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safety

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Safety Needs - Security, Surroundings, Health

Thanks Wikimedia Commons People often talk about the difference between our pre- and post-9/11 world, and it’s true: the days where we could walk through an airport keeping our shoes and belts on are long gone. Whether you’re interested in politics or not, when moving abroad it’s a good idea to start watching the news. At least to be aware of the general history, political climate, and belief system, and their impact on the country’s culture.

For security details, you can google CIA fact files for your destination, look through Gallup crime statistics, and research information provided by local police offices.

Depending on your employer, your position, and your destination, you and your family may go through anti-abduction training. Make time in your schedules to take part in them as they may save your life.

Familiarize yourself with your new hometown’s layout and transportation options. Not all taxis may be safe to jump into, and the busses might not run during certain hours. Do you drive? Your GPS device may not always be able to connect, so make sure to carry a paper map. Once you know your way around, you can use it as wall decoration, pinning in every spot you’ve visited.

Don’t underestimate flora and fauna. I made sure I was able to tell a harmless Mexican male Black Widow spider from its more dangerous female equivalent.

This helped tremendously every time I stepped into our garden to water the plants or hang up our laundry. For the first few weeks, we also kept our shoes and boots wrapped in bags, because neighbors had warned us about scorpions nesting in the shoe-caps. Spraying chemical disinfectant at regular intervals around all windows and doors eventually made us feel calmer. This is where my need for safety trumped the otherwise ecological correctness.

All this research can still not fully prepare you for brain shock, aka culture shock. It’s emotionally challenging to live in a place where you are the obvious outsider. On the plus side, you may be more prepared for the culture shock because you are obviously different and come to expect it. It’s a lot sneakier in presumably similar countries, where everyone looks like you, but sounds and acts differently.

If you’re moving with a company, their benefits plan will guide your care options. Ideally, you’re not the first expat couple to relocate, so people who have gone before you might be able to recommend doctors once you’re there. If not, ask your colleagues and neighbors for recommendations, google the specialists, look for magazine or blogs’ top 10 lists, and visit more than one before making a decision.

Definitely have a final check-up before you leave, maybe even schedule follow-ups during strategically planned home visits. Depending on the country you move to, you may need vaccines to protect against infections. Be careful with prescription refills; while you may want to take a year’s supply, customs might stop and arrest you for intent to distribute. Investigate the regulations for the medication you use, how much you’re allowed to carry, and what the local equivalent would be.

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Repatriation dilemma

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Repatriation dilemma

One of the respondents to my repatriation survey asked: how do you deal with coming back to your home country where you're feeling internally free, although there's little financial or personal security, after having lived abroad in a safe society with opportunities for personal growth where you felt internally at un-ease?

I can relate in that I love my hometown, and I know exactly what to do, how to behave, and who I have to be. The expectations are clear, family roles are clear, it's comfortable - and incredibly boring. Every time I visit it feels like slipping into a soft pair of pajamas, they fit, they keep me warm, and hold me in a loving embrace. That feeling lasts for about three days, and then I'm longing for a pair of sneakers to go outside and feel the fresh breeze!

Living in a different place, it's like every day has different weather, and that keeps it interesting and exciting. I never know what to wear! That feeling of excitement and stimulation lasts for a long time, and only once in a while I want to catch my breath and feel that stability and loving embrace again. I can do that by flying home for a visit, or calling my family with a video conference, or even eating a favorite childhood meal.

Sticking it out in the new place, over time, the unfamiliar eventually becomes familiar. I get to add a new pair of comfortable pajamas to the collection, and even though they're never going to be like that old pair I love, they are a sign of my personal growth and experiences I'm blessed and proud to have made.

Dear re-patriates: you're taking yourself with you everywhere you go.

I invite you to take a moment to identify what it is that makes you feel safe and secure and at ease and free where you are now. I agree, it's a paradox and perplexing to feel free in a place with high crime and corruption, and trying to understand it without seeing a solution can be very frustrating. Once you know what it is that makes you feel free, maybe you can brainstorm some ways to make those things portable and take them with you to another external environment where you can feel externally safe and secure and happy and fulfilled, too.

Have you re-patriated back "home" after a time abroad? What's it like for you to be back? How do you cope with the feelings of having outgrown it all, or did you slip right back into that pajama?

Image by Elizabeth Rose Sharpe, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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