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.

Ask a missionary…

One of the hardest aspects I have found with being abroad is the relationships with those back at home. There are often awkward attempts either way but sometimes it feel like attempts to communicate fall flat. I’ve think I’ve identified one of the problems.

I’ve often invited others to ask questions about life in Cambodia, but either I get asked the same questions (“What do you miss most…?” “Cheese.”) or they’re hard to answer (“What flowers are in bloom at the moment?” “Er… the pink ones.”) or just silence. I think a part of the problem is knowing what questions to ask. So, I thought I’d help. I’ve also given them a chilli rating on how spicy the questions and possible answers are. One chilli 🌶 is the basics (they’re possibly things you should know already, but it’s worth checking if you don’t know.) Two chillis 🌶🌶 gets a bit more detail. Three chillis 🌶🌶🌶 are more personal and could give rise to painful answers. They could also reveal some of the failings or difficulties the missionary is facing. If you are a very close, you can go in for the deep three chillis 🌶🌶🌶 but perhaps otherwise stick to the one or two chillis. Also, this is not meant to be a hard-and-fast interview. Your aim is not to go through the list and tick them off. These are ideas to help start the conversation.

Where they live

  • Where do you live? 🌶
  • How would you describe your neighbourhood / village/ city / area? 🌶 – 🌶 🌶
  • What is your favourite thing about your area? 🌶🌶
  • What amenities or resources do you have close access to? 🌶
  • What problems are there in your area? 🌶🌶
  • What grieves you about the area where you live? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How should I pray for where you live? 🌶🌶
  • What is your house/accommodation like? 🌶
  • What’s your favourite thing about your accommodation? 🌶
  • What would you change about your accommodation? 🌶🌶
  • What daily hassles or frustrations do you have with your accommodation? 🌶🌶
  • Who do you live with? 🌶
  • What are they like? 🌶🌶
  • How do they bring you joy? 🌶🌶
  • What relational problems are there between you and those you live with? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can you serve those you live with better? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for those you live with? 🌶🌶
  • Who are your neighbours? 🌶
  • What are they like? 🌶🌶
  • What type of relationships do you have with your neighbours? 🌶🌶 – 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can you better serve your neighbours? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for your neighbours? 🌶🌶

Out and about

  • How do you travel about? 🌶
  • Describe a typical journey. 🌶🌶
  • Do you feel safe when you travel? 🌶🌶
  • How often do you go out for leisure? 🌶
  • What is there to do where you live? 🌶
  • What do you do to relax? 🌶
  • Tell me about your ideal day off. 🌶🌶
  • Where are your favourite places to visit? Why? 🌶🌶
  • Where would you like to visit? Why would you like to go there? 🌶🌶
  • What activity do you hope to do? Why do you wish to do that? 🌶🌶
  • What place did you find the most interesting or rewarding? Why was that? 🌶🌶
  • What activities would you like to do but can’t? 🌶🌶 How does that make you feel? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What do the locals do when they have free time? 🌶
  • What is your opinion of how locals spend their free time? 🌶🌶 – 🌶🌶🌶
  • Do you feel bored or stressed where you are? If so, how could you change this? 🌶🌶
  • What unhealthy habits do you have when it comes to spending your free time? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Are you stewarding your money wisely? 🌶🌶🌶

Daily life and healthy routines

  • What is your daily routine? 🌶
  • How is this routine similar to that back at home? 🌶🌶
  • How is this routine different to that back at home? 🌶🌶
  • What do you eat most days? 🌶🌶
  • Do you have a good work / relaxation balance? 🌶🌶
  • Do you eat healthily? 🌶🌶
  • Have you been well? 🌶🌶
  • What has prevented you from being healthy at the moment? 🌶🌶
  • What common illnesses or health problems are there in your country? 🌶🌶
  • What daily challenges do you face? 🌶🌶
  • Are you exercising regularly? 🌶🌶
  • Are you sleeping well? 🌶🌶
  • What changes to your routine could you make to help you stay well and healthy? 🌶🌶🌶

Their work

  • What do you do? 🌶
  • Where do you work? 🌶
  • How do you get to work? What is that journey like? 🌶 -🌶🌶
  • Tell me about your average day. 🌶🌶
  • Describe your place of work. 🌶🌶
  • What is your favourite thing about your job? 🌶
  • What is your biggest frustration about your job? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What is a daily challenge you face in your job? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Do you enjoy your work, overall? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How does your work make you feel about yourself? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Do you work with locals, foreigners, Christians, non-Christians? 🌶 Do you like this set up? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Who are your colleagues?🌶
  • What positive relationships do you have at your job?🌶🌶
  • What relational problems do you have at your job?🌶🌶🌶
  • How can you resolve any problems or issues you are facing?🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for you as you do your work?🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for where you work and those you work with? 🌶🌶

Host culture

  • What is your predominant host culture (the culture that they now live in, which is not their own culture)? 🌶
  • Tell me something about what you’ve learnt about your host culture. 🌶
  • What do you like most about your host culture? 🌶🌶
  • What has surprised you most about your host culture? 🌶🌶
  • What advice would you give to those visiting to your country about your host culture? 🌶🌶
  • How is your own culture and the host culture similar? 🌶🌶
  • What differences have you found it easy to adjust to? 🌶🌶
  • How integrated do you feel with your host culture? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What barriers are there for you feeling a part of your host culture? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Have you experienced culture shock yet? What do you think contributed to it? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What conflicts are there between your cultural background and your host culture? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Where might your perspective have to change in order to understand your host culture better? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Where are there Biblical conflicts with your host culture? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What does your host culture do that you feel is in line with Biblical values? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Which language / languages are you having to learn? 🌶🌶
  • How is language learning going? 🌶🌶
  • What have been the biggest successes in your language learning journey? 🌶🌶
  • What challenges have you faced in language learning? 🌶🌶
  • How do you feel about language learning? 🌶🌶

The country

  • Where is the country? 🌶
  • What climate does it have? 🌶
  • How have you adjusted to the climate? 🌶🌶
  • What are the cities like? 🌶🌶 What is the countryside like? 🌶🌶
  • What sites do you enjoy in the country? 🌶🌶
  • What animals are there in your country? 🌶
  • How do you and the locals live alongside these animals? 🌶🌶
  • What seasons are there? 🌶
  • What new things to enjoy does each season bring? 🌶🌶
  • What new challenges does each season bring? 🌶🌶
  • Where are the top tourist places to visit? 🌶🌶
  • What is the food like? 🌶🌶
  • Tell me a bit about it’s recent history. 🌶🌶
  • How do most people make a living? 🌶🌶
  • What struggles to local people face in their lives? 🌶🌶
  • What problems are (somewhat) unique to the country? 🌶🌶
  • How can we pray for the country? 🌶🌶

Relationships

  • How do you maintain relationships with those back home? 🌶🌶
  • Do you have Christian friends in your host country? 🌶🌶
  • Do you have local friends in your host country? 🌶🌶
  • How are you relationships with family / spouses etc. who you live with? 🌶🌶
  • Do you feel like you have meaningful connections with others? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Have you formed any unhealthy dependent relationships? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you make sure your strong relationships include rather than isolate others? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Are you lonely? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What causes you to struggle with maintaining relationships with those back at home? 🌶🌶🌶
  • Do you feel listened to and understood by those back at home? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can you improve your situation in terms of relationships? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How can I pray for you, your friends, your family, etc. ? 🌶🌶🌶

Faith

  • What answers to prayers have you had recently? 🌶🌶
  • What encouraging news do you have for those praying for you? 🌶🌶
  • What has God been teaching you recently? 🌶🌶
  • How regularly are you praying? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How regularly are you reading the Bible? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What are you reading in the Bible at the moment? 🌶🌶
  • How can you apply what you have been reading to your situation? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How regularly do you worship with other believers? 🌶🌶
  • Which church / churches do you attend? 🌶
  • How do you serve the churches you attend? 🌶🌶
  • How could you serve them better? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you feel about your faith at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you feel towards God at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you feel towards Christians at home and supporters at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • How do you feel about your calling at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What is bringing you anxiety, grief or pain in your faith at the moment? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What can you do to change this? 🌶🌶🌶
  • What can we pray for? 🌶🌶 – 🌶🌶🌶

If I ever get around to it, I might make videos answering some of these questions and the questions on my a million questions post.