A Boy in Bonn: How to Land on Your Feet When Moving Abroad

Moving to a new city is equally exciting and anxiety-inducing, especially if it’s in a new country. Liam Heitmann-Rice shares some tips on how to make it easier.


After the breathless thrill of clicking the ‘confirm button’ of your online flight booking, once thoughts turn to what you’ll need to bring with you and what you want to see and eat and drink in your new destination, you’ll soon have to deal with the smaller challenges of day-to-day life.

mika-baumeister-UW4aWg0_1dM-unsplash(Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash)

The first big obstacle is going to be finding an apartment – which you can do with the many Facebook pages offering open rooms, or that Germany-wide favourite, WG-Gesucht.

Once that’s out of the way, there are logistical hassles such as working out the best way to get to work / the train station / supermarket (or wherever else it is you need to be), and which bus timetable you’ll need to familiarize yourself with. And on top of this, the language barrier is going to make life just that little bit more confusing than it is already. You find yourself getting lost linguistically as well as geographically – you can ask for directions, but what if you don’t understand the answer?

marius-vach-1KK81NhUYT4-unsplash(Photo by Marius Vach on Unsplash)

But of course the value of this lies in learning how to orientate yourself when removed from a familiar environment. As much as a comfort blanket can become a straitjacket, remaining in safe, known territory can impede your ability to step out into the unknown with stable footing.

But before gaining this sense of balance on mysterious terrain, you will need to undergo a kind of cultural acclimatization: you must learn how things are done in your new home, and specifically how people do it. Depending on the distance traveled, the culture shock experienced by some expats can be lead to some stressful situations.

mika-baumeister--ybMBQiRM-k-unsplash(Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash)

Give yourself time to do nothing

A good solution to the difficulty of finding a community – or a way to make peace with initial feelings of loneliness – is to go for a walk, or undertake some other meditative activity. Much of Bonn is situated along the Rhein, so there is plenty of opportunity to reflect on your journey as you gaze out across the water. In the evenings, the reflections of the buildings on the other side of the river look especially beautiful on the smooth swift currents.

Bonn4(Photo by Liam Heitmann-Rice)

Another ideal destination is the Hofgarten, situated behind the University, which is the enormous, yellow Hogwartz-looking building. The park there is a wonderful expanse of green grass, bordered by a dense growth of trees that become ablaze with colour in the autumn months. It is a fabulous spot for daydreaming and leaf-kicking, and you can take some stellar photographs as the sunlight streams through the crisp green, yellow and red foliage.

Bonn1(Photo by Liam Heitmann-Rice)

Be nice to yourself first – others will follow suit

When you first move to a new place, you are going to be spending a little bit of time on your own, so it’s important that you learn to enjoy your own company. It can be a challenge to find the people you really gel with, and you should try not to force a friendship into being – these kinds of connections are best nurtured in their own time, so you need to have a bit of patience.

Don’t beat yourself up too much. You will find your place here, and a small circle of friends will eventually appear and comfortably grow around you. Just remember that you have taken the leap to a new country, where you may not know anybody, nor very much of the language – always keep in mind that this was not an easy decision to make.

Bonn3(Photo by Liam Heitmann-Rice)

Be proud of yourself for stepping out, and remember that plenty of others have been in your shoes and you will probably find them by following their footsteps. There are plenty of expat-friendly websites, such as Couchsurfing or Meetup – and even a few Bonn expat Facebook groups – so there’s no reason to be on your own for too long.


Give yourself time to find the people to whom you most strongly connect, and remember that what you’re doing is incredible. Keep your chin up, and keep your eyes on the horizon ahead of you. The best things take time, and they’re almost always worth it.

Liam is a creative writing graduate currently working in Germany, soon to return home to Western Australia later this year. Read more of his work 



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