Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The definitive guide to moving abroad and whether it's right for you

Social Integration

This is a preview to the chapter Social Integration from the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Paul Allen.
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“If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.” – Samuel Johnson, English writer and lexicographer (1709-84)

Emigrating is not just a physical relocation; it’s a psychological one too.

It’s one thing to move abroad. It’s another to live there. To make the change successful, your new destination truly has to become your home from home. And that means integrating. Or as the three A’s mantra goes: adjust, adapt, accept.

It’s OK to miss aspects of the life you had in your country of origin. Indeed it’s only natural. For instance, a recent NatWest Quality of Life Report found that 35 percent of the British expats it surveyed missed the UK’s traditions and culture, 27 percent missed the sense of humour, and 9 percent missed the pub. Were they surveyed I’d imagine most nationalities would say similar things – that they miss particular traditions of their home country, especially around the holiday seasons, and certain idiosyncrasies of the way of life.

For me, it is small things like getting decent tea (which we get family to bring over from England whenever they make the trip). I’m sure everyone has their own particular touchstones.

But if, deep down, you’re forever hankering for your favourite local drinking hole, twisting lanes and green fields, or whatever it may be, then you’re unlikely to be happy in your new location. And happiness is the key to making your venture a success.

It’s for this reason that I’ve heard people advised against keeping on a property in their home country. I can’t say for sure how important that is, having not owned a place in England when we decided to move. I can see the logic though.

Psychologically, having a home to go back to keeps you with at least one foot still in your homeland. It also gives you an escape route. That may sound like a good thing. The sensible option even. But it has a way of tying you to your old life, physically and mentally.

It’s like the story of Tariq ibn Ziyad, the general who led the initial Moorish conquest of Iberia in 711 AD. According to history, Tariq ordered his troops to burn their boats once they’d landed in Spain. That way there was nowhere to run: they either succeeded in their battle for conquest or they died.

Fortunately you won’t be faced with such an extreme measure. What you do need to do when becoming an expatriate though is embrace your new country and life.

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