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The Migrant Experience: Settling in to a new country

Moving abroad is one of the most life-changing experiences a person can go through. And with it brings a lot of emotions—fear, excitement, nerves, doubt and perhaps even a newfound confidence.

As part of a new regular blog series, we’re exploring the migrant experience and everything that goes along with it. From motives to moving and struggles to surprises, we’re looking in depth at each part of the process—and we’ll be speaking to many of our own Transfernauts about their experiences, too. After all, we’re a company built by migrants for migrants, and over 50% of our workforce are migrants! 

In this edition, we’re taking a look at integration and the best ways to acclimatise to a new country. Read on for top tips and tricks and insights from our very own Transfernauts. 

Preparing yourself for the move

Just like with an exam, wedding or house move, migration requires a lot of preparation in advance. This way, you’ll have more knowledge and fewer surprises. You’ll also experience fewer culture shocks and your chances of moving success will skyrocket.  

Our Russian Growth Manager, Svetlana, moved from Siberia to Germany six years ago to study. Now, she considers Berlin to be her home and plans to stay indefinitely. Speaking about her experience of integrating, she says, “I came very prepared. Before moving to Germany, I spent two months in Berlin doing a short summer course at Humboldt University. This gave me a chance to make sure that the Berlin vibe and German mentality and system education would suit me and my lifestyle. I loved it so much that I decided to apply to return for my studies. When I got back home, I gave myself a year to prepare for the move.”

Travelling to a country in advance of the move is a great idea if you have the budget. However, with Covid-19 and related restrictions still rife in many countries, this might not always be possible. 

To help with the integration process, try the following tips and tricks in advance of the move:

Educate yourself

Before you move, read up on the local cultures and routines so that nothing catches you off guard when you arrive. It’s also a good idea to learn about the rules of ‘respect’ in said country. Shaking hands with your left hand (pre and post-Covid, of course) is considered disrespectful in some countries, for example.

Try and bring yourself up to speed in advance of your move to avoid any awkward moments once you arrive.

Learn the language

Are you fluent in the local lingo? If so, your big move will feel a lot easier. If you know only a few words, you might want to brush up on your vocabulary before you arrive and learn some common phrases. You don’t have to be a pro at the language but it’s a good idea to become acquainted with some slang words and idioms to help you feel clued up.

Local language classes are a great way to help you with this—if time and budget allow, enrol yourself on a short-term course before moving. It’ll prove invaluable once you’ve arrived. If your budget’s too tight, try a language-learning app like Duolingo.

Have a health screening

Navigating a foreign healthcare system can be complex and confusing, particularly if you’re not fluent in the local language. Before you arrive, read up on things like health insurance and how to register yourself at the doctors.

It’s also a good idea to have a health screening in your own country before you go if possible. This will hopefully provide some reassurance. But if anything negative does crop up, you’ll have more time and resources to get things checked out beforehand.

Network, virtually

One of the biggest challenges of moving abroad is creating a brand new social circle from scratch. Hopefully, you’ll meet a lot of new people via your job or neighbourhood (particularly if you’re house sharing), but you might want to broaden your options just in case.

Networking apps and sites like Meetup and Facebook groups are great for meeting new people in your new area. Before you go, sign yourself up and start conversations. It’s never too early (or late) to make new friends.

Treat Google Maps like your best friend

When you arrive in your country, you’ll have a lot to think about. Reduce the pressure by learning about your local neighbourhood before you get there. Search for your home and workplace in Google Maps and explore your (soon-to-be) new surroundings.

Is your nearest supermarket within walking distance? How close is the bus stop you need? What about a five-star sandwich shop? If there’s one nearby, bookmark it! Your new life will be a lot easier if you have a feel for where things are.

After the move

Your packed bags are now unpacked and you’re well and truly in your new resident country. Exciting times! But what now? Well, it’s time to throw yourself into local life as best as you possibly can. 

Our Marketing Manager, Iurii, is Ukrainian but moved to Warsaw two years ago. Iurii loves the fact that there are so many Ukrainians living in the city. He says, “I feel at home here. I hear the Ukrainian language almost every day—whether that’s on the street, in the supermarket or during my subway ride. And it gives me a sense of home.” 

But integrating for Iurii was turbocharged by his ability and determination to throw himself into local life. “To integrate into a new culture you have to be open-minded. Be open to meeting new people; visit different local events (like breakfast markets on Sundays, for example); and sign up for some cultural events like local concerts and other interesting events. Doing this will give you the feeling that you’re closer to the local culture.”

The following tips and tricks will also help you with integrating after the big move.

Get acquainted with apps

Technology is a godsend if you’re living in a new country. From Citymapper for navigating a new city to TransferGo for sending money back home, there are a host of apps to make your migration run smoothly.

If you’ve moved or are moving to the UK, check out our guide to the best apps for migrants (but they’re relevant almost everywhere).

Ask for support

Moving to a new country is a huge deal—emotionally and financially. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as and when you need it. Your employer will obviously be aware of your situation and should make special efforts to help you settle in.

But reach out to others, too. From the guy sitting two metres away from you in the office to the friendly neighbour across the street, most people are happy to help and provide some moral support when they know it’s needed.

Say ‘yes’ to everything

Now, we share this tip with caution as we don’t advocate burn-out or doing anything you’re uncomfortable with. But if a new colleague invites you out, think twice before declining the invite. Who knows what could happen and who you could meet?

By throwing yourself into new experiences, you’ll open up a world of opportunities when it comes to making friends and learning about your new country. And if you’re not really feeling it when you’re there, politely say your goodbyes and head home. Easy!

Enjoy your own company

While making friends is important, it’s even more crucial to feel comfortable spending time by yourself. If you’re a natural extrovert, this prospect might sound frightening, but it’ll play an integral role in your emotional development—a crucial tool when you’re tackling a major life event like moving abroad.

Instead of exhausting yourself with big plans every night, reserve some quiet time just for you. Whether that’s reading a book at home or taking yourself to the movies, it’s a great chance to reflect, recuperate and congratulate yourself on the amazing thing you’re doing. 

Give yourself time

Starting a new life abroad is challenging and requires some long-term adjustments. No matter how well prepared you to feel, you’re bound to have some up days and down days. Give yourself time to settle in and don’t give yourself a hard time if you’re struggling now and again.

Establishing a routine early on and staying in touch with friends and family are small and simple ways to feel better about everything. And concentrate on any little thing that gives you a boost—whether that’s watching a new series, going for a run or wandering the streets while listening to your favourite music. You’ve got this!


And if you’re looking to send money while living abroad, TransferGo is here to help. Sign up now for easy online money transfers.


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