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Roshnara Corby 2020-3-12

How to support family living abroad

This article was created in partnership with Western Union.

Although there are many reasons to emigrate — career opportunities tend to top the list, alongside study abroad programs — making the move requires adjusting to life in a new, and perhaps foreign, country. This can be a tricky process that comes with a number of concerns, both financial and otherwise.

How can you draw on your own experiences to best support family living abroad?

Dealing with culture shock

When a loved one decides to go live abroad, it’s important to acknowledge and address how they may be affected by culture shock, a well-recognised phenomena that affects people transitioning to an environment different from the one they were raised in.

Lonely Planet describes the four distinct phases of culture shock: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and adaptation. Newcomers typically face problems like language issues, information overload, homesickness, a technology gap and a lack of local contacts.

People adapt to new environments at different rates, making it difficult to predict how your family member will be affected. Before their departure, you can help them prepare by reading up on local customs, looking into language learning options and supporting them with any necessary administrative tasks. Let them know that it is totally normal to feel homesick or even a bit overwhelmed. This is natural and will improve with time.

Meeting new people

The best way to embrace a new culture is to experience it firsthand. This can, however, be a challenge for new arrivals who are isolated from friends and family and who lack local networks. The good news is that there are many things you can do to help your loved one meet new people — even when you aren’t there with them.

Help your relative think about the hobbies they love at home and how they could be transposed to a new setting. Whether they’re into arts and crafts, singing, reading or sport, there’s a good chance that their new city offers local clubs that will help them get out of the house and make new acquaintances. Even if they’re not the sporty type, remind them that exercise is both a great way to make new friends and boost your mental health, easing some of the symptoms of culture shock.

Finding work abroad

While many people emigrate to take advantage of a job offer, others book their plane ticket with the intention of seeking employment after they’re settled in. Before their departure, help your relative assess their education and experience, clarify their expectations and prepare a CV both in their native language and the language of their new country. Help them identify any skills that may be particularly sought-after in their new home, such as their language abilities.

In just about any place in the world, networking is an important aspect of finding a new job. Think long and hard about any contacts, including friends of friends, you may know in your relative’s destination of choice who may be able to help them in their job search.

Budgeting for life in a new country

A move abroad is an exciting process, but it can come with its share of financial challenges. Encourage your loved one to prepare for their move by setting up a relocation budget and researching the cost of living in their new home. A comprehensive relocation budget should include initial airfares, rent (including temporary accommodation for the first month or so), utilities, transportation and food. At the same time, help your relative think of ways to make extra cash while searching for a more permanent job. Options can include freelancing, babysitting and tutoring.

Once you’ve estimated their relocation budget, the World Bank explains how to carefully consider how much financial support you can afford to give your relative, especially if you are one of the many French residents who are supporting family in their country of origin. It’s a good idea to research solutions that allow you to transfer funds abroad with minimal hassle, such as the Western Union® mobile app, which enables you to swiftly send money to more than 200 different countries. With financial concerns out of the way, your loved one will be free to focus on their new life abroad.

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