It's a paradoxical feeling—moving countries is both exciting and nerve-wracking. On one hand is the promise of a new home, new friends, new surroundings but the logistics, the paperwork and well...starting a whole new life can seem daunting. What's interesting is that the general conversation around moving is rather lopsided—no one really talks about the challenges, do they?
Talking from personal experience, I can vouch for two things: moving is a lot of hard work, and whether you like the move or not is completely dependant on your state of mind. There are a few things I did as part of my checklist of moving to the UK, and there are a few things I recommend you do before moving, in case you haven't done or thought about them already.
1. Prepare yourself mentally
It's a drastic change—the food, environment, people, faces and landscape isn't the same, and in the process, you can seem to even undergo a sense of identity crisis. In a situation like this, I suggest you take some time off and learn more about the city you're moving to, and find things you know you'll like to do and indulge in. The internet can be a wonderful place to connect with like-minded people. Start reaching out to common contacts, write to people who are in the same industry as you, make connections and plans so that when you move to the UK, you already have plans and a packed social schedule. This comes in handy during those days when all the unpacking and settling in is done. Restarting and reintroducing yourself to people is tough but try to keep a positive outlook. If the shift is giving you a lot of anxiety, I highly recommend seeing a therapist, before you move. Talking and seeking mental help will be beneficial in the long run.
2. Get your documents in order
It's pretty easy to find all the information you need on websites but I suggest you start your spadework a few months in advance. This is because due to the pandemic, everything is uncertain; and visa offices open and close as per the changing government orders. Don't wait till the last minute to apply for your visa, or schedule those health checkups. Thankfully India is on the green list to the UK, which means that those who are fully vaccinated (15 days must have elapsed since the completion of COVID-19 vaccination schedule to be considered as fully vaccinated) do not need to quarantine. Travellers who are not or partially vaccinated need to do a COVID-19 test at arrival, and quarantine for 7 days. A convenient idea would be to buy the home test kits and keep them at home, for all future PRC tests.
3. Don't hoard food
It's rather common for most Indians to carry their entire kitchen around with them when they travel! But what they forget is that Indians are spread across the world, and chances are, that any city you live in will have at least one Indian store that keeps all the food, spices and even snacks that you love. Plus, there are Indian restaurants and food services available in every town. My advice would be to not lug all the kitchen utility and food items but perhaps carry only small, zip lock bags of food you think you may need during your quarantine. Ready-to-eat food, a few spices (I've been told the quality of red chilli powder is better in India), and maybe one utensil to cook in should be sufficient.
Note: Make sure you check your airline baggage capacity. Every flight has different rules. In British Airways we were allowed to carry 34 kilos per person.
4. A few select items are good
A few art prints, family pictures, and your favourite book should be good enough to get you started. I was actually advised by a friend to carry my regular coffee mug to the UK only because when you move to a new country, it is these small things that truly help you not feel alienated. Seeing a familiar item kept inside a new surrounding helps you feel grounded and still connected to your old life.
Note: I carried a small bag of pens, pencils, a ruler, a set of envelopes, a marker pen, a small scissor, an inch-tape, cello tape, a notebook, and a stapler with me to the UK, and immediately found that helpful. During your time in the quarantine, when you don't have access to a store, these small yet highly significant things suddenly become important.
5. Leave some (or most) clothes behind
Most of us aren't prepared for the UK winter—nor are our wardrobes. While it's great that most of us have well-stocked wardrobes, it's still best to carry a few warm jackets and sweaters and buy the rest when you are in the UK. That's because many Indian stores do not retail real fleece jackets, that can truly sustain the December to February snow, sleet, and cold rains. It's also better to buy fleece stockings from the UK but a few Kashmiri shawls, a beanie, a select few sweaters, and maybe two pairs of walking shoes should be sufficient to bring along. In my experience, it's best to buy boots in the UK too, as Indian boots aren't made for the slippery, wet weather of the UK.
Note: The best way to pack all the bulky winter wear is to put them in vacuum seal bags. These bags (that can be bought online) will drain all the air out of the bags and make them stiff and flat—ideal for packing inside suitcases.
6. Once you're there
Spend a few weeks setting up—remember, you don't have the luxury of a car and taxis are expensive. It takes time to get all the things in order. My advice would be to not book an apartment without seeing it first. The UK real estate agents can be a little notorious and may show you images that could be misleading. Perhaps shortlist some places, spend a few extra days in an Airbnb or hotel, take a look at the space first before you sign the contract. Once you've signed it, you cannot get the broker or the homeowner to make any changes or undertake any cleaning activities.
7. Explore the city and or volunteer
For those who don't already have a job in the new city, I advise you to sign up for walking tours, cycling tours, or activities. The UK is completely open, and it's possible to resume normalcy (I do advise you to keep your mask on at all times). Make sure you have something to do every day else it's easy to lose your sanity in a strange, big, new city. Also, it's easy to find work if not a job. LinkedIn and The Dots list plenty of part-time jobs that could keep you busy. There are several event websites in the UK that also inform netizens about new openings and places they can volunteer at. And if nothing else, you could contact the Indian High Commission who will keep you abreast with the Indian events taking place in the city.
8. Make the most of it
Finally, the best way to settle in a new land is to embrace it, truly. It's futile to draw comparisons between India and the UK—they're both wonderful and they're both so different. Make the most of your time here and try to find your own niche, your own comfort zone, and your own sweet spot.