Moving abroad skills/preparedness audit

Life in Cambodia can be wildly different to life in the UK. There are different routines, considerations and skills needed in order to survive. There is so much I have learnt to do and there are also many skills I know I’m lacking. If I had the opportunity to do more research, receive more training or practise some skills before I came it may could have made quite a bit of difference and I wouldn’t feel quite at a loss at some points. These just cover the basics; I will probably write another one about cultural integration and awareness. Also, if you enjoy this post but haven’t read my A Million Questions post about learning about a new country, you might find that interesting too.

Health

  • Are your vaccines up-to-date?
  • Do you know your blood type?
  • Do you know the locations of the nearest/best hospitals where you will be living?
  • Have you checked whether you can get hold of any medication you need?
  • Have you researched potential threats to health (e.g. malaria, dengue, Zika virus, parasites)?
  • Do you know how to prevent mosquito bites, insect bites and other local risks to health?
  • What foods are safe to eat and what should be avoided? (This varies from place to place, so the blanket advice for travellers may not be applicable. For example, ice is usually fine in Cambodia!)
  • How may the change in diet or climate impact your health?
  • Have you learnt how to adjust to a different climate?
  • Have you made plans in the case of emergency medical care? Does your family know your plans?

Transport

  • What are the main types of transport in the country you are moving to?
  • Is it the same or different to what you are used to?
  • Would it be worth getting lessons before you leave? (I would have loved to have motorbike lessons before I left; I completely feel as if I’m making it all up.)
  • Do you know basic vehicle maintenance?
  • Do you know about different types, brands or models of that vehicle?
  • What public transport is available in the country?
  • What conditions will you travel in when you take public transport? How might you need to prepare for this?

Clothing

  • What clothing do you need for different seasons?
  • What clothing is available in the country? What will you need to bring more of? (For me – vests, socks and shoes)
  • What are locals’ attitudes towards different types of clothing choice? What image are you trying to convey? How do the clothes you wear convey this?
  • What clothing will be comfortable or practical for different reasons?
  • How will you keep your clothes clean?
  • Do you know how to hand wash clothes?
  • What type of clothes will you have to wear at work? What would be good to wear when out and about?
  • Can you sew?

Food

  • What are the main components of that country’s cuisine?
  • Do you know how to eat it? (For instance, I still struggle to eat fish and prawns because I didn’t eat it a lot at home.)
  • What types of fruit and vegetables are there? Do you know how to eat, prepare and cook them? (For instance, can you cut up a mango?)
  • What type of food and ingredients will be available where you are living?
  • Can you cook some simple meals just on a stove?
  • Do you know how to wash vegetables and meats in an effective and hygienic manner? (Yes, I know that probably back at home you are told not to wash meats. That advice might not apply so much where you are.)
  • Do you know how to avoid foods that you are allergic too?
  • Do you know what substitutions for different ingredients you use often can be used?

Language learning

  • Do you know which languages are used in the country and where you will be living?
  • Do you have a basic idea of language families and their features?
  • Do you know your learning style?
  • Are you aware of the International Phonetic Alphabet and its usage?
  • Are you familiar with the phonemes of your target language?
  • Have you researched language learning techniques?
  • Do you know what resources are available for your target language?
  • Do you know the pros and cons of the different resources (for example is the resource somewhat old-fashioned so now a bit offensive? Yes, FSI courses, I’m looking at you.)

Cultural adjustment

  • Have you researched some of the dos and don’ts of the culture?
  • Are you aware of culture shock, what it is and what it looks like? Have you researched reverse culture-shock?
  • Have you researched your own culture so you are aware of some of the potential pressure points? (Privacy and personal space is a large pressure point for me.)
  • Have you found out what cultures you might be working with? Have you researched them? (You might be working in an international setting. I find more extrovert and say-what-you-mean cultures more difficult than Khmer ones most the time.)

Back at home

  • Have you planned how you will stay in touch with those back at home?
  • Have you researched what methods of communication there are available?
  • Have you spoken to others about how they should communicate with you?
  • Have you scheduled regular, committed time to communicate with various people?
  • Have you considered how you will communicate with younger family members? (I’ve found regular Skype calls with little people really hard to navigate.)
  • How will you negotiate import events like Christmas? Have you reflected on how this might affect you?

Yourself

  • Have you taken time to think about how you as a person might affect your experience?
    • What do you enjoy doing in your home country?
    • What activities might be available in your new country?
    • How do you respond to stress?
    • What self-care techniques work for you?
    • What is your personality type? What Enneagram type are you? What does it say about you?
    • What are your reasons for going?
    • What do you hope to achieve?
    • How do you cope with frustrations and disappointments?
    • What bad habits should you try to deal with before you leave?
    • Where might you need to be more flexible in your thinking or world-view?
    • What stereotypes or presumptions might you need to deal with before you leave?

This is a pretty long list. A lot of it could be done with a google search or by watching a few YouTube videos. Some you might need to reflect on for longer. You may want to discuss a few with others who have lived abroad, or close friends and loved ones. I hope this list helps someone and if it does, like or comment! If I failed to add something (because these are only based on my experiences), let me know too.

Off to Cambodia

It’s about 48 days until I fly to Cambodia. (I’ve not been counting; I tried to book my insurance policy but it wouldn’t let me and told me I had to wait 18 days until I could.) That’s not long at all. That’s around six and a half weeks.

So, here are the answers to all the things you wanted to know about my trip!

Haven’t you already written a blog about this?

Well, yes. But as MI6 (who I secretly work for) thought it could expose some specific details of the operation they politely requested I take the blog down. Essentially, for one reason or another, I started the blog again. You can ask why, but you probably won’t get the truth: it makes for dull reading.

So Cambodia? That’s in South America?

No, that would be Colombia.

Africa?

You’re thinking of Cameroon or Comoros.

Asia. That’s what I thought first.

Uh huh. Sure you did. It is in Asia, between Thailand and Vietnam.

So what’s it like?

Well, I don’t know from personal experience just yet. That’s what this blog is for. I’ve heard it’s hot and tropical. It’s a poor country, ravaged by political turmoil during the twentieth century. Much of the country, however, is beautiful.

Have you got your jabs done?

Yes and no. I have got most my boosters done. I decided against getting the Japanese encephalitis vaccine due to cost and the limited likelihood of getting it. I also haven’t had my rabies vaccine. There were three reasons: the cost, I’d have to get treatment regardless of whether I got it or not, I’m in a city with a hospital. Also, I hate needles and they’re meant to be particularly painful, but that wasn’t a main reason (who am I kidding? It was the only reason). However, I’m now regretting this decision but it’s a bit too late to change it.

Last week I met someone who spent time in Vietnam and didn’t get their rabies on the same reasoning that I did. The conversation took a turn for the worse when she said, “what no one tells you is that the treatment is different if you haven’t had your jabs. If you had it done it’s just the one injection. If you haven’t had it it’s four needles, each as thick as your thumb: one in each thigh and one in each arm. I know because I got bitten by a dog. The injections were the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.” I nearly cancelled my flights then and there.

What are you doing?

Working for the secret services. In reality, I’m working for the Bridge of Hope school in Siem Reap.

For the first month or so I’ll be doing some training and language learning in Phnom Penh as well.

Where are you living?

Somewhere in Siem Reap.

What day do you actually leave?

Thursday 21st July. I fly via Amsterdam and Taipei.

How long are you there for?

A year.

What will you miss most?

I think it will be a bit of a surprise. The things you think you’ll miss you mentally guard yourself against, then I expect something really bizarre, like the look of our traffic lights, becomes something you long for (I’m sat looking out on a busy junction, which accounts for that ridiculous example).

I’ll probably miss the little people in my life. My niece is fantastic and provides a lot of joy when I get to see her. A lot of my friends have wonderful kids, and one couple has another due. It’s always a privilege to see children grow up, so I’ll be sad to miss a year of that. They’ll be so different by the time I return.

I’ll miss my year ten class a lot. I’m sad that I don’t get to see them finish their school journey and I know some of them might find it more difficult without me. It’s the only thing that has actually caused a tear. (Just the one, and no one saw it so it doesn’t count. I’m not sentimental at all).

How can I support you?

Comment on the blog! Please do. I know it sounds needy but I will really appreciate the kind words from other people, especially as the run up gets stressful and when I’m in a new and foreign country. Also, ask questions! Tell me what you want to know!