Cultures shock is one of those things to expect if you decide to relocate. It happens if you move to a cultural environment which is different from your own.
It can also be the disorientation you feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply transition to another type of life. Wikipedia
People relocate for different reasons. School, work, better opportunities – the reasons are many.
Even so, the decision to move can be a daunting one, because it is tough to know what to expect, and it’s just one of those things you know how you react to once you’ve gone through it.
Some people leave their countries of origin, live overseas and never really feel like they fit in.
And some flourish once they make the move.
So you never really know.
Will I like the new place you are moving to?
Will the place will like me?
Will I fit in?
How much homesickness can I expect?
These are just some of the questions that could be swirling around in your mind.
I’d been overseas a couple of times before our big move this year, but the visits were at the most 8weeks.
So now that we are here, I’m realizing that the biggest adjustments lie in the stuff you do daily, which are easy to take for granted when you are used to a place.
The short version of our Story
We recently relocated from Botswana, Africa to British Columbia, Canada.
My husband who is Canadian had lived in Botswana for 12.5 years.
And I was born and raised in Botswana. Before this ‘big move’ I’d never moved houses, except moving from my Mom’s house to our marriage home, so I had little experience with geographical transitions 🙂
We literally sold everything we owned and moved in 6 weeks with 8 bags containing all our possessions.
Even though it was a quick decision, we did not make it lightly.
And now that we are here, I want to share some insights into some daily living aspects that though seemingly small, they play a role in us adjusting to our new home.
The nature of transitioning into a new environment means that everything is going to be new, especially if you move from one continent to another, which was our experience.
I do have to mention here that this post is not to pit the countries we view as home against one another, which is a common sign of the honeymoon phase of culture shock.
These are just my observations.
I hope they help ease your anxiety you if are considering moving, and help you ask the right questions in order to make your own transition easier.
Driving in Botswana is on the left side of the road, and Canada is on the right.
So even though I’ve had my driving license close to 10years, I was initially terrified by the thought of driving by myself, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
Except for a short stint driving in South Africa, I had never driven in a different country before this, let alone one where you drive on the ‘wrong’ side.
I’m happy to report that I’ve driven onto on-coming traffic just once 🙂
And it took me about a week to get comfortable with making turns and driving on a different side of the road.
So driving is a big one to expect to get used to when you are in a different country.
In addition to the side of the road, drivers in Abbotsford generally observe road rules and are courteous.
I’ve observed that people don’t run lights, kids are buckled in, they don’t cut you off as much and cellphone use while driving is not as obvious.
Please note that I’m not saying that people don’t do these, it’s just my observation that they are not as in your face.
This is another factor that will come into play when you do decide to move countries, especially if you do the majority of your work online like I do. Back in Botswana, and generally most of Africa, internet speeds are low (below 10mbps) and the service is unreliable [see this article for stats].
This was my reaction when I saw the bar zoom across the screen on Youtube after internet was installed in our new place in.
I’d just seen the power of 175mbps as opposed to 2mbps 🙂
Yea, my husband wished he had recorded the reaction.
But yes, depending on where in the world you move to, your speed will be upgraded or downgraded.
Different countries handle their garbage differently, so you will have to adjust your mindset around this aspect too. This is what I mean.
We came from having one trash can where we threw everything, to having to sort out our garbage into 4 different piles:
And they all have different bags and containers.
Adjusting to this aspect took a bit of time, and I still refer to my guide occasionally to figure out the type of garbage I’m holding.
We found a great app though that reminds us what garbage needs to be collected, and when collection is.
I have to mention here that collection is more reliable, you can count on not having trash piling up.
Download it here
So, again, depending on where you move to, find out about the garbage system so you don’t go too crazy if it’s not what you are used to.
Where do I begin with this one?
The biggest adjustment with groceries, or shopping in general, is just the amount of choice, and the reward programmes.
Almost every store has some sort of card you apply for. I need a separate purse just to keep the ungodly amount of cards 🙂
Most people moving to the west will tell you about how overwhelming the choices in the grocery stores can be if you are new.
You may find that you are not familiar with the food labels too, which means more time trying to figure out what exactly it is that you are buying.
From experience, our grocery bill can be high if we don’t pay attention to our spending in this area. And this year we had done a great job at implementing simple tips that brought it down considerably.
So with the relocation, we’ve had to re-figure everything out, and we still are.
Service at petrol/gas stations
In Botswana, every petrol station has service attendants who fill up your car and check your tires and oil if needed.
Over here you do it yourself 🙂
So my husband took me a petrol station to do a trial run just to make sure I could do it by myself.
Still nervewracking though.
P.S – You call it gas this side, not petrol.
P.S.S – and braai is barbeque 🙂
P.S.S.S – fries, not chips.
Most of the daily banking stuff here can be done online, and if you need to go into a bank you make an appointment. At least that’s been my experience with our bank.
You also hardly see ATMs around, I think I’ve seen one tiny one in a mall since I’ve been here. You do drive-through deposits and withdrawals.
In Botswana, you can find ATM machines in most malls, and crazy long queues in the bank especially if it’s month-end.
This one is self-explanatory. In the southern hemisphere, weather changes are pretty simple, and there are 2 main seasons – summer and winter, with summer almost all year round.
We are now getting to experience ‘fall’, which comes right before winter and it’s glorious. My favourite thing is watching the trees change colour, from green to red and yellow. Or whatever colour the tree chooses to adorn.
And of course having more seasons to work with will mean more ‘weather-appropriate’ clothing needed.
I’ll update this post once I’ve gotten all my winter supplies.
This point is related to the one above.
When you’ve lived in a place for some time you have a good idea of the sizing, and how clothes from different stores look like on you.
Now, when you move to a new country, you’ll have a learning curve figuring out what works for you, and what doesn’t.
I’ve found shoes to be the most challenging aspect, though I love that this side they actually have 1/2 sizes, which is awesome for me!
If kids are involved in your move then school is going to in your adjustment period.
You may find that going the private system route is better than the public system, and vice-versa.
On this one, I would say it’s best to consult with people you trust, family and friends. And then go with your gut when it comes to what’s best for your children.
Maids or helpers are common in most households in Botswana as most parents work full time.
They are also affordable, so most parents choose to have someone helping in the house.
For about $200 CAN a month, you can get someone cleaning your house daily and helping look after your kids.
But to get that kind of help this side would be expensive, so again, factor this into your plan if you are moving with small children especially.
What this means for me is that I used to be able to rush to the shops by myself, the gym, and have more hours to do some work if needed. But now I do none of those things alone (which I don’t mind too much), and I’m down to working 2-3 hours a day in the evenings.
With this particular aspect, the point I want to make is one regarding the different decorations you can have around your home to celebrate different holidays.
Thanksgiving, Fall, Christmas (my fave this side).
We are currently riding Halloween, and this is the sign I will likely put up on our porch.
Okay not really, but it cracked me up big time when I saw it.
I hope this post gives you an idea of some of the stuff to consider and prepare for in order for your transition overseas to be smoother. And that it takes away some of the anxiety that may come with the thought of living in a foreign place, no matter the period.
Have you ever lived away from your country or state of origin?
What were your culture-shock experiences like?
Leave a comment below and let me know!