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Julian Northbrook

What’s the Hardest Thing About Moving to a New Country?

What would you say, is the hardest thing about moving to a new country? Here’s what I have found.

Here is what I have consistently found to be the hardest thing about moving to a new country.

13 or so years ago, I moved from the U.K. to Japan, and you may or may not know this, but I have just up sticks once again, and completely relocated my entire life, family, and business from Tokyo, Japan to the Emerald Isle. That is of course Sunny Island. Which I usually say quite sarcastically but it has actually been pretty sunny, of late.

Now, it’s hard work moving to a new country, that is pretty much a given. Yeah, I mean there are 100s of things that have to be done.

First and foremost, you’ve gotta pack up, you’ve gotta ship everything to a new country, you’ve gotta find a place to live. Then you’ve gotta unpack, and you’ve gotta set up everything again. Then there is opening bank accounts, finding schools for the kids, registering with the doctor. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Paperwork upon mountains of paperwork. Yeah it’s hard work. But it’s not particularly challenging work. It’s a lot of it, but it’s not hard.

What I have found to be challenging both times however is this, the concept of common sense. Common sense you see, isn’t particularly common it turns out.

Because the way that people think, act, and behave in the U.K. it’s totally different to the way that people think, act, and behave in Japan. And then both of those are different again to way that people act, behave, and think in Ireland. That is, common sense, again, isn’t particularly common.

Common sense is actually only common to you and your particular culture, your particular, you know, part of wherever you are. And the way that people perceive things to be, a given, in other places is quite quite different.

Take simple things, for example.  Like wearing shoes in the house.

Something then in Japan is a big big no-no. In Japan if somebody comes to your house for something, like an electrician, somebody looking at the gas, somebody installing the internet, for example, they are gonna bring a pair of slippers with them and they are gonna take their shoes off when they get there and change into slippers.

Not so, in Ireland.

In Ireland we have the internet people come and they just open the door, walked in, shoes everything, mud on the floor, plonked himself down on the sofa, where do you want the internet. It’s a totally different way of thinking. But here, wearing shoes in the house, that is just common sense.

Another great example, going to the doctors. I’ve just registered for our GP here in Ireland.  Something which, incidentally, doesn’t exist in Japan.

In Japan, if you’ve got a throat ache, you’re going to the Jibiinnkouka, the throat, nose, and ears doctor. And you can go to any of them, it doesn’t matter which you go to, you just go to the nearest one, or one which happens to be open today. If you’ve got a rash, you go to the skin doctor, again you can go to any, it doesn’t matter.

And if you get a throat ache, you probably will go to the doctor. If you’ve got a bit of a cold, yeah, you’ll go to the doctor. It’s a given, common sense that if you feel sick, if you’ve got a rash, you go to the doctor.

Well, in say the U.K., not so much. In the U.K. if you go to the doctor with a cold, well, first and foremost, you won’t be able to get an appointment for about two weeks anyway, so by time you get to the doctor your cold’s gonna be better. And even if you did somehow get an appointment, whilst you were still sick, the doctor’s just gonna say, it’s a cold, go home, go to sleep, don’t bother me with this bullshit.

Here in Ireland, it’s similar to the U.K. in that you’ll go to say the pharmacy and just buy medicine over the counter first of all, and then if it doesn’t get better you’ll go to your GP.

But unlike England, here it’s a private system, it’s not NHS, it’s not paid for by the Social so you pay each time you go, unlike Japan, there’s no state health insurance system so you just pay everything here, yourself, and so people don’t go as commonly, again, as they would in Japan.

It’s, again, the common sense surrounding going to the doctors is different. And learning all this stuff, getting used to the way that things are done in the place where you currently are, the expectations of, say, the doctors who will be looking at you.

It’s totally different and it takes a lot of time and energy to get used to that, to learn all of that, to get used to people walking in the house in their shoes, it drives me absolutely crazy but you know, you say to somebody, sorry can you take your shoes off before you come in.  And they look at you like you’ve gone mad. At least for me, here, in Ireland, this time, I’m doing it all in English, which makes things so much easier than it did when I went to Japan all those years ago.

It does, however, occur to me that, many of you here, by definition speaking English as a second language, learning and improving your English, may be thinking about going to live in an English country, English speaking country I should say.

Perhaps you’ve already gone, perhaps you’re gonna go there and study soon, perhaps you wanna go there to work.

But regardless, my advice to you, is to bring your English up to scratch before you go. Don’t make the mistake that many, many people make and think oh:

“I’ll just improve my English once I’m there”

Because believe me, once you get there the list of things that you’ve gotta do and learn about and get used to, the list is long, long, long, and very, very overwhelming.

And you do not want your English just being a barrier to you being able to get all of that done, quickly and effectively with a minimum of fuss and stress and hassle.

So put some time and effort into your English, now, whilst you’ve still got the chance.

If you haven’t yet checked out my best-selling book, Master English Fast, A Uncommon Guide to Speaking Extraordinary English, you can and should do so, by going over to MasterEnglishFAST.com.