If you’ve just moved to Europe (or, if you’re considering it), I’ve created this post especially for you! This is what I would make sure my best friend knew before they took the leap. So, from me to you, I hope you find this helpful!
It’s no surprise that moving to another country is a scary and amazing thing to do. It will push you out of any sort of comfort zone. Thankfully, people are good at adapting and it’s a great experience to see what you’re made of.
Fear is fine. Fear is normal. You just have to learn to get over it and do what you have to do.
I was terrified to call immigration. I used to love being on the phone and suddenly I hated it. Being worried about what language the phone menu will be in is a justified fear. My best advice is: just do it! Call who you need to call. Find those online forms. And utilize all the chat windows! These are the best thing ever. No accents, just words…hopefully English ones if you don’t know the local language.
It might be frightening to do things, go places, speak to people, and reach out. In the end, it’s all about growing. This could be the best growing experience there is. Well, this or traveling the world…but personally I like having a home to come back to between trips.
Learn your healthcare system. Ask around and head to Facebook groups and forums. You need this information. Along the same lines, know your emergency number! In the EU, it’s 112. The UK has to be weird about everything, so they are 999. There are rumors that in most of Europe, 911 would be rerouted to 112. So, if you forget the number, go ahead and try 911.
Yes, I think about these things and take them very seriously…as you should as well.
Know where your consulates and embassies are and register with them. Unless you are fleeing your country (that’s your business), you should register with the embassy of your home country when you move. It’s a safety thing. In the Netherlands, I’m not as worried about an evacuation as you might be in certain other parts of the world, but it’s a good idea just in case.
Find your tribe. You need a network and you need friends. Don’t worry about finding your BFF quite yet (though that’d be lovely!), but have people you can talk to. A nice mix of local friends to feel part of the community and some expats who understand what you are going through is perfect.
There are a bunch of ways to meet people and make friends. Just get out there and do it! Seriously, what is the worst that can happen? You stand awkwardly in a corner? Ok, I may have done that before as well, but usually someone will be watching for newbies and introducing them to others.
Those Left Behind
Know that things at home will change. Know that you may just fall madly, deeply in love with your new home and never want to leave. Realize that some people will get upset and feel hurt that you left and feel that you did a selfish thing to make your life feel right to you.
It sucks knowing how many people I hurt by moving away. I hate that we don’t often talk, but that’s just how it is. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life, and that includes jumping through red tape, having very little money at times, starting all over, and having so many moments of wondering, “Did we do the right thing?”
This is your world now. You are shaping it from the moment you arrive. Make the most of it!
Travel! Freaking travel! Did you really move to Europe and not think about traveling? Just do it. With budget airlines, train ticket specials, and super budget buses, there almost no excuse for not traveling.
And how awesome is the freedom of movement in the E.U.?
*cough* except the UK *cough* Oh man do I have stories on the UK. I’ll leave that for another time.
Fair warning though, there are some places that have police pop on board a train at a border and do passport checks. It happened to us on a sleeper train from Copenhagen to the Netherlands. No clue what the deal was. Worst part is that it was the middle of the night…we were sleeping!
Don’t buy into the “All the expats are rich and make tons of money” mentality. It’s simply not true and makes other people think that we can do anything we want when in reality, we have to budget just like anyone else (sometimes, even more).
On that same note, don’t think that you can do and see everything in a year. You can’t. It’s a sad truth that I’m just now coming to terms with as well. If Thalys has a 29 euro ticket somewhere great but you have 50 euros left to eat with, that means you probably shouldn’t buy the Thalys ticket (unless it’s the last day before pay day 😉 )
There will be months of adjustment and your new home might not even feel like home for over a year. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll hate it. Nobody knows how you’ll adjust, but at least you can be prepared and have an idea of what you need to think about.
We’re happy to share our journey and what we learn. We’re also happy to answer any questions you might have, just keep in mind that it is an individual kind of journey.
Are you thinking about moving to Europe, have you recently moved? What issues did you run into? Do you love it?