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Living Abroad

Homesickness, Living Abroad

How To Survive Homesickness Hypothermia

“I realized that there’s some parallelism in this: freezing and losing ourselves in a strange culture. In other words, the way to cope with homesickness and cultural stagnation can be summarized in a list of similar steps that the ones followed in order to counter hypothermia.”

A few months ago, whilst writing my new novel, I wanted to portray one of the most complicated steps of the adaptation to a new country. This story is focused on an immigrant who goes to seek her fortune in better lands so, in a dialectic exchange between the two main characters, this foreign girl asks the native how to counter the cold that bashes the European lands, comparing it with the distressing eternal summer of her nation. And so, he explains to her the process of avoiding frostbite in case of an emergency, alluding to the only way to cope with change

While balancing writing and remembering my own cold nights, where the radiator just didn’t make the cut, I realized that there’s some parallelism in this: freezing and losing ourselves in a strange culture. In other words, the way to cope with homesickness and cultural stagnation can be summarized in a list of similar steps that the ones followed in order to counter hypothermia.

So, I wrote down five steps on how to survive a foreign blizzard. In case of emergency.

1) In case of a blizzard, to tend the emergency, the priority must be to withdraw from the cold zone, from air drafts and, immediately, remove ones wet clothes, in case of having them, and dress warmly.

Ah yes, the cold zone. The arrival. The start of facing the unknown and crying on the bed, repeating to yourself “what was going through my mind?” Let’s start by repeating instead I am brave, I am capable. This phrase helped me to wield the blade against those nights in which desolation becomes almost unbearable. If you have arrived to this point, you can take on anything. And the air drafts? The wet clothes?

Paraphrasing my novels’ deuteragonist: “…first, you make sure you keep what is only yours, you shelter it and hide it, so you never lose it.” Yes, it’s important to dress our national identity warmly, to keep it in a box, lock it and safeguard it always near, because it may be whipped by the diverse conditions. No one else will have it in the host country, not identical at least. It’s easy to leave our box forgotten in the snow. Don’t open it when you get there because it’ll hurt. A lot.

 

2) Make sure you warm up your body with whatever is at your reach. Like blankets or wool clothes.

Homesickness normally creeps in in a way that we clutch ourselves with our little identity box, without wanting to move forward and accept the landscape that’s been presented before our eyes. I remember a moment in my time away from my home country where the touristic places seemed dull, uninteresting. I just wanted to stay locked up in my room, with my pc and the online connection of my friends back home.

There, the skin needs to be warmed with what we have at hand: new neighbors, strolls through the smallest of towns. Meeting the people around you, for more different that they may seem, or the places that at first glance don’t awaken your curiosity. Yes, it may not be the most exciting thing at the beginning, but those little moments warm up the soul.

It gives a new perspective to our eyes and, although it may not feel like that at the moment, we’re learning, maturing, and adapting step by step. If you ever return to your country of origin, you’ll see how much this little interactions and walks can mean. You’ll come to endear them with nostalgia. And even the smallest thing (train travels, the smell of the bakery around the corner…) becomes memorable.

3) Prevent the person from falling asleep and carefully observe their respiration. Normally, the appetite decreases, but eating is necessary to avoid hypoglycemia.

“…Then you get stronger, getting in contact with everything that surrounds you, but without letting yourself forget of who you are. You’ll feel that you don’t need it: your language, your identity, and so, you start to let it fade. Don’t let it happen.” Said the native. Indeed, customs and traditions fade away. The outlines that formerly defined us as an exotic, special person, become blurry in this anticipated step of adaptation. But it’s not to be forgotten that those same differences, that striking skin tone, that intolerance towards new eating habits and the strong, protruding accent, are the ones that have formed us in our host country. They are our roots, and a tree won’t blossom without them. To cut it is to alienate.

4) Move your fingers, hands or feet slowly and constantly. It is popularly believed that the less you move, more body heat will be retained. But it’s vital to keep the body in movement and to massage it in circles to increase the blood flow.

The so-called “superficial adaptation” comes when we enter a comfort zone. Where we’re pleased, where we’re merely fine. This is what I see as the most dangerous step, and the furthest one, towards cultural freezing. Where we get ourselves stuck in a little corner, accepting our facet of the immigrant and making it a part of us, retaining all of the negative connotations it holds as ourselves and coming to settle with a “good enough” situation for “someone like us”. No, you deserve more. More than a derogatory tone when we face the cashier while shopping.

More than becoming the aim of stereotypical jokes and pejorative addressing. Don’t remain neglected, don’t be aggressive either. Keep moving forward, the emotional hole in which we remain stuck will never be a true home, despite that it may seem so at the beginning.

5) Keep the body close tight besides yours or someone else’s, to accelerate body warming

Value your friends. Your foreign brothers, your broken-heart-colleagues. You’ll realize that, indeed, having a family isn’t always about sharing blood, but sharing hardships, tears. Nobody knows how long is the path that you’ve had to go through, but they may know how hard it is, they’ve walked their own.

When you find people that, besides language barriers, social conventions and cultural brakes, you can still manage to understand, you’ll have discovered that secret language that only the ones that have crossed frontiers know, that only the ones who have befriended someone who resides on the other side of the world can speak. That only the ones who’ve had to say goodbye to someone to faraway lands can read in someone else’s gestures.

Treasure them. Show them your identity, open the box. And so, we won’t be frozen in an episode of our lives, but own it, and make it a part of a whole.

“And when you learn to tell them apart, you will have found a home. It may not be the most comfortable one, or the safest. But a home, at the end of the day.”

This guest post is an extract from the novel Cómo sobrevivir una tormenta extranjera (How to survive a foreign storm), Larissa Quesada

Living Abroad

5 Apps to Make Friends When You Are New In Town

“Isn’t there something like Tinder but just to make friends?” 

Yes, there is. For everyone who has been waiting to match with people before they meet, or those who are simply looking to make some new friends; there are plenty of options out there for you.

Part of an international existence is that every once in a while you have to start over completely.

Depending on where you work or study it may be easy to find new friends, but if you are not so lucky; don’t worry. The Internet is here to help you.

So, put your friend face on and let’s get matchin’

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1. Bumble BFF

Same idea as Tinder Social, the app Bumble also has a BFF section within the dating app.

From their own website;

“Bumble users were requesting the ability to keep the app when they were in a relationship because they had found friends on the app. They were already entering their same gender into the “show me” settings to try to find friends. We often heard requests for a friend-finding feature from users who were new to new cities or on vacations. Lastly, we were incredibly excited about creating BFF because it lessens the limitations of the app, and this expansion of use reflects the brand more accurately as an all-compassing component to the people’s communication and lifestyle.

Once BFF is selected, you’re shown all other people of the same gender who are also looking for BFFs. All BFF communications are marked with our new callout mint color from matching screen to expiring queue, to conversation list and conversation bubbles. We are incredibly excited about the ability to help people find anyone from a new BFF to a best man.”

 

2. CouchSurfing 

Most people know Couchsurfing from having strangers crash their sofa, but Couchsurfing also offers a lot of events and meet-ups between travelers and local people who either have a free sofa, or those who don’t but still want to show new people around.

Because CouchSurfing already has such a big network you will undoubtedly be able to find people living nearby who would love to meet up.

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When trying to find a sofa match some people also indicate they don’t have a couch for you, but they are up for having drinks and getting to know new people, so even if you already have a place to live you can simply send around some messages to local people on CouchSurfing and see who is interested in socializing with you.

Plus, when you are already settled in you yourself can meet up with travelers coming to town and show them around.

According to their website “Couchsurfing is a global community of 14 million people in more than 200,000 cities who share their life, their world, their journey. Couchsurfing connects travelers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience.”

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3. CitySocializer

As the name indicates this app caters mostly to larger cities. Nonetheless, this is a great way to socialize when you have just moved there or when you are simply traveling around and you would like to make some local contacts.

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From their website

“Citysocializer is the local, social life app to do more of the things you like with people going out around you. A place that combines having fun with new people offline, and a place to stay in touch with them online as your new network grows.

The latest pop-ups and art shows, running in the parks, a glass of wine after work or a coffee and Sunday movie – the community host socials for each other and invite you to join them.

Knowing how tough it could be to meet new likeminded people in cities – whether to find a better social life or being new to a city – we nurtured our first real-world community in London and today have grown to every major city in the UK, New York, Chicago, and Washington.”

4. CLIQ

This may be a good option for those who move to a new city with a friend, but still want to get out to socialize a bit with the locals.

CLIQ allows you to create a group with one or two other friends and match with other friend groups.

5. Meet My Dog

Saving the best for last!

“A fresh breed of social apps for you and your dog”

For all the people out there who think animals are better than people – you are so right.

The internet has provided us with options for people like us.

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Meet My Dog allows you to browse through the dogs that live near you and meet up with them and their humans.

Honestly, what could be better than meeting new dogs and the people who own them?

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Similar apps to Meet my dog are; Sniffr and Pets Amino

With the entire internet at your fingertips, there is no reason to remain friendless.

Do you know any app that hasn’t been mentioned in this post? Please let us know in the comments!

 

Global Citizenship, Living Abroad

When Home Just Isn´t Where You Need to Be

There is no place like home, they say. And it´s true. But that doesn´t mean that ´home´ is always the best place to be. In fact, I think in many cases it´s good to not be ´home´. Sometimes it´s good to look for the discomfort, to get yourself out there, experience new things. Sometimes, ´home´ is just not where you need to be.

I just got home from being abroad for 7 months. During those 7 months I have endured a great deal of problems and struggles, and at many times I thought about being home. How great it is to have people around you that speak the same language, that you´ve known for a long time. How comfortable it would be.

Not being ´home´ makes you appreciate home more than you did before. I would even argue that you can´t feel at home if you have never not felt at home. Something about no darkness without light, and vice versa. Going abroad can make you more patriotic than ever, and at the same time make you realize that patriotism is one of the most ridiculous concepts people have ever created.

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Above all, what is ´home´? Not being home means to be able to create a new one. To leave your heart in many places. Not being home is creating a different version of yourself. Different, but still you. A version that would never be able to exist in any other place.

Being ´home´ right now is wonderful, it´s comfortable. But because of this comfort, it´s not a challenge, and sometimes being challenged is exactly what you need. Living in your own country to me is like living with your parents. Yes it´s easy, and in a weird way we would all want to do that forever, but there comes a time when you need to grow up and learn to stand on your own feet. Right now, I don´t want to be home.

Not wanting to be home has nothing to do with being ungrateful. It doesn´t mean I don´t like it. Quite the opposite. But there is a time for everything, and now is not the time to be comfortable. Now, as a young woman trying to figure out her life, now is a time to be uncomfortable, to look for the limits and then cross them. To find out what I want and what I don´t want. What I like, and what I don´t like. Who I am, and who I am not. Then, and only then, will be the time to come ´home´,

Living Abroad, Safety

8 Things To Be Aware Of When it Comes to SEXUAL ASSAULT ABROAD

I want to start off by saying this; I used to think sexual assault only came in the form of rape, and rape only came in the form of being approached by a questionable looking, middle-aged man pushing you to the ground while you kick and scream. I think this is still the common way rape is seen and that´s why victim blaming still happens a lot. People think they´d never accuse someone of their own rape, while in fact people do it all the time. Even in the case of ally rape, the first thing people ask is “Why was she there?¨. In all the other cases people say “Why didn´t you just say no?¨, as if that has ever worked.

Sexual assault happens more than you think and in many cases it is not late at night in an empty park by a stranger. It´s in a place you know, with someone you know. Sexual assault isn´t always being forced to do something you don´t like, it´s also being tricked into doing something you don´t want. I am a confident woman. I know what I want and what I don´t want. Still it happened to me, and the fact that I was abroad made it harder to realize.

#1 Know your environment

This might be more of a general safety tip, and quite an obvious one for that matter, but when you are abroad and everything is new, it´s good to do some research (ask around) about which places are safe to visit, and which places aren´t. Is there public transport at night to get back after a night out?

Also, although this is never an excuse for people to harass you, find out what is appropriate and what not when it comes to the way you dress. Some countries might be a little bit more conservative than you think, and your outfit could be interpreted in a different way while being in a different culture. Again, this is never an excuse, but it´s something to be aware of.

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#2 No should mean no, but it usually doesn´t

It pains me to say this but it´s true. So many times I thought saying “No¨ would be enough, but sadly it´s not. When I don´t like something I tend to start laughing because I am uncomfortable, which means my “No¨ is taken less serious. But even if I don´t laugh, a lot of people will take anything as a sign that you are into it. With this I mean “She is saying no, but she is still here so she probably wants me to keep asking¨.

So when someone does something to you that you don´t like; don´t just say ‘no’ but walk away. It might seem strange sometimes, but this is actually the best way to let someone know you are not interested. 

Also, bonus tip; speaking a language people don´t know is also a quick way to shut down communication. Just keep on rambling in your native language and you have no idea how freaked out people can get!

#3 Don´t let a cultural difference guide you into doing anything you are not comfortable with

Yes, getting culturally adjusted isn´t always comfortable, but when it comes to sexuality don´t let yourself be in any situations you are not comfortable with. In some countries, people might be more touchy than you are used to, but if you are not comfortable with someone doing this, let them know. 

The same counts for things such as drugs, alcohol or anything else. Yes, it´s good to get adjusted, but just because everyone else does it doesn´t mean you have to. If you don´t want to do something, don´t do it. It´s your body, your rules.

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#4 CONSENT. If you have to be convinced, it´s probably not the way to go

This goes both ways. If you have to talk someone into being with you, just leave them alone. They are most likely going to regret it, so don´t be that person. Instead, put your time into finding someone who actually wants to be with you.

From the other side, if your gut tells you it probably isn´t a good idea; leave. Usually, I would say “we only regret the chances we didn´t take¨, but in this case (especially with the involvement of alcohol) it´s the opposite. Trust your got, and most of all, go back to #2, and just walk away. 

This whole idea of consent might seem very easy, but you´d be surprised how often this goes wrong. If you are interested, here is an amazing video explaining consent by comparing it to a cup of tea.

 

#5 Just because you know someone doesn´t mean they always have your best interest

But the fact that 82% of all sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger says more than enough. If it´s a real family member, no is always the answer, but what if it´s someone from your host family? What if it´s a friend?

In my case it was a guy I knew. I trusted him, I liked him as a friend, but didn´t want anything else. Neither did he, he kept saying. But somehow he kept hinting at it, followed shortly by saying that it was just joking. The more intoxicated we became, the more the nagging started (Yes, nagging is not only for women). Ultimately, I gave in because I was getting tired of it. It was stupid, but I was intoxicated and most of all; I trusted him. I thought if it was his idea, it couldn´t be harmful. After all, he was my friend. Maybe I was just being paranoid by all the sexual assault stories.

That was one of my biggest wake-up calls. The actions of that night were not all that traumatizing, but how it happened was. I couldn´t, and still can´t, understand how someone I trusted could try to trick me into something he knew I didn´t want to do. The worst part is that he didn´t even feel bad after. He said I made a big deal out of it. Now there will be people telling me it was my fault, I should have said no anyway. Other people tell me to stop being so paranoid, that not all men are predators. And they are right, not all men are. But deep down I knew I didn´t want it, and I should have listened to my gut. 

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#6 Stereotypes might actually be harmful

Most of the times stereotypes are just annoying, but when it comes to girls and sexuality for many countries there are awful stereotypes of promiscuous latinas women or easy ‘white girls´. Be aware of this, and be aware of the fact that because you are foreign you might be very interesting for a lot of people. This isn´t always a bad thing, in many cases you just get to meet new awesome people, but in some cases, as mentioned above, people might not have your best interest at heart and being with someone who is foreign is just a fun ´challenge´ or some sort of fetish (yes, this happens).

#7 Take care of your drink

These things might be obvious, but they are still important to say so I will. Look after your drink, make sure nobody can put anything in it. Depending on how well you know the people you are going out with, buy your own drinks too.
It´s just the easiest way to avoid a lot of false expectations and bad situations.

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#8 Have a friend

Maybe one of the better tips, but have a friend to look out for you, and look out for your friends. If someone is bothering you, let your friend know in some secret code language, and they can help you out of an awkward situation.

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Now, this all might sound a little ominous, but it certainly shouldn´t be. Being abroad is fun, dating abroad is even more fun! But being new in a place brings a certain vulnerability. This post is to make you aware of those vulnerabilities, and to tell you that it´s your body and your rules! I hope you learn something from this and that you have bucket loads of fun abroad.

Stay safe!

 

Ps. If there is anything I should add, please let me know in the comments!

 

Living Abroad, Moving Abroad, Safety

5 Security Tips When Moving Home To Another Country

You’ve finalized your decision to move abroad and have all of your paperwork and a new home lined up. Before you pack up and move to your new home in another country, be sure that you’ve considered security. While adjusting to being in a new country, keeping your family safe should be a top concern.

Here are some security tips that will help your transition to another country go more smoothly.

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1. Check Your Home’s Exterior Lighting

While homes in many Western nations have abundant exterior lighting, this isn’t always the case for countries abroad. Exterior lighting helps deter criminals and thieves, so plan to have some installed when you reach your new home.

You can have flood lights or motion activated lights shipped to your new house or pack some with the rest of your belongings.

2. Install An Alarm System

Just as exterior lights aren’t commonplace in many countries, neither are alarm systems. You may be tempted to blend in with the locals and not get one, but the peace of mind that a quality alarm system provides will be well worth the investment.

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3. Do Research About Public Transit


Unless you plan on bringing your car or buying one as soon as you arrive, you’ll need a way to get around your new country.
Before you hop on the public transit available, do your research about what it’s like, how safe it is, and what the costs are. Many people who move from countries with relatively safe public transport assume it will be the same when they move abroad — that’s a mistake.
Even if the crime in your new country is low, the mode of public transportation may be something you’re not used to. For instance, if motorbike taxis are common in your new home, consider getting a helmet if you plan to be scooting around regularly.

4. Know How The Locals Drive

So, you plan to bring your car or buy one, and figure you don’t have to do much research about transportation in your new city — think again. Not only do you need to learn about the flow of traffic in your new country, but it’s best to ask people familiar with the area how much of a hazard driving is.
Some countries have very high auto accident rates or are host to highways and roads with extremely high-speed limits. This can be daunting at first. You don’t want to accidentally enter such a roadway and not know what you’re getting yourself into.

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5. Be Prepared To Secure Your Windows And Doors

Doors and windows are a key point of entry for most would-be intruders, so it’s best to make sure yours are safe and secure. If you’ve bought a home in another country, making security adjustments to your locks, doors, and windows will be easier than if you’re renting.
If you are renting, check with your new landlord to see what changes you’ll be allowed to make and then plan to bring along the locks and materials you’ll need. Alternatively, find a professional locksmith who services the area you’re moving to.
These five tips are all simple ways to secure your new home when moving to another country. With just a bit of preparation, you’ll feel more confident about starting your new life abroad.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Nathan Hughes is a founder of Locksmiths In Sydney. When he is not letting you back into your house at 4 am in the morning, he is driving around Australia in a camper van, or sitting back with a glass of red wine in Europe.