Many entrepreneurs and their families may end up of moving or temporarily relocating abroad. With an increasingly connected global economy, there are many reasons to move your business to another country. However, moving your business and your family abroad comes with a unique set of opportunities and challenges.
Here are five ways to make moving and getting settled abroad easier:
1. Research as much as you can beforehand.
The Internet makes this easier than ever before. You can find helpful info from sites like Families in Global Transition and InterNations, but you can also search on Facebook for "Expats in..." and you'll find a group in nearly every country. I started a Facebook group in Antigua, Guatemala, when I wanted to connect and share resources with other expat moms. Being able to connect with other families and ask questions about schools, medical care, and housing before you leave is super helpful.
2. Arrange a support team of family and friends from home.
Leaving behind family and friends is one of the hardest parts of moving abroad. Lisa Ferland, her husband, and her two kids relocated to Sweden five years ago. She recommends setting up a communication system before you go. "Having a set time each week to call the grandparents or let our kids FaceTime with their cousins helped us feel connected even though we live far away," explains Ferland.
It's also great to have prearranged check-ins with a few close friends or a trusted counselor. Ask them to contact you after your first week, first month, and then at the three-month mark. Use apps like Voxer or Whatsapp to easily stay in touch.
Consider reaching out to a therapist who specializes in the unique challenges of life abroad. This can be a helpful resource for you and/or your spouse.
3. Ask for help.
In most countries people in the service industry--waiters, hotel bellhops, baristas, taxi drivers, and hired help--will be your first point of contact. Be extra courteous and respectful, and, when appropriate, tip generously for their help. They can tell you where to find the freshest vegetables, which stores have discounts, and how to pay your electric bill. If you have the chance, seek out a local language teacher who will not only teach you verbs and vocabulary, but can also act as a cultural guide helping you navigate parts of your new country. Be on the lookout for local newspapers or expat magazines that list upcoming local events and services.
4. Be intentional with friendships.
It is usually easiest to connect first with people from your home country or with other foreigners, but don't be afraid to reach out to local families. Invite another family over for dinner or find a family-friendly place to meet up. Host a wine night, a book club, or, as Callie Glorioso-Mays did, start a Ted Talk Club. Mays shares, "Whenever we move to a new place I invite other women over to listen to a Ted Talk and then discuss it. It's less commitment than a traditional book club and anyone can join."
5. Set a weekly family check-in time.
Set aside some family time at least once a week. Maybe you spend it exploring a new part of your town or country, or trying a new restaurant. Have some intentional questions you ask each other during this time, like, What worked well for you this week? What didn't work well?
Discuss your family roles and routines, as recommended by psychologist John Gottman. Maybe you have hired help that does all the cleaning, but grocery shopping takes three times as long and that's not working for you. Be willing to adjust and try new roles as a family. That might mean the whole family does grocery shopping together on Sundays. Sometimes these small household tasks take much more energy in a new cultural context.
It takes time to develop new family routines abroad. Be patient with each other. If your family can be persistent through the first few months of adjustment, you will appreciate the opportunities and adventures of life abroad a bit more.