Feeling comfortable and safe at home is a priority for anyone but even more for someone who lives abroad. When we move to a new country our brain constantly tries to decode new signals coming from the environment that surrounds us: a new language, a different temperature and level of humidity, unknown scents and noises, everything seems to activate our receptors! That’s why our home becomes the place where we can relax and regenerate, where we can cultivate our traditions and culture while exploring the new ones.
Different researches show that the environment we live in deeply affects our mood and lifestyle and for this reason Home Design can become a powerful tool to cope with cross cultural challenges and set the tone of the adaption and integration process.
Working mainly with Expat families, and being an Expat myself, helped me come up with a couple of ideas to design your new Home in your new country.
The international motivational Coach, Marie Forleo, is renown for her mantra “Everything is figureoutable!”, try as much as possible to keep a positive mindset although homesickness and bureaucracy may make it challenging, specially at the beginning. Nesting in our new home is absolutely essential to handle, psychologically and emotionally, the culture shock of living away, no matter how beautiful the new surroundings are.
Although your home is extremely precious, don’t refrain yourself from going out and explore your new neighborhood and city. Try to identify the daily routines you used to enjoy before moving and, if possible, recreate them in the new country. Look for the gym, the supermarket, the church, the library, whatever you’ll need to feel settled.
Try to unpack as soon as possible, giving a specific place to all your stuff will bring you a sense of belonging in your new Home. Try to avoid to leave areas of your house unfinished or boxes unopened. I once worked with a client who stored under the stairs 8 big cartons of books, she confessed that she brought these boxes with her during 4 different moves without ever opening them, when we finally dealt with them together she realized that she wasn’t interested anymore in the books that were in!
Making a hole in a wall generally scares a lot, we immediately think about the expenses we will have to cover when we’ll leave our home, but nothing makes a room cold like a big bare wall. A simple poster, a couple of pictures and postcards will completely change the energy of the room and you’ll feel surrounded by things that make you smile.
Exploring the new country will inevitably expose yourself to new objects, textiles, colors that you’ll feel attracted to. The Expat Life will deeply transform you and your home: you won’t completely identify any more with you original culture but of course not even with the new one, you’ll be just in between.
I’ve visited many Expats’ homes and it’s always interesting to admire Asian, African or South American artifacts decorating contemporary western furniture, I can assure you that every time it’s a beautiful discovery as it’s the truest expression of the identity and lifestyle of the people living in.
Consider the decoration of your home an excuse to go out and explore your new city and its shops, galleries and artisans; this is my favorite part of the expatriation, having the chance of knowing the real soul of my new town!
Don’t forget where you come from, it’s part of you! When you pack before moving, don’t forget to bring with you a couple of things that brings you Joy, it can be anything … pictures of your family, your favorite book,… objects are not only decorative or functional, they have also a deep emotional meaning.
While embracing the new culture, you’ll appreciate even more small rituals of your own country, for many Food is on top of the list, immediately followed by Music!
When we rent a house we generally trust our gut and the positive emotions that this new place brings us against other alternatives we might have visited.
Light plays a huge role on our well being and if you move to another latitude of the world you might not immediately consider the differences with what you were used to. Make your new home as much bright as possible by playing with the colors and textures. Consider investing in new electric bulbs that will make you feel energized and happy!
Get fresh with a good deep cleaning! It’s a way to mark your territory and start a new chapter for your home. You may consider adding a plant or fresh flowers to inaugurate your new space.
We said that feeling safe, cozy and relaxed in fundamental when we move to another country, invest in a couple of cushions, a fluffy rug, a super soft bed spread, or in anything that you associate to the emotions you want to live in your home. Most of the time we focus on how we want our home to look, when actually the most important question is how we want how home to feel.
Embrace the differences and don’t be afraid to experiment with local patterns and colors. Welcoming the new culture in your home is the best way to not feel out of the world when you go out there!