Every week 2,000 people leave Britain permanently in search of new lives abroad. The lure of new cultures, new people, beautiful locations and better job opportunities means over 5.5 million British people currently live overseas1. That's an amazing one in every 10 of us.
As exciting and promising as moving abroad can seem (and usually is), the experience doesn't come without its challenges.
Life coaching aims to shine a light on those challenges, before exploring ways to overcome them in order to minimise complications and avoid regrets. Whether you need help making a decision, organising your paperwork, or adjusting to your new life abroad, enlisting the help of a life coach could keep you grounded, focussed and above all - happy in your new life.
How can a life coach help me move abroad?
Making a happy life abroad takes time, effort and preparation. As well as the obvious practical tasks - like sorting out visas, overseas mortgages, taxes, insurance, licenses and all the other necessary paperwork, there's also a whole host of personal issues to deal with. Moving abroad is more than just changing location and signing papers; it's a massive emotional upheaval and a complete life change. Many people experience feelings like loneliness, homesickness, exhaustion and sometimes even disappointment when they move abroad, often because they imagined it'd be like an extended holiday, or that all their problems would magically disappear once they stepped off the plane.
Although it may seem like a negative way of looking at things, acknowledging the worst case scenario is actually the best way for safeguarding against it. The purpose of life coaching is not to put people off moving abroad, but to add a new depth of clarity to a challenging situation. It's about bringing potential problems out from the shadows, exposing obstacles and then finding ways to overcome them.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when moving abroad is to close their eyes and run blindly towards what they hope is a better future. Of course, life coaching doesn't aim to stem that hankering for new horizons, but it does aim to minimise the risk of things going wrong. Change is good, exploration is good and risk taking is good; it's how you handle these things that makes the difference between a long and happy life abroad, and a few months of regret followed by a flight back to Britain.
Unlike inevitably biased friends and family, a life coach will never tell you what to do, or lead you one way or another. Using specialist coaching approaches, he or she will try to help you:
- make sense of your motives for leaving
- be realistic
- handle emotionally difficult decisions
- deal with the practicalities of moving
- make a moving abroad checklist
- develop the skills to integrate well into your new community
- find work abroad
- deal with resulting relationship or family problems
- stay motivated and happy as you settle in.
Deciding to move abroad
Should you take an opportunity and follow a dream, or should you carry on with life as it is?
Sometimes the reasons for wanting to go can be just as strong as the reasons for wanting to stay, leaving you suspended between the two. You're probably horribly aware of how big this decision is, and just how much it could impact your own life as well as the lives of the people you leave behind. Just how do you make your mind up?
The truth is, you won't know if the decision you make is right until you make it.
Dissecting your options
Decision-making is all about predicting the future. In order to choose one thing over another, we have to imagine the possible outcomes of each scenario first. We go through these thought processes every day, even on the smallest scale like choosing between eating an orange and eating a chocolate bar at lunchtime - in a split second we imagine the taste of each, the potential rewards we'll reap, and the potential side-effects (e.g. smelling of orange all day, putting on weight from the chocolate etc.). We use these predictions to make our choice. Most of us linger for no longer than a few seconds when choosing a snack. When deciding whether or not to uproot our whole lives and move to a different country, it can take a little longer.
Moving abroad is a high-stake decision. By looking at potential scenarios with your life coach, you can slowly whittle the choices down to one - your final decision. One simple task is to write down the positives and negatives of each potential option. You can use the following sections to help you think about your own situation.
Challenges and benefits of moving abroad
One of the main principals behind life coaching is that we are all looking at the world from our own unique perspective, much like peering out from little windows in a big house. Our thoughts, feelings and opinions are shaped by our pasts and no two views can ever be exactly the same.
This is why it's so difficult to offer general advice when it comes to moving abroad - because everybody's situation is so different. One of the greatest benefits of having a life coach is the level of personalised support you get. All activities and exercises will be geared towards you and your needs, your fears and your dreams.
What you get out of moving abroad and the challenges you'll face will depend entirely on who you are, why you want to go and also where you want to go.
First of all - why are you here? Have you been offered an amazing opportunity at work? Have you become bored of the daily routine? Your reason for wanting to move abroad could be anything, but you should know that it will impact any rewards you reap from the experience. For the most rewarding experience, you should leave for good reasons - for more space for children, for a higher salary, for better weather. Not because you're bored, or you've made mistakes and need to get away. What will stop you from getting bored or making mistakes in another country too?
Every place has its own culture, its own philosophy, its own way of life. The benefits of relocating to a metropolitan, fast-paced city like New York will differ to the benefits of moving to a place like rural South France. Some countries will offer you more for your money, some will offer less. Some will offer a relaxed, stress-free way of living, some will offer more excitement and adventure. The specific benefits of moving abroad and the challenges you'll face will depend heavily on where you choose to go. If you want, your life coach will help you consider possible locations.
Who are you? How do you deal with change? How confident do you feel about meeting new people, or learning a new language? The rewards you reap from moving abroad will depend strongly on the kind of person who are. As your life coaching sessions progress and the repport between you strengthens, you'll realise it's not just your life coach who's getting to know you - you are, too.
Potential benefits of moving abroad
Use this list of potential benefits to help you make your own. When you write yours down, try to be more specific e.g. 'higher wages in Denmark', or 'warmer weather in Italy'.
1. New life experiences
Perhaps you've lived many years in Britain and still haven't found that certain something you've always been looking for. We do only have one life as far as we know and there's no joy in spending that life wondering if there's something better out there. If you're looking to broaden your horizons and have new life experiences, then moving abroad is a great way of doing it.
2. Personal development
Personal development is about improving skills and progressing towards a higher level of self-awareness. The whole process of moving abroad can help build important character traits, such as:
- Confidence - There's nothing like the feeling you get when you realise you've made a home out of nothing. Going to a foreign place that's far from everything you've even known helps build confidence. It's reassuring to know that even when you leave or lose everything, you will always be able to build something else - maybe something even better - to replace it.
- Hard work - It's not easy moving abroad. You'll have to put in a lot of hard work to get everything organised. Being a hard worker is a fantastic trait that'll stand you in good stead for future opportunities. Even in your personal life, you'll realise that hard work reaps rewards.
- Money management - Transferring bank accounts, planning budgets, understanding exchange rates and sorting out utilities in a foreign currency are all less-than-exciting parts of moving abroad, but on the plus side you'll learn excellent money management skills, along with a great deal of patience.
- Motivation - Personal development is all about progress. Motivation is key to on-going improvement and this is something you could gain from moving abroad. The change in pace could inject that extra spark of energy into your life.
3. Greater wealth and job opportunities
According to research by Lloyds TSB, 42% of people who move abroad do so to chase career opportunities. Working abroad is an appealing prospect, especially when wages are higher, living costs are lower and there's a better work/life balance. A 2011 survey by Mercer found that over half of UK employees were unhappy at work due to a lack of satisfaction, heavy workloads and unfair wages, so it's really no wonder so many of us are seeking work abroad.
4. Improved physical and mental health
Warm weather, friendly locals, relaxed routines, stunning landscapes and a higher salary combine to produce the perfect formula for better physical and mental health.
5. Make friends and lovers
Moving abroad presents an excellent opportunity to meet new people, make friends and potentially even fall in love. British people live all over the world, there's every chance you'll be able to find an English-speaking community near you. On the other hand, it can be even more enriching to meet local people, learn their language and fully integrate into your new community.
Challenges of moving abroad
It's easy to imagine your new life will be like one long, happy holiday, but it's important to remember that you may still have to work, commute, pay the bills and worry about all the things you usually worry about - such as your weight, your health, your relationship, your looks, your finances etc.. Accepting that things go wrong is not a negative attitude. A negative attitude is thinking you can't overcome them.
Some challenges you might face when moving abroad include:
What happens if you move abroad and realise it's not the picture-perfect lifestyle you imagined? Making sure your expectations are realistic will ensure you don't feel too disappointed if the reality doesn't match the dream. Ways to limit disappointment include:
- Plan thoroughly - visit your future home a few times, get to know the area, learn customs, find out basic things like the price of a pint of milk, the local transport links, the taxes you'll be required to pay, the time it takes for a letter to reach England. Leave no stone unturned and there'll be no room for any nasty surprises.
- Make sure you leave for the right reasons - Running away from your problems never works, they'll always follow you in some shape or form, wherever you go. Don't expect all your problems to disappear just because you're living in a new place with new people.
2. Culture shock
Exploring new places is all good fun when you're backpacking, or enjoying a holiday. Trying to make a home out of a foreign country is more of a challenge. Depending on where you go in the world, you could find yourself feeling out of your depth very quickly. Different languages, religions, customs and social etiquette can be very bewildering. Spending time learning about the culture before you move there should help you adjust more quickly. Peppering your new accommodation with familiar objects and photographs from home can also help you settle in.
3. Isolation and homesickness
Being far away from family, friends and everything you know can be very upsetting. Homesickness usually sets in once the paperwork and unpacking has been done, and the novelty of being somewhere different has worn off. You can overcome feelings of isolation and homesickness by getting out into your village or town and approaching people. Don't worry what they think of you, simply ask them questions about the area, the history, things to do, places to go and so on. If you find it difficult to approach people, join an online meet-up community, or start a hobby where you might meet other like-minded people.
4. Upset friends and family
Remember your friends and family back home might not always be supportive of your decision to leave. These people care about you, and it can be difficult to digest the news that someone you care for is willingly leaving you permanently. Life coaching could help you develop the skills to deal with emotional conflicts in the best way possible.
5. Loss of self-identity
It's difficult to see this normally, but a great part of who we are lies in the things we do in day-to-day life. Routines, like going to work, going to the gym, visiting friends, enjoying our hobbies ... these are the things that make up our lives. Without them, it's not unusual to feel a little lost. Finding ways to regain your sense of identity is important. Continue your hobbies wherever possible, and create new routines for yourself - they'll be familiar before you know it. Life coaching can take place from anywhere in the world. All you need is an Internet connection or a phone line. Staying in touch with your life coach could keep you grounded when it seems as though your whole life has been thrown up in the air.