The first couple of months in a new country is a thrilling yet uncertain time. You’re excited about the adventure but you also have to adapt to life in an unfamiliar environment.
That’s why we wanted to share our favourite tips for settling into a new country. Of course we’ve added some truly South African tips into the mix.
1. Expect the unexpected
The biggest mistake you can make is assuming that things are going to work the same as back home. For instance, the speed – or lack thereof – at which some services happen in South Africa, is a running joke among locals. Also, while public transport is readily available, don’t expect it to always be on time!
The one thing you can count on though in South Africa, is the friendliness of our people. There will always be someone to help you along the way.
2. Get to know your neighbourhood
These days you can easily connect with your neighbours on Facebook neighbourhood groups. These groups are common in South Africa. You’ll get the opportunity to ask questions about things such as shops, hairdressers and doctors, and get advice from people living in the area.
However, if you’re a little more old-fashioned, get in your car or talk a walk to explore your surroundings. Spend a few mornings a week exploring the local cafes and breakfasts and connect with locals. Friendly waiters will be more than happy to dispense advice about the neighbourhood.
3. Make real-life connections
Sitting at home on your own is not going to help you feel less homesick. Instead, get out and forge new friendships. You can join a club or group, take a class, or connect with other expats.
If you want to join a club or group, have a look at Meetup. If you’re into running or walking, your local Run/Walk for Life could be perfect. Or head on over to Internations to find an expat group in your city.
4. Be a tourist in your city
Touring your city is a great way to get yourself excited about the great things South Africa has to offer. These are the sights not to miss in our four main cities:
- Cape Town: Table Mountain; Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens; Cape Point; Constantia Wine Route; any of our postcard-perfect beaches.
- Johannesburg: Maboneng Precinct; Constitution Hill; Market Theatre; Walter Sisisulu National Botanical Gardens; Neighbourgoods Market.
- Pretoria: Union Buildings; Freedom Park; Pretoria National Botanical Gardens; Hazel Food Market; Hennops Hiking trail.
- Durban: uShaka Marine World; Golden Mile; Indian Quarter; Durban Botanic Gardens; Moses Mabhida Stadium.
5. Make your new place feel like home
While your outside world is familiar, your immediate surroundings can feel like home. It’s easier than you think. You can, for example, simply put up some of your favourite photos around the house. Or, recreate your old bedroom or unpack your creature comforts first.
6. Talk to your colleagues
If you’re in South Africa to work, strike up conversations with your colleagues. This is the best place to make a first friendship or two, to get information on South Africa and how it works, and to get introductions to other people and places.
7. Establish a routine
Routines are great to add reduce stress during the first frantic weeks of settling into your new life. Here’s how it works, according to Piedmont Healthcare:
“Not only can certain repetitive actions benefit your physical health (e.g. regular exercise, nightly flossing), they can also improve your mental health by reducing your stress levels. Every time you make a decision, you are adding stress to your life and the more decisions you have to make, the less self-control you’ll have…While you can’t do away with decision-making completely, creating regular routines can take much of the guesswork out of the your day.”
Doctor Indumathi Bendi, also from Piedmont, adds that “carrying out routine activities reduces stress by making the situation appear more controllable and predictable. Preparedness is a key way to prevent stress.”
So – schedule that exercise and put ‘flossing’ into your diary!