christmas cards and gifts that I rarely use! With any luck, I might end up sorting my photographs, updating my personal records on a database and renovating my clothing wardrobe! I live in hope…
In the meantime, Newcomers Network has proven to be very successful at helping newcomers and we have a lot of people attending Welcome events on the second Friday of every month.
As you are reading this ebook, it may seem like a crazy idea to look at the decision to move. It may have already been made. But it is important to reflect on how that decision is either going to be made or was made.
Did your partner phone you from work and tell you that you would be leaving for Australia at the end of the month? Did you decide that after growing up and living in the same location for the last 18 years you wanted to ‘travel the world’? Did you decide that you wanted to move to a ‘better life’ in a new location (ask yourself what are you really trying to escape from and whether moving will just move the problem or provide the solution)? Did you come to Australia to study?
All of these situations can be challenging. In the first example, how would you feel as the partner answering the phone if you were in the middle of interviews for a new promotion? You may be asking yourself, why wasn’t I asked first? What about our teenage children? I don’t even know how to speak the foreign language!
In the second example, if after years of schooling you are off on your first big overseas adventure (OE), there may not be many people involved in the decision making process.
If you are looking for a better life, choosing a location, leaving everything that is familiar and putting the past behind you can be harder than you think, especially if a new job is difficult to find. If you are an international student, you may fall into the trap of only mixing with other students that speak the same language.
So let’s have a look at some of the issues associated with making the decision to move.
Have you invited all members of your current relationship (partner and/or children) to be involved in the ‘moving discussion’ and have you decided how the final decision to move or not to move will be made?
Even if children do not want to move, being included in the discussion is very important (perhaps plan how you will talk about this before you start the conversation). Mention the idea as far as possible in advance before going into specific details so that the children can start to work out in their own minds the pros and cons. You may like to have some good and bad examples ready so that they know you are also thinking of the pros and cons, particularly if the points you raise are directly relevant to them.
Employers should be encouraged to invite partners to be a part of the assessment for a potential posting, particularly when it is to a ‘hardship’ location (like remote parts of the Northern Territory). Should other significant people in your life, like co-parents and step children be included in the process? And find out if you will be able to move (can you get a visa and must you obey laws or written agreements in your current location before you move?)
Have you suffered a recent loss or a dramatic change in your life? Do you have a good relationship with your partner? Do you have elderly parents that will soon need additional health care? Do members of your family have special needs?
These issues can all be dealt with if you have enough time to make contingency plans, learn new skills, seek additional help or find suitable resources in the new location (preferably before you leave). Do not underestimate the grief that may be triggered by a move…..it can often bring other unresolved grief to the surface and make it even more difficult to settle on arrival, particularly if you have many challenges soon after arriving.
This may sound like a simple question with a simple answer. But there is often one person in a relationship that is not keen to move. Respect the other person and their feelings and make every effort to understand their point of view and work together to find appropriate solutions. For the person who did not want to move, it can take longer to find new friends or interests because the extra energy associated with the excitement of a move is just not there. Be patient….every location has some special features. Be prepared to return to a previous location but be aware that it may not solve the problem as repatriation can sometimes be harder than expatriation and sometimes people move back ‘home’ and then return to the location some time later.
Have you gone through a mental checklist of issues that could arise in the new location? If so, you could make a more informed decision about whether or not to move in the first place. Perhaps you have a medical condition that will be unbearable in the heat or cold? Will you be able to form new support networks? Do you have adequate financial resources for emergencies? Have you set a time limit? Is it a permanent move or will you just stay for 12 months and see how it goes? If you need to return, can you? By preparing your own pros and cons list you may uncover issues that you have not considered previously.
Strategies can help make the decision making process more effective. Your own values, judgments, culture and assumptions will affect how you eventually decide whether or not to move. Personally, I like to manage risk. What is an acceptable level of risk and what isn’t? What can I cope with and what can’t I cope with?
Sometimes circumstances force us into a move. Other times, we decide, well, there are a lot of variables and unknowns, but hey, let’s do it anyway. I particularly admire people who once they have made the decision, they just keep on trying to work things out. They expect it to be challenging, so when it is, they are not overwhelmed and when it isn’t they can cope well.
If you find yourself caught in the middle of all of this somewhere, find someone to talk to. Quite often when you say things verbally, they will make either more or less sense, but you also benefit from the other person’s feedback. It may be better to choose someone who does not have a particular agenda (to make you stay or leave), but someone who is either completely independent or who wants what is best for you knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
Rest assured that even the most well prepared, intelligent, financial and easy going people can find moving difficult. Moving is a common experience, but no two reactions are ever the same.
If the decision to move to your next location has already been made, don’t worry. Perhaps your next move can be made with some of these additional strategies and the wonderful tool of hindsight.
Once the decision to move has been made, the planning should begin. With so many things to organise, even after preparing a range of checklists, it can be easy to run out of time and end up extremely stressed. In fact my motto is to allocate how long each task will take and then double or triple it.
Firstly, you need to decide how much you can realistically do on your own. Consider your current work, family and social commitments and don’t forget to include some special celebration time to say good bye to work colleagues, friends, family and others.
Many of the time consuming tasks that you need to do when you leave are excellent tools for helping you to move on. For instance, it may takes hours to physically clean out your kitchen cupboards, but as you do this boring task, you may find yourself reflecting on the times you have had there and how it will be different in your new location. This is an important part of the adjustment process. Giving yourself time to remember your past and think about your future.
See how much you can delegate by setting a budget, with some surplus funds to cover little extras. Remember that professionals in the field can often do things in half the time you can….so it may be worth paying for some assistance. Why not ask people you have helped in the past to help you? They will be pleased to be involved and this will give you some extra time with them before you leave. They might also be able to help on moving day – but see if there are some tasks that can be completed well in advance so you are not rushed at the last minute. It is a good idea to do some of the spring cleaning jobs well in advance – like cleaning curtains, quilts, the oven or windows and tidying up the garden.
Many parents awaiting the birth of their first child are more anxious about the actual delivery than the future life of the child. It is a bit the same with moving. It is easy to remain focused on having everything ready for the removalist. But have you started thinking about the resources or skills you will need at the new location?
Do you need to learn another language? Do you have suitable clothing for when you arrive? Do you have a stash of supplies you can’t do without (like your favourite foods or medications that can be brought with you)? Have you received some cultural training or attended a course on how to move with children? Can you extend your stay in temporary accommodation if you cannot find permanent accommodation? And do you have some back up plans and extra cash just in case ‘worst comes to worst’ and you can’t find work, housing etc?
As well as thinking about your new location, have you thought about your old one? This may sound strange, but leaving can be a lot harder than you think. If you have not finalised all of your property, financial or other arrangements before you have left, can these matters be delegated to someone else? Have photocopies of all of your important documents and cards in your wallet/purse just in case they go missing. Keep this information in a separate location to where you are – perhaps leave a copy with a trusted friend or family member.
Have you also set some boundaries for your new location? Quite often, in the first 12 months after an interstate or overseas move, friends and family from your old location will want to come and visit you (and possibly stay for lengthy periods). This can cause problems.
Firstly, it will mean that your new home routines are disrupted whilst the guests are staying and you may end up being the local ‘tour guide’ each time people arrive. Secondly, these regular visits mean that you are not always in a position to accept invitations from people in your new location. Quite often, if you decline the first invitation, you may not get another one.
This means that after 12 months of regular visitors, you may find that your ‘first chances’ have all been used up and people will assume that you are fully settled. Now that your old location friends and family know you are safe and well, they may be less likely to visit during the second 12 months. You could be left home alone waiting for the phone to ring.
Encourage your potential guests to ‘spread out’ their visits and let them know that whilst they are in town, you may not be able to spend all of your time with them (if you have already received an invitation to go out). Alternatively, it may be appropriate to suggest that they stay in alternative accommodation either close by or in the city and then you can join them for special outings. That way they can have a holiday and you can still catch up. However, it may not be a good idea to suggest this option to close family and friends – they may be offended if you do not want them to stay.
If you have an opportunity to complete a reconnaissance trip before you move to a new location, this can help you recognise familiar sights when you arrive. This can be very comforting if the time before moving has been hectic. A good first impression on arrival day can make the world of difference. See if you can time it so that you and the people you are moving with will be at your best. And if any extra assistance is available, make sure you use it. See if you can find someone to meet you at the airport or your new home when you arrive.
And last but not least, if you haven’t already, make sure you have an email address that you can access anywhere in the world….like a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail one that will be easy to tell people and suitable for your new location (don’t keep a .co.uk one if you are moving to an area like .com.au – people will still think that you are living in the United Kingdom).
That way, even if people cannot contact you by phone, they can still get an email through to you. Create a listing of people you would like to stay in touch with so that when you are settled, you can email your new contact details directly to them.
The next section provides you with some links to some great information, resources and checklists for movers.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) (Living in Australia information)
Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) (beginning a life in Australia information for each state and territory)
ASA Consultants Pty Ltd (provide a range of information including a good moving checklist, a way to work out what to pack and what to leave and a description as to whether or not your gadgets will work in Australia)
Toll Transitions (has a variety of Welcome to Your City guides)
Smartraveller Backpacking overseas (advice for the independent traveller, this has some good information in it)
Australian Furniture Removers Association Inc (Moving Guide Kit)
Australia Post’s ‘Moving Services’ (hints and tips for moving)
Its Your Life Retirement Village (has a great Moving Home Checklist, suitable for all ages, with excellent Australian links)
You can visit the Newcomers Network website in the section ‘Locations’ to find links to local information.
If you find yourself at the last minute with too little time and too much to do, either call in some help or see which tasks you can either miss or complete later. Moving can be challenging because plans often change and delays disrupt schedules. Sometimes people just try and do too much. Trying to fit in tasks that you have put off for the last five years in the midst of moving is not a good idea.
However, if you have time to be reading this ebook, it suggests to me that you are half way there, gathering the appropriate strategies to prepare yourself for moving day and your new location. Well done – and all the best!
Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed by a potential move or settling in, I would strongly recommend that you seek some professional assistance…do not battle on until problems start occurring. There are a range of confidential free and low cost services available in local communities in Australia and you can also consult professional service providers on a fee for service basis when you arrive in your new location.
It may be a good idea to ask yourself if you have taken better care of your furniture than yourself when planning your move. Which is more valuable?
One of the tools that I created in 2000 for my research project was the ‘Simplistic Dichotomy Table’ which summarized the challenges around moving and provided scenarios that were deemed ‘more difficult’ or ‘less difficult’ for the individual that was moving.
For instance, if you were single person in your early 20’s it was more likely that your transition to a new location would be simpler than someone who has three teenage children.
Some people assume that if you are moving a long distance then that would be more difficult than someone moving a short distance. I have known people who have said that if they had known how difficult it would be to move 10 kilometres, they never would have done it and some who have moved less than 10 kilometres and have moved back because it was so disruptive to their family life.
Some people assume that if you speak the local language, you will find it less difficult than someone who cannot speak the local language. In Australia, there are many ways to learn English and quite often, people gain access to all sorts of information, resources and people through these programs. People who can speak English are often left to fend for themselves and can become very isolated.
I believe that the best way to assess your move is based on several factors:
- are you going through one or more significant transitions at the same time? (recent bereavement or illness, significant job change, new parenthood, broken relationship)
- were you prepared for the move or did it occur suddenly? Was it your choice or that of your partner/family member? Did you want to move to this new location? What were your first impressions when you arrived? Was someone there to meet you when you did arrive?
- will you have a significant reduction in personal support through social networks, friends, family, work colleagues/sports or interests?
- will finances prevent you from making an emergency return to your previous location? Will you have a significant decrease in your income and possibly greater expenses?
- will the new local culture be different and will you have some form of cultural briefing beforehand? Do you have realistic expectations on how you will adjust to the new culture?
- will you find it difficult to eat different foods? Will you become ‘foodsick’ not just ‘homesick’?
- will your health, personal safety or access to medical services be significantly affected by your move to a new location? Will you be able to adjust to the new weather, living style and transport options?
- is it a short, long or indefinite term? Will you be moving back to your previous location or don’t you know? Can you return if you decide you want to?
- do you need to find work when you arrive? Have you already started researching the local job market? Do you have sufficient funds to support yourself until you find work – particularly if it takes a long time?
- do you have unresolved issues in your previous location? Are you using the move to escape from your past? Have you finalized all of your personal affairs?
Whilst many people view a move as a fresh start, some issues do not disappear when you move. You may find that the same situations start occurring again in your new location unless you do some personal development work and change your own behaviours and attitudes.
If you have always valued certain things, changing a location will not change your values. For instance, if you think that moving will mean that you will focus on earning more money, you may find that you become side tracked by the fantastic waves at the beach if that is what you really value in life.
If you have lived a very hectic lifestyle and you are moving to a quieter lifestyle, it will take time to adjust to a new way of operating each day. I always say that it is easier for our brains to speed up than to slow down.
Are you ready for the many changes that you may have to make and are you flexible enough in your approach to avoid controlling everything that does or does not happen in your new location? Have you given yourself a reasonable amount of time to make the transition to a new location or are you too hard on yourself?
Have you set some unrealistic expectations on yourself of the people you have moved with? Have you sourced a range of support for everyone involved – including those left behind? Do you have all of your personal documents with you in case you need them?
A careful analysis of your answers to these questions may provide you with some interesting insights. I hope it encourages you to consider some of the challenges that you may not have acknowledged and empowers you to take some productive action.
It is perfectly normal to find a move difficult and it is essential that you ask for help. I often find that people who are very capable at work think that they can do everything at home to the same standard. It is unrealistic, if it is not your profession, to expect this of yourself and I usually suggest that people who try to do everything themselves save cents but waste dollars.
For example, if you earn $50 per hour at work relatively easily and ask another professional to do something for you at $50 per hour, you are in front. Why? Because the professional will take $50 per hour to do what it might take you, the non professional, three hours to do. So effectively you are wasting $100 an hour! They may also use wholesale priced supplies.
I am not suggesting that you hire someone for every job that you want completed, but sometimes it is worth doing the research, getting at least three quotes and then having a project completed by an expert. It can take time to go through all of this, but for big or complex jobs with a lot of material requirements, it is certainly worthwhile.
Another service that I encourage you to consider is professional advice. This could be for:
- fine tuning your resume/curriculum vitae for work or online networking
- learning about workplace culture in Australia
- finding out which networks to join and mentors to seek
- psychological services to help you manage your own transition or other outstanding challenges that may surface when you move
- career advice if you are considering a change of careers or if you want to learn more about the local market
- personal coaching so that when you start work, you can maximize your success
- completing additional study in Australia related to your area of expertise
- sourcing professional or personal development opportunities
- property search advice so that you can move into an area that matches your lifestyle requirements
- education advice so that you can find appropriate schooling for your children
Think of it this way. If you were the Chief Executive Officer of a major corporation, you would have a range of advisors, managers, support staff and employees to help you, as the ‘captain’ of the ship, to manage your crew – which ultimately helps you travel to where you want to go.
How important is it for you to steer the ship in your new sea? Would you like help and advice to reach your various destinations successfully or would you like to navigate wild seas, encounter storms, repair damage and face delays all on your own? Would you like to take some time out to sit on the deck and enjoy the experience? To watch the beautiful sunset whilst enjoying a refreshing drink and feeling a gentle breeze as you cruise the smooth sea? Sure, I enjoy a challenge, but I also like to make good use of my time – and I prefer to spend more of my time doing the things that I really enjoy.
It is never too early to start doing things before you move. As you read through these suggestions, I encourage you to mark each with a number priority:
2. Very helpful
3. Good if I have time
4. Not applicable
Don’t forget that Section 5.1 of this ebook links to a variety of guides that you can download and use – so this is not a comprehensive list, just a general indicative list of strategies that I believe will make your move more successful. Add in extra items in the spaces available if you think of anything else to include.
|Organise a farewell celebration with friends and family|
|Make a time to farewell sports, hobbies or interests friends|
|Make a time to farewell your neighbours, hairdresser, local retailers etc|
|Collect the contact details of people you want to keep in touch with|
|Tell people you know your new contact details (including email)|
|Start making connections with new people in your new location|
|Ask people you know for referrals to other people they might know|
|Plan what sports, hobbies or interests you will start or continue|
|Make time to discuss unresolved issues with people you know (be brave)|
|Revisit people and places that you have cherished and take photos|
|Spend quality time with the people you are moving with and discuss issues|
|Find out details of groups of people from the same culture/country/faith|
|Sort out your personal papers and documents|
|Obtain new or updated documents that you may need in your new location|
|Collect your medical and dental records|
|Complete any outstanding duties (tax returns, property settlements etc)|
|Organise a person to represent you and give them your details/authority|
|Collect all of your essential records and have them easily accessible|
|Make arrangements for any pets – their transport or relocation|
|Charge up your batteries (camera, mobile/cell phone, razor etc)|
|Finish uncompleted promises or apologise for not completing them|
|Pack emergency gear (clothing, food, torch, radio, toilet paper, first aid kit)|
|Get plenty of rest, drink water, eat regularly and take breaks, avoid stress|
|Arrange to have someone meet you when you first arrive in your new location|
|Start recycling items that you will no longer need (papers, books, clothes)|
|Sell or give away larger items (unused gifts, furniture, electrical equipment)|
|Prepare any collections you have for moving (photos, plants, antiques)|
|Pack items that you will not need immediately|
|Keep essential items in a central spot for packing last|
|Complete your spring cleaning duties (oven, garden, curtains, windows)|
|Sell or service your car/s and prepare for your new license/registration|
|Avoid putting too much in storage unless you absolutely must|
|Avoid leaving items in storage with friends and family|
|Plan for your new phone and internet connection|
|Plan for your new short term and ongoing accommodation|
|Plan for your new utility connections (water, gas, electricity)|
|Contact your new local council for local resident information (website or brochures)|
|Obtain a street directory and public transport map for your new location|
|Sort out your banking and finance details, close accounts as required|
|Obtain written references and ask people if they will be a referee|
|Update your resume/curriculum vitae|
|Research the industry in the location you are moving to|
|Ask for referrals from people you know|
|Complete some cultural briefing training if it is available (pay in need)|
|Obtain current documents for your certifications and qualifications|
|Organise a farewell celebration with your work colleagues|
|Prepare a portfolio of your achievements with details of results|
|Make appointments to meet with relevant people in your new location|
|Finalise current projects and document procedures for handover|
|Find details of new networks and professional associations to join|
|Source new mentors and advisors both paid and unpaid|
A good first impression makes a world of difference. A newcomer once told me that he had someone to meet him at the airport in Sydney and although he moved to Melbourne shortly afterwards, he still remembers Sydney most fondly because he had someone to greet him when he arrived. It is hard to believe that he had never met this person before but they found each other without so much as a sign with his name on it. Apparently this person was a friend of someone he knew.
Some state governments have volunteers that will meet new migrants at the airport. See if you can arrange to have someone meet you when you arrive in your new location. When I arrived in Melbourne, the car broke down before we arrived at our designated meeting point so the person greeting us was able to come and collect us and drive us to our new home and take us to the car mechanic the following day.
It might be pouring with rain and freezing cold when you walk out of the airport, so if you have a coat handy and an umbrella, think how grateful you will be to yourself for planning ahead. It is essential to be prepared for common challenges and if you have been working at a frantic pace up until your departure, remember to go easy on yourself for at least the first month as your new lifestyle will not become a ‘routine’ for quite some time.
Never underestimate the variety of differences that you will encounter. Here are some that you may not have considered:
- different sun rise and sun set directions and shorter or longer days
- different season times on the calendar (and names) and different hills and flat areas so you become disorientated very easily
- different weather and an increase or decrease in humidity which can significantly affect how your body functions and how you cope with everyday living
- adjusting to the new time zone and overcoming jet lag
- different road rules, signs, cars, freeways
- not recognizing anything – people, locations, voices, language, customs
- media – television, radio, newspapers and the content of these publications
- local language, slang, public announcements may be unintelligible
- different food, water, shops, local services, neigbourhoods
- establishing new routines and rituals – this can easily take six months or more
- new landscapes, plants, air quality, graffiti, general pollution and rubbish
- housing standards, styles, security, fencing, density, quality
- public transport options – may be better or worse depending on where you live
- different schooling and education styles and standards
- levels of formality at work, language used, accepted standards, meeting format and clothing styles
- different service standards in shops, by tradespeople and professionals
- different pricing structures – more or less expensive, particularly banking services
- tipping procedure (as a general rule, you do not need to tip in Australia)
- splitting of bills – when you go out, most people calculate and pay for their share
- adjusting to the local culture that may have more or less diversity than what you are accustomed to, some differences are very subtle
- seeing people with disabilities, of different faiths and personal dress styles in public places
- differing ceremonial procedures and standards
- different levels of honesty and morals (some people avoid paying public transport fares and some advertising is sexually explicit)
- highly regulated systems (for instance, you cannot rent a property before you have inspected it)
- an overactive imagination (you may think that someone is thinking something, but they may not be. One international student thought that no one would sit next to her on the tram because she was ‘black’ but in Australia, people automatically choose empty seats before sitting next to someone)
It is often the simple things that can be the most confusing. At most large stores when you make a purchase, you will be asked if you have ‘Fly Buys.’ If you are not a member of this loyalty scheme or have never heard of it, you will be wondering what the salesperson is talking about.
EFTPOS is the service you can use to take money directly out of your bank account (it is pronounced efft – poss and it stands for Electronic Funds Transfer Point of Sale). A lot of people use this rather than cash although personally, I find it easier and cheaper to carry a variety of notes and coins, particularly if I am sharing the bill with someone else.
I have mentioned your own expectations many times in this ebook. When you arrive in a new location, you may find yourself expecting things to be either better or worse than what they actually are and because it is all so new, these memories can often be very vivid. It is important to put them into context and not label everything as either perfect or bad as a result of what happens to you.
Like everything in life, there will be pros and cons. I have found that the newcomers who adjust most quickly are those that maintain a positive approach regardless of what happens. They look for the advantages in each situation and they are flexible in their approach and they do not try and control everything perfectly. You will make mistakes and that is perfectly normal. Remember that many other newcomers have probably made the same mistakes.
Celebrate your successes and recognize your achievements. Whilst one thing may have gone wrong, you may have had five things go right. That means you are four in front!
Many texts will refer to culture shock and the cycles that you will go through after arriving in your new location. If you do an internet search on this topic, you will find a lot of information.
There is a traditional ‘honeymoon’ phase where everything seems new and exciting and you may find that you really enjoy your new location and seem to achieve many of your goals and set up many new systems for your daily life.
Some newcomers fall into the trap of getting everything in order before they start looking for work and then when the money starts running low, they get very anxious and find it even more difficult to find work. For this reason, I encourage newcomers to start all of their activities as soon as possible, but in small doses.
What this means is that you do a little bit of all of your tasks over many weeks rather than focus on one activity then the next etc. So you might spend Mondays and Tuesdays looking for work, Wednesdays and Thursdays sorting out your household affairs, Fridays finding new friends and groups to join and then doing some sight seeing on the weekends.
Some tasks require you to wait. For instance, you may have to complete forms and then wait one to two weeks before something is finished. Think of all the time you would waste if you just waited around until this task was finished.
Naturally most parents are keen to have their children in a good school so you may like to speak to an educational consultant for some advice and assistance on finding and gaining entry into a suitable school.
Make every effort to connect with new people and see the same people on more than one occasion. It takes at least seven exchanges (meeting, phone call, email, text message etc) before you start to form a relationship with someone – so meeting a lot of people once will not necessarily create a new friendship network for you. Start by developing acquaintances, then friends, relationships, advocates then ambassadors. It takes time to develop your relationship from the point of acquaintance to ambassador.
If people reach out to you, even if they are of a different age, background, culture or faith, welcome the opportunity to be able to ask them questions and seek their advice. I found my first doctor through a parent at the local football club. My first friend in Melbourne was a woman old enough to be my mother. If I had assumed that the only suitable friend was another woman under 30, I would have missed the opportunity to have had such a great relationship with her – since 1994!
As I did in section 7 of this ebook, I encourage you to read through these suggestions, and mark each with a number priority:
2. Very helpful
3. Good if I have time
4. Not applicable
Don’t forget that Section 5.1 of this ebook links to a variety of guides that you can download and use – so this is not a comprehensive list, just a general indicative list of strategies that I believe will make your move more successful. Add in extra items in the spaces available if you think of anything else to include.
|Let your friends and family know that you have arrived|
|Take some photos and prepare a short newsletter for friends and family|
|Introduce yourself to your neighbours|
|Tell people you know your new contact details|
|Start making connections with new people in your new location|
|Ask people you have met for referrals to other people they might know|
|Look for sports, hobbies or interests you will start or continue|
|Take care of yourself and the family members who have moved|
|Spend time out and about in your local area so it becomes familiar|
|Spend quality time with the people you moved with and discuss issues|
|Contact groups of people from the same culture/country/faith|
|Look in local papers for local activities and community events to attend|
|Start sight seeing and travel on various public transport routes|
Have your documents converted or assessed in English if necessary Look for a new doctor and dentist and give them your records Complete any outstanding duties from your previous location Keep your essential records easily accessible Make arrangements for any pets and find a new veterinarian Ensure that you can charge up your batteries (camera, mobile/cell phone) Get plenty of rest, drink water, eat regularly and take breaks, avoid stress List essential tasks that you would like to complete and focus on these Request help if you need it and take care of your psychological health and wellbeing Organise your health insurance cover Update your electoral role information (if you are an Australian Citizen) PriorityTask
Recycle any items that you will no longer need (papers, books, clothes) Sell or give away larger items (unused gifts, furniture, electrical equipment) Unpack essential items Keep like items together – this will make it easier to find things Complete any spring cleaning duties (oven, garden, curtains, windows) Obtain your new car/s and gain your new license/registration Obtain your new public transport tickets and timetables Contact your local council and request a new residents information pack Obtain for your new phone and internet connection Obtain your new short term and ongoing accommodation Organise your new utility connections (water, gas, electricity) Obtain a street directory and public transport map for your new location Find out when you need to put your rubbish/trash out for collection Sort out your banking and finance details, open accounts as required
Find out where jobs matching your skills can be found Update your resume/curriculum vitae Research the industry in your new location and meet people for coffee Ask for referrals from people you know Complete some cultural training if it is available (pay in need) Have your certifications and qualifications assessed for Australia Utilise a variety of strategies to find work, not just advertised jobs Complete some local training if it is available, attend industry events Make appointments to meet with relevant people in your new location Finalise any previous projects from your past location Visit twice and then join new networks and professional associations Source new mentors and advisors both paid and unpaid
This can be a critical time in your transition. The honeymoon is technically over and you may be wondering what you have done. You may have had a variety of challenges that have overwhelmed you and although you have had many successes, you may be focused on what is not working. Alternatively, someone who has moved with you may be in this position.
Take some time out to reflect on your collective achievements. Remember that returning to the previous location will not necessarily solve the problems that you are facing. As I have mentioned before, there are many support systems available in Australia, so be willing to ask for some help.
Now is the time that you can start to capitalize on the basics that you have set up. You may have more time available because you are not visiting people regularly so you can use this opportunity to start or continue new hobbies and interests. Has there been a course or an activity that you have always wanted to start? There are many low cost programs available in Australia.
How is your search for new friends going? Some newcomers find it hard to break into groups of people that have always lived in Australia. This is not because there is something wrong with the newcomer. Quite often people lead very busy lives and do not have any more time for ‘new’ friends.
All of my friends in Melbourne have moved here from countries all over the world and other states and suburbs of Australia. Other newcomers know what it is like to start afresh and may be more willing to make time for you in their life. Just because I have moved from Adelaide does not mean that I will relate only to other people from Adelaide – I have connected with various people because of shared passions, values or interests.
Some newcomers believe that the only way to feel comfortable is to connect with people from the same country of origin, particularly if they do not speak English very well. This can be a trap because to make the most of your new life in Australia, you will be far better off if you have a mix of friends, of different ages and backgrounds – as these people can help you create another extended family (so seek people from the same background and from a different background).
Other newcomers decide that they do not want to mix with anyone from their previous location. This is also a trap. Whilst you are new to your new location, you are always going to be from your previous location. This will always be a part of who you are. I describe myself as a Victorian Australian, from South Australia and thanks to my education and technology, a Citizen of the World.
I met a newcomer from South Africa who resisted attending a South African event for at least two years until she realized how lonely she was. She went to one event and found a friend instantly. She didn’t need to go to any more, but this forum was the key to her success. For most newcomers, once they find their first friend, many others soon follow. I encourage all newcomers to have a mix of friends – both from a similar background and from a different background, male and female, old and young.
If your friends have a similar background or country of origin, you will be able to share stories and not have to explain every detail. The words you use and the locations you mention will be familiar to the other person. You can talk in your native language and share familiar food. You can make jokes or talk about politics and you will have a sense of history. It is nice to enjoy this easy conversation.
New friends from your new location will bring different things to your life. You will be able to ask questions, learn more about local customs and find out interesting things to see and do. If English is your second language, you will have more opportunities to practice (hopefully). They will be able to recommend local shops, service providers, cultural events and activities to add to your diary. Perhaps they will invite you to join them at a sporting event or a local restaurant. Remember that you can also ask them to join you when you go somewhere.
I have focused a lot of the discussion in this section on friends. Some people are more introverted and enjoy their own company, so I encourage these people to seek out other introverted people. This way you can be a part of smaller groups and still enjoy the benefits of friends. It is often said that friends are the gift you give yourself. They will help you make sense of your new environment and make the transition to your new location much easier.
It is a good idea to mix with people who have lived in your new location a short time and also a long time. Some people will be able to relate to your experience directly from their own perspective and others will be able to put it into context for your whole life. My sister uses the phrase ‘will it matter in 50 years’ a great deal. It is a useful reminder that a short term problem will often not matter the following day, week, month or year. But I think everyone enjoys a good whinge sometimes!
This phase of your move can also be used to try new things. To move outside of your comfort zone and challenge your own limitations. Have you always held back for fear of what a friend or family member would say if you took steps towards achieving your dream? Can you do this on a part time basis – experiment a little without watchful eyes? Can you let yourself make some mistakes and feel proud when you conquer your fears?
At the beginning of 2007, I attended the Scouts Jamboree as an Adult Helper. I slept in a tent for 12 nights, worked 10 hour days in the Adult Leader Catering Tent in heat sometimes over 40 degrees centigrade. It was dusty and there were flies everywhere. I was determined to make it through the 13 days and go dancing on the night after I came back. I did.
I survived without a blister, any illness or injury and I felt like superwoman. Although I was busy working, I did not have responsibility for any children so in some respects, it was like two weeks to myself and I had a lot of adult company. If it wasn’t for my new friend in Melbourne who had encouraged me to go to the Jamboree, I would never have gained so much from the experience. A new location can be the catalyst for new friends and new adventures.
You are still a newcomer for up to three years, so do not be too anxious if everything does not fall into place in the first 12 months. If it is your first significant move, it can take much longer than if you have moved three times in the last five years. A variety of research suggests that it can take around two years to be back in a similar work role to your previous location if you do not have any local knowledge or a new job to walk into when you arrive. However, I would also add that it is best for you to remain in the same industry or type of organization even if in a different type of role rather than become a cleaner/taxi driver etc.
If you are only staying in your new location for a short time, do not mention this to people that you meet. They may not be prepared to invest time in you if they think that you are going to leave. Tell them that you are not sure how long you will be staying – and make the most of every moment that you do spend together.
In my view it takes up to 10 years to feel like a local. Some people say that unless you are born in the location, you will never be a local! I have found that the most successful newcomers are those that understand the local culture and customs and respect the way that things are currently done. You can always make suggestions on new ways to do things, but in an Australian context, if you come along and try and convert everyone to a new way of doing things overnight, you will meet a lot of resistance!
It has often been said that to excel in sport, business or a specific endeavour, you will need to focus your efforts. This may mean that some aspects of your life will receive less time and attention and this may have consequences.
As a general rule, Australians work very long hours and do not always have time to participate in regular activities. However, there are many Australians who volunteer their time for a variety of causes and this is an excellent way to make new connections for either your work or your social life.
I would suggest that a majority of Australians seek some form of balance in their life, between work and family. As a newcomer, you have the opportunity to make some choices as to how you would like to spend your time in your new location. You are not limited by the habits of your past because you can now choose what you would like to do.
So it is a good idea to take some time out and think about what it is you would really like to do. Over the years, I have participated in an amazing variety of events and training programs on all sorts of topics and interests. I never considered doing this in my previous location as I was always busy with friends and family. I am also involved in a faith community.
You may be surprised to find yourself re-starting things you have done in the past or starting new activities. Why not say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’ when these opportunities arise and people invite you to try new things?
You may be reading this ebook and want to share some of the tips and advice with your life partner. Please do! If you both enjoy a better settlement, you can both enjoy the new opportunities in your new life in your new location.
The initial research project for Newcomers Network was used to create the best settlement strategies that would apply for every newcomer from every location. These are also published on the Newcomers Network website https://newcomersnetwork.com.
It may seem overly simplistic to break down your settlement into six best strategies. However, you will find that as you face most relocation challenges, if you utilize these principles, you are most likely to find a solution that will fit your needs.
They are tried and tested and I personally encourage you to use them! Please remember to apply these strategies in way that suits your own personal style.
People of any age and background can make great 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 our well-being. 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. I cannot understate how important it is to find 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 of all ages and backgrounds).
Newcomers Network hosts monthly Welcome Events in major capital cities across Australia and we encourage you to join us at these free events. See our website for details https://newcomersnetwork.com
The best source of information about the community you have just become a part of (if you have moved to Australia) is your local council. To find a council, type in the following words into an internet search query
Your suburb, your state, your country, council (or municipal association), local government
In Australia, councils are also listed in the White Pages Business and Government telephone book.
Contact or visit the council and ask for a ‘New Resident’s Kit’ or ‘Community Information Booklet.’ These resources provide information on local activity groups and details of council services (like garbage collection days). This information is also found on their website.
You can also visit your nearest public library – many of which have computers with internet access available to the public and a lot of local information brochures. The State and National Government websites are usually useful portals to further information and the information is usually very reliable.
Familiarise yourself with local public transport options and ticketing procedures. Make sure you have a printed copy of the free local telephone directories (available from your local post office).
If you have moved within Australia, update your details on the electoral role.
Let everyone know 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 – they usually need to be arranged within three months of arrival.
If you are moving to a country other than Australia, 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).
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! Listen to the local radio, read a free home-delivered local newspaper and some of the major daily newspapers. Consider attending various events, exhibitions and a major sporting event.
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 in the new location takes longer than anticipated – even if you have only moved one suburb! New friends can share your joys and challenges and provide friendly advice and support. Your move has affected you, any family members that have moved with you and people from your previous location. Nurture distant relationships by using technology (email, sms, phone, Skype, Facebook, Twitter) and send photos so that they can ‘see’ you in your new location. It usually takes between three and ten years to feel like a ‘local.’ For more information, do some research on the topic of ‘Culture Shock.’
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 having a regular restaurant dinner, a weekend trip to the beach, short vacations, group outings etc. Act like a ‘tourist’ and discover the local attractions. Invite new friends to join you and you will soon create another extended family. Be careful how much information you share with new work colleagues – it may be best to keep some information private.
Most people are happy to answer questions and provide advice. No one expects you to know everything and it is a good way to start conversations with new people, particularly in Australia. It is better to ask a question and get some good advice rather than guess and make a mistake.
Over the years, Australian expatriates have inspired me with tales of their international experience – but they have often found it very difficult to re-settle in Australia. Some repatriates find it harder to return to Australia than they did to leave in the first place. Believe it or not, up to 40% of repatriates return to a previous destination or move to a new one within two years. The following strategies can help you overcome the common challenges.
This section is also helpful for you if you are planning to repatriate in the future. Some experts believe that the best time to start preparing for your repatriation is when you leave in the first place!
Some newcomers vow to themselves that they will never return to their previous location. Whilst that may not be your intention at this point in time, it could happen in the future. I find that a lot of people over the age of 50 start becoming nostalgic about aspects of their childhood and often consider a move back to their home town. All I can say is, never say never. I often find that the people who resist it the most are the ones most likely to go back!
If you have been out of Australia or your home country for less than three years, your readjustment should be relatively straightforward. However, if you have been away for more than five years, please expect it to be a little more challenging to reintegrate into the local way of life.
Some repatriates have become accustomed to living a life beyond their comparative country wage. For instance, in Asia, a US dollar salary can go a long way. Also, the wage may have included a ‘hardship’ loading, so when you return to your home location, your wage may be lower and the cost of living may appear to be higher. It is important to remember that the relatively high tax rates in Australia help provide a range of services to all members of the community.
Some Australian repatriates find it challenging when they are returning to a more egalitarian lifestyle. Their ‘status’ in Australia is different. If you have returned without a job to go to, your cash reserve can disappear quickly. The time spent waiting for employment decisions can be excruciating.
An expatriate life is typically fast paced and single expatriates can end up with too much ‘think time’ and without someone to ‘debrief’ with, can quickly turn small problems into a life crisis.
You will probably find that you no longer fit into the stereotypical ‘box’ that you had when you left your home country. Repatriates often find that they do not mix well with their ‘old’ friends and at the same time, find it hard to locate other repatriates who may wish to become friends. Repatriates can quickly become pre-occupied with criticisms of the status quo….why isn’t anyone interested in my photos, why didn’t anyone say ‘welcome back’ and don’t they know that football is NOT the most important topic in the world?
These are all valid concerns and because there is so little community awareness of the challenges of moving back to a location, many locals assume that because repatriates already ‘know where things are’ that there is no need to provide support.
But things have changed. And not just in appearance. Repatriates have gathered new experiences, new values and a willingness to take risks. Repatriates also have expectations and these are rarely fulfilled. Lifestyle is important, safety, housing, clean air, stable government etc. But so is being accepted for who you are and what you can offer….and very often, recognition for your abilities may be lacking.
If you are in the midst of some of these issues, I encourage you to stop, reflect, and redefine success. It is possible to ‘re-package’ yourself in terms of the local job market and with your friends – and source new connections more closely aligned with your new priorities. After all, even if you had remained in Australia, you would have had a variety of friends and career moves over the years.
Many people feel threatened by someone they perceive to be more capable than they are. So it is easy to understand that when an employment decision maker is seated across the table from someone with a broad diversity of experience in an overseas location, and they hear information about results achieved in a company they have never heard of in a country they may never have visited, they are likely to feel uncomfortable.
Rather than admit that they don’t understand, it is easier to say ‘but you don’t have any recent local experience.’ Faced with a person who may be conversant in more than one language, has worked on three continents, in nine organisations over 20 years on several different projects across a broad range of industries and it is easy to understand that the person who has been with the same organisation for 10 years and been to Bali twice is unlikely to be able to ‘compute’ the information they are receiving.
In my opinion, finding like minded individuals is the first step. Once you realise that you are not alone, that you can enjoy an ‘expatriate’ style conversation with another person with international experience, then you can start to re-validate your own interpretation of your experience and put it into perspective. You may also be able to make plans for a variety of other options. Many repatriates become frustrated looking for a relevant position so they start their own consulting service business.
After extensive research, you may find that there is no equivalent position anywhere in your home country that matches the salary, complexity and lifestyle that you had whilst working on Wall Street, New York.
You may have decided to return to Australia to settle down and raise a family – so perhaps you can define success in terms of your family receiving a good education, enjoying regular holidays and exploring a career you ‘always wanted to try.’ You could re-train in a new field and transfer some of your skills into an entirely different direction. See the challenges as a reason to explore new options.
Some repatriates resort to a previous job they had earlier on in their career so that life can be simpler but funds still keep coming in (this is a great idea for skills that are in demand). You can work to live rather than live to work for a while. Whatever you do, make sure you find friends that you can relate to or even just whinge to occasionally.
Make sure you find out ‘what has been happening.’ Who have the political leaders been whilst you were away and what major issues are regular topics of conversation? Tune in to some talk back radio, read the local paper. Watch the television news and current affairs programs. Watch one edition of some of the regular television programs.
And find out how the local football teams have been going whilst you were away. Send all of your friends a brief ‘summary’ of what you have been up to, what you have missed most and what you are looking forward to in the future. They may be surprised to learn more about the ‘real you.’ You could also include a small sample of photos.
The Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 rule) where 20% of your time is spent achieving 80% of your success is important. Capable repatriates accustomed to finding out information in hardship locations are able to source all kinds of information – so you need to treat a return to your home country like a new location. Do some general research first and then prepare some specific questions that you can ask directly. Complete what you can over the phone and via email rather than via personal visits as these take up far more time and money (but can be really useful in certain circumstances for getting quality information).
Telling people that you often spent the weekend in Paris sounds like grandstanding to an Australian who has never lived in Europe. Before you start mentioning, well in London I used to…..it is better to say ‘in the past, I have…..’ This does not mean you need to ‘dumb down’ – it just means that you need to explain concepts in terms that others understand and do not feel threatened by.
It is not a good idea to complain about how ‘old fashioned’ you find your home town or to share details of international experiences to someone you have just met unless they have asked for details. Make sure you still have an opportunity to ‘vent’ these concerns…just be selective about who you do it with.
The best way to keep the brain active and to meet new people is to get out and do something new. A night course, a sport or recreation interest could help your mind stay off the constant comparisons you find yourself making with your previous location/s. Create new rituals, celebrations and regular activities to make sure that you re-connect with your location outside of your work identity. Utilise the same six best settlement strategies that are included in Section 12 of this ebook.
Your friends and family have been living their own life and moved in a particular direction and they may or may not be aligned with your direction any more. It is important to accept that there have been changes and that the dynamics of these relationships may now be different. When you meet them for the first time after you return, it may be best to make a time to visit them for a drink rather than a meal – because if you run out of conversation, more than an hour can seem like a very long time!
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending less time with these people than you expected or worse still, you find their conversation uninspiring. Many repatriates find that they need to make new friends…but remember, even if you had stayed and not lived away, you may not have kept in constant contact with these people in any case – friendships do seem to go through a natural attrition process over time. How many of your school friends do you still keep in touch with?
If your standard approaches don’t work, try something a little different. How can you meet the people you need to meet?
How can you showcase your abilities with decision makers if you are looking for a new career position? Voluntary work for an association that is related to your industry or previous location country could provide you with a title ‘Jo from the Special Interest Group of the XYZ Association’ is a lot less threatening than Jo from Hong Kong looking for an International Trade Marketing Position. This connection can remain after you have accepted a position.
If you choose to set up your own business, try working for someone else in that field first…perhaps you can become a partner in a business rather than start everything from scratch. I have heard of people who want to start a coffee shop and cook for a few people each day – and they have never even worked in one.
Before buying a business or making a big financial commitment, see if there are ways to try it out first – reduce your risk.
If you didn’t have some work lined up before you left your previous location, or the new option is uninspiring or these strategies don’t provide the support you need, do not be embarrassed to seek professional help. There are many free and low cost resources available and of course you can pay for personalised assistance too.
As mentioned previously in this ebook, there are many people involved in your move to a new location. You may be moving with family members or a partner. You may be liaising regularly with work colleagues from your previous location. You need to be proactive in sourcing new friendships and relationships. You also need to keep in touch with the people you have left behind.
In Australia, although we have a very transient population, there is still a significant lack of services related directly to newcomers. My personal view is that to make the most of your new life here, you need to live like a local and not isolate yourself within an expatriate group or an ethnic community.
Through my involvement with various professional associations and organisations, I have found that recruiters, human resources staff and line managers do not always know the best ways to help you as a newcomer make the most of your new life in your new location.
So for these reasons, you really need to be proactive and utilize the strategies outlined in this ebook.
If you decide that you would like to help other newcomers, I would like to hear from you! I have found that some people set up their own groups to help not only themselves but also others and then once they have had their own needs met, the group slowly dissolves. This is not a sustainable model for a newcomer group.
As I mentioned in the report I wrote after the Moving in the 21st Century Survey in 2004, Newcomer Groups need to be coordinated by at least two people who are over the moving transition experience but still remember what it was like. Their knowledge and skills can be passed on to other newcomers and they can focus on making sure that the group meets regularly and maintains its relevance for newcomers. They can also promote the group to the wider community so that more newcomers can have access to the group.
The best part of being involved in a newcomer group, particularly if it is for people of various backgrounds, ages, cultures and faiths, is the number of interesting and inspiring people that you will meet. Newcomers, in my view, are people willing to take risks, explore new environments, conquer challenges and seek out opportunities so I have heard an amazing variety of wonderful stories over the years. The best groups make you feel welcome if you come on your own or with someone else. Be brave and go at least twice because different people go to each event.
Newcomer Groups work well with a mix of people who have been in the new location for either less than 12 months or less than 10 years. If some people come on a semi regular basis, it can be an informal support network. As most people lead very busy lives and may not need to be a part of a newcomer group for more than six months, it is important that any fees or charges give people a variety of suitable options.
I have been involved with the International Human Resources Management Specialist Area of the Australian Human Resources Institute for some time now and I have found that many Human Resources Managers in Australia still do not realize how important it is for international arrivals to have a successful settlement.
It seems that a great deal of time is spent on ensuring that the right house, school, car and computer are organised – but with most relocations failing as a result of family issues, it seems foolish to me not to focus on issues related to settlement. Once again, I encourage you to pass on this ebook to fellow newcomers and the people supervising their transition so that more newcomers can have access to this tried and tested advice.
In the Newcomer Information Kit, I talk about moving from Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence. I explain it this way.
When you are washing the dishes in your kitchen, after several months or years, you go onto automatic pilot and don’t even think about where things go as you dry them and put them away. But before you move to a new kitchen, you don’t know what it will be like or how you will put things away – unconscious incompetence.
You then move to conscious incompetence where you have to think about which cupboard it might be put in before you open one or more doors and put the item away. You then move to conscious competence when you know where everything goes but it still takes some thinking time to make it happen. At some magical time later on, you return to automatic pilot – unconscious competence.
It may not seem like a major issue, but if you multiply this example by all of the things that change when you move, you will quickly realize why you might feel more tired even if you have less to physically do. This is why it takes longer to cook the same meal, organise a tradesperson, find a specialty item from a shop or feel comfortable with your new hairdresser, doctor or dentist.
The ultimate responsibility for a savvy settlement is YOU. This ebook has given you the tools, strategies and skills – but you still ultimately have the choice to either utilize them or not. In my view, if you use these skills effectively, you can reduce the amount of time you are a ‘newcomer’ from three years to as little as 12 months. Think how much more value you will have by making the transition sooner.
Even with the best advice, support and planning, you will still have challenges, make mistakes and be frustrated when communicating your needs. Remember though, that you have also completed many tasks, conquered fears and hopefully, have started many new and exciting activities and adventures. Like other life transitions, there are always pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages.
The most successful newcomers maintain a positive outlook and look for the benefits in each situation and are grateful for the insights, awareness and new experiences they collect in a new location. I wish you many special moments, new friends, wonderful relationships and delicious food wherever you move to.
I sincerely hope that you have gained several ideas and strategies from this publication and have allayed any fears you may have about whether or not your feelings are ‘normal.’
Feedback, suggestions, opinions and questions are always welcomed…I look forward to hearing from you!
Sue Ellson BBus AIMM MAHRI, Founder and Director, Newcomers Network https://newcomersnetwork.com
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