It’s not easy moving to a new city, a new country or even a new continent. Three years ago, after only ever living in Scotland, I gave up my career, my home, my friends and family and followed love to Munich. Not only did I have to adjust to living with someone I had only ever spent a maximum of 2 weeks with, I also had to deal with a whole new culture.
At first it was fun, an adventure, an exciting new start. I wasn’t working, I was a student again going to German classes and attending lots of expat events. But after a few months reality kicked in and life in a new country became harder – the language barrier, driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, shopping, phone calls, appointments. Everyday things were so much more difficult and a simple run to the supermarket would leave me exhausted. I had expected culture shock but this harder than I had imagined.
I had made friends; I had places to go; I was learning German; but there was a point where everything felt difficult, unfamiliar and at times lonely. Three years on and I still have my moments (and my German is still basic) but overall I am happy to live here. I have worked hard to build my life here and I’d like to share my top tips for all you international women on dealing with culture shock.
1. Find your tribe – join groups, go on mom/women dates and connect with people in the same situation as you.
2. Make time for ‘me time’ – Most of us don’t have close family and friends here to help us out so its extra important to negotiate and prioritise some time for you. It might be a cup of tea and a book, your favourite show on Netflix, pursuing a hobby or having a night out. At the very least find a few minutes every day just for you.
3. Learn a little Deutsch – Just about everybody speaks English in Munich but we can feel more comfortable if we can speak and understand a few phrases.
4.Go out – Particularly if you are shy, this is a hard one to do. But push yourself out of your comfort zone and meet people. Join a Mommtisch, an LMBB event or just strike up a conversation in the Spielplatz.
5. Volunteer – There are plenty of opportunities to do something that gives you a purpose and a sense of worth.
6. Focus on the positives – It is easy to get sucked in to focusing on the things that are different, annoying or strange in a new place. But make an effort to look for and acknowledge the good and great things that are around you each day.
7. Don’t live in limbo – Sometimes we know that we will only be in this city for 1 or 2 years and for some the main thought may be counting down the days until you return home. Living in limbo only decreases our happiness and means we miss out on lots of good stuff. Make the most of your German experience however long you stay.
8. Do things you enjoy– Pursue the hobbies and interests you enjoyed back home. Go to our Facebook page and post about your interests or browse around to find out if there is something new you might want to try out.
9. If you can’t find it, create it – Can’t find a local stitch ‘n’ bitch, an Outlander appreciation society or a cool book group? Set up your own. I can guarantee if you are looking for it, others are too. Set up and connect with other like-minded women.
10. Ask for help – And if you are really struggling, find some professional help for support and motivation. There are life coaches (like me!) who understand the challenges of expat life and can support you to identify the changes you desire in your life and help you make those goals a reality.
Julie Leonard is a life coach and aromatherapist with over 25 years of psychology, health and coaching experience. Her passion is happiness and supporting women to live to their potential. LMBB members receive a 10% discount on all life coaching sessions. More info at http://www.potentiacentre.com/