When you think of moving to another country there are so many things that come to your mind that it can be overwhelming, but it needn't be, says Rafael dos Santos, the author of 'Moving Abroad One Step At A Time', a new book which launches this week.
Rafael is a Brazilian entrepreneur who moved to London in 2001 after living for a couple of years in Sao Paulo. In London, he started out doing menial jobs, then turned his experience of living in flatshares into a business and since 2005 he has run a successful small property company - londonup.com - that turns over £1 million a year.
Rafael is a savvy online marketer and a passionate traveller, who speaks three languages and his book is aimed at helping people who are going to move abroad for the first time to understand the 5 stages of this new adventure.
His new business idea - roominthemoon.com - is an online community dedicated to help people who are going to move to another country.
"When you plan your move, you should know that there are 5 phases and each phase will have different challenges and emotions to go through," says Rafael, who lives in Bermondsey.
Here's are few snippets from his new book, including how to cope with culture shock ...
Let's start with phase 1 - Decision
This is the stage where you think why you want to move abroad, when and where you want to go. Normally the 'why' and 'where' are linked as people choose the country that provides what they are looking for. For example, if you want to learn French, you would move to France. Always have a goal for your trip. It will help you to keep focused, especially when you face challenges.
Phase 2 is - Research
That's when you have decided where you are going and when, and you need to start planning practical things about the trip: how long you are going for, travel insurance, currency exchange, the season (so you know which clothes to pack, for instance), language, how you find and book accommodation (deposits, notice to move out, security as a foreign tenant), food, transport, right down to what shape the electric plugs are). There are an awful lot of practicalities to get to grips with before you leave. By doing so, you will feel more comfortable and confident for your move.
Phase 3 is - The Move Itself
It's time to say goodbye to friends and family - the most difficult part of this journey.
That's when your journey really begins. You move into a new house and if you are going to live in a flatshare you need to learn other people's habits and different approaches to how things are done (cleaning, cooking, shower times, etc).
After you move in and settle into your new home, you may later need to deal with homesickness and culture shock, which are the main reasons why people return home as they cannot adapt to new culture or miss home too much.
Culture shock is the main challenge in phase 3 of your journey and it starts in your first month in the new country.
What do you do then? There are a number of things you can do to overcome culture shock.
Here are 7 top tips to overcome culture shock:
1. Sightseeing: familiarize yourself with the place first, so you feel more like a local. You'll feel like a local when someone asks for directions! And it's so much better to get out and about in your new city than to stay in the house, chatting to friends back home on the internet.
2. Make friends with a local and someone from your own country. There are many ways to meet new people: bars, sports clubs, courses (language, painting, dance, etc). Being friends with someone from your own country puts you at ease as you can share your thoughts and learn theirs. It's reassuring.
3. Go for a walks and coffees. This is such an easy way to get to know people wherever you are in the world and does not cost the earth. You also get to know the place you're living in. On a walk, people are often more relaxed and open to conversation. When you go for walks with locals take the opportunity to ask them about their city. People love talking about their cities!
4. Talk positively about things. When you are abroad most (if not everything) will be new. Take this opportunity to learn and be adaptable. Being positive about things will make the journey easier and more enjoyable and when you talk to locals, always bring up the nice things about the country and culture. What you like and appreciate about them.
5. Face up to every day challenges. Sometimes the simplest of tasks become a monster to kill! For example, if you don't speak the language and need to buy a tube ticket and the country has no signs in English - what do you do?
Everything takes three times longer! It normally takes around 3 months for you to feel 'at home' but then you start feeling homesick. The food does not taste the same; you cannot call your best friend to go for a coffee to chat about life...
The more you face up to these challenges and don't let them scare you, the quicker you feel like a local.
6. Keep some of your routines and something special from your country. If you watch your football team every Thursday, do it online (if you don't have the same TV channels) and keep that little special thing that makes you feel at home - even if that special thing is tea!
7. Keep a diary or a journal. These days there are lot of different ways to keep a diary. I have a friend, for example, who lived abroad for two years. He took a picture every month in the same sport for the whole two years. Every picture had a different story, so you can create your own. As times goes by, you will look back and remember those moments with fondness. Once you are in the country for over a year you may start feeling that it's time to 'improve'.
This is phase 4 - Upgrade
That's when you become a bit more selective with friends, places to go, food you eat. You feel very comfortable with your life and it's time to make it better. People in different stages of life will have different ways to upgrade.
Phase 5 is - Direction
That's when you start questioning if you should stay in the new country or you should go back or even move to another country. Some people can easily move countries, for others the thought brings up a lot of emotions so it's just like going back to phase 1 but this time, you know what is coming.