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Hints: Adapting to Your New Environment

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

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Major life changes - even positive ones - always involve stress. There are many stressful times in an average person’s life: moving to a new community, changing careers, and separating from loved ones. When you move overseas, it involves facing several of these changes all at once, resulting in a very stressful situation. In addition, these changes occur while you are surrounded by an unfamiliar language and culture and lacking the support systems you relied on at home.

It is only natural for people to react to this kind of upheaval with a temporary case of what is referred to as transitional/cultural shock.

Here are some hints to help you cope with your new situation and to avoid the inevitable culture shock that a move to a foreign country can entail:

  • As quickly as possible, build a support network and make new friends. Spending time with other experienced expatriates can be helpful in this transition period. Join community groups, sports groups, or business associations where you can meet others in similar circumstances or with similar interests.
  • Be proactive in seeking information and resources. Learning about your new environment will help you feel more comfortable and confident.
  • Create a comfortable home base - your home is your safe haven and a place where you and your family should be able to relax. Read our Tips on Preparing your home for residence.
  • Get sufficient rest and maintain a well balanced diet.
  • Be patient with yourself and acknowledge how you feel. Keep in mind that each family member may react differently to the move at different times in the process. Encourage each family member to talk about their feelings and problems and to support each other. Be aware that mood swings are a normal results of culture shock. Many families discover that siblings will spend more time with each other than they did in their home country as they no longer have their former friends to socialize with. Expressing feelings in letters, e-mails or a journal can also be helpful.
  • Be culturally sensitive and do not criticize the host culture. Become aware of cultural differences as well as the specific difference between your own culture and that of your host country.
  • View challenges as new opportunities.
  • Integrate into your community at your own level of comfort.
  • Find meaningful and enjoyable activities that get you out in the community to expose you to the surrounding culture - engage in new hobbies, volunteer work, join local clubs or organizations, and explore the sights of the city.
  • Consciously plan for short term activities, like reading a book or going to a movie; medium term activities, such as a weekend getaway to a nearby destination; and long term plans, such as a trip home or a family vacation to a neighboring country. These activities act as stress relief or something to look forward to if you are experiencing a bad case of culture shock.
  • Practice stress-reducing techniques that work for you. i.e. listening to music, yoga, exercise or meditation.
  • Join a community sports club or group for the stress relief of exercise and to build your circle of helpful and supportive friends.
  • Join a faith community for support and encouragement
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The expat community is very generous with advice and are eager to help newcomers to ease their transition...

Our thanks to Colliers International for their generous contribution of this article, which we have further adapted.

Updated January 22, 2014

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

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