If you are about to move outside of Malaysia, things can get exciting. There’s plenty to do – exploring new experiences, making new memories, and meeting new friends.
But the world is a scary place, and you might have worries or doubts too.
I understand: I’ve moved from Malaysia to the Netherlands, Australia and Japan, all throughout my teenage and adult life. Every time I move, it feels like I’m leaving my friends behind to go somewhere else. But it doesn’t have to be like that. I coped, improved, and now I’m a better person altogether.
Here are my tips for Malaysians going abroad:
Accept that a new chapter in your life is beginning
At first, you’ll get lonely. Everything is new, unknown, and none of your friends are nearby.
Malaysians are used to the mamak stores, the food, their families close to them, and their friends whom they were with until high school for example.
Everyone can understand each other, speaking rojak is fine, and things move at a slower and calmer pace.
We may have gotten too used to the things around us before we left the country. We get entrenched in our comfort zones.
The pace is different in a new country, and it gets uncomfortable. You might not be confident in speaking the local language for example, or you’re afraid of being judged for being different, so you don’t express yourself as much.
But think about it this way: this is a new chapter in your life. You have the chance to redefine your fears, worries and doubts. If there are parts of you that you want to improve, now is the time to do it – when you’re starting on a clean slate.
A new chapter is a new you: look forward to that.
Explore new things to better yourself
This is your chance to explore new hobbies, the things that you’ve always been interested all this while. What if you want to try surfing in Australia? Skydiving in Germany? Check out the local cuisine in Greece?
Think of it as exploring the forest nearby your house when you were a young kid: the world has so much to offer you.
Exploring new things is a way of discovering yourself and figuring out what you really want in life. You still have time, and time is precious. We are better off spending our time growing up than staying still.
You can also be proud of the fact that once you come back to Malaysia to visit friends and family, you have plenty of interesting things to share with them. They will be proud that you are living life to the fullest.
Treat people like how you want to be treated
In a foreign country, remember that the people around you are human too: treat them like how you want them to treat you.
People will notice your mood after all: if they notice how happy you are, they might brighten up as well. If you are sad, it may bring their mood down.
In any country, body language is universal: we react to the nonverbal cues others give out, even if we don’t speak their language.
If you want to make friends, be friendly. It sounds obvious, but building relationships starts with building yourself first. If you take the time to learn how to express yourself in the new country, then the difference in culture won’t matter: people will treat you as well as you treat them!
Find those who feel the same way
There are others in the new country who share the same worries as you. They may have it worse: they might lack support, find it harder to hold a conversation in a new language, and a million other things which can discourage them from opening up.
These could be other Malaysians and students from different countries who are a long way from home.
There are Malaysians whom never left their state, and all of a sudden find themselves in a brand new culture: it can get hard to adapt.
If you reach out to them, you won’t have to be alone. Both of you can explore new things together.
Take action and find comfort yourself
Lonely? Find companions.
Bored? Find something new to do.
Want to solve a problem? Do something about it.
I’m simplifying things here, but this formula works even when you’re in a different country: Have a problem? Take action. Over time, you’ll get used to being in a new country, but you can speed up this process by taking action and solving your problems on your own.
Maybe you can find something even more exciting than what you have back home. You might find that you have this hidden energy because you’re somewhere foreign.
Who knows? Eventually you’ll maybe fall in love with moving to a new country all the time.
For more articles like these, read 5 Ways to Overcome Shyness, and Here’s How I Had (And Coped) with Workplace Anxiety.