Life abroad can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially if you are a first-time expat. To make the transition run more smoothly, I have collected 13 essential expat tips from our experience and from other expats that will help you settle in quickly and comfortably to your new location.
Table of Contents
- 1. Learn the language
- 2. Embrace the unfamiliar
- 3. But also stick to your traditions (and holidays)
- 4. Create small “rituals” to stay connected with your family
- 5. Get to know the locals
- 6. Connect with people from your home country
- 7. Set attainable goals and create definitive plans
- 8. Adjust your money goals depending on your destination country
- 9. Save money to go back home
- 10. Get access to quality healthcare and other services
- 11. Take the citizenship of your new country
- 12. Enjoy your new country
- 13. Accept that you will always be seen as an expat
- Let’s wrap the best expat tips
1. Learn the language
It may seem difficult, especially if a different alphabet is involved. But learning to communicate rapidly is ESSENTIAL to your adaptation process.
There are many different ways to learn a new language faster, especially if you are an expat. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned (that helped me learn 2 new languages in less than 3 months) is to take a course for foreigners when it applies, or don’t be afraid and throw yourself and start to communicate with the locals.
Often people are scared of making mistakes, but let me tell you this: no one cares about them. On the contrary, most people will be happy to help you. They may even find your accent charming!
2. Embrace the unfamiliar
Life as an expatriate can be a lot of fun. But it’s important to understand the differences between your home culture and that of your destination country. Being aware of cultural differences can make settling in much easier.
From customs and holidays to values and language. Familiarize yourself with the new nuances before you commit to moving abroad so you know what to expect when living overseas.
Be sure to keep a culturally sensitive attitude while living abroad, it will help you build relationships and make your stay more enjoyable! Don’t be discouraged by how different things are from what you are used to. You can take this as an opportunity to learn and explore!
Also, it’s very important not to compare your current location with your home country, as this will only cause stress and homesickness. Instead, take this chance to gain a deeper understanding of your new surroundings.
Appreciate your new lifestyle!
3. But also stick to your traditions (and holidays)
While learning about your new country’s costumes, don’t forget who you are. Celebrate your traditions and holidays even if people around you will not necessarily understand. It’s part of your identity and you must stay true to yourself.
This also will give you another benefit. People around will be curious or attracted in return by your habits and traditions. Take the chance to exchange with them.
Need an idea that may attract people around you? Food! You can’t imagine the times I’ve heard the phrase “Oh you are Italian? I love your cuisine. Can you make me a risotto/pizza/tiramisu?” Take the chance to invite them for an atelier or a homemade lunch dinner.
4. Create small “rituals” to stay connected with your family
In an era where everything is digital, this can be very easy, and fun. Watching movies, playing online games together (like on board game arena), or cooking (we do that a lot with my mother in law).
Thanks to video call you can do so many things together with your family, even when there is 8.000 km dividing you! Create your small routine to make sure you are still sharing moments as a family.
Of course, you can do this also with your dearest friends if they are open to it. But don’t be disappointed if you see that they will get distant. Long distance friendships don’t work always, unfortunately.
5. Get to know the locals
One of the best ways to get used to living in a new country is to make an effort to get to know the locals. Establishing connections with people who can help you navigate this brand new experience is invaluable.
And remember the 1st point, this will also help you get fluent faster.
Ask your neighbors, colleagues, or acquaintances for recommendations on where to shop, eat and explore. You may even find yourself making valuable friendships along the way!
6. Connect with people from your home country
Joining an expat group is one of the best ways to make settling in a new country easier. They will provide you with helpful tips, advice, and support from people who have shared similar experiences.
In addition to this, you will also understand faster what it’s like to be an expat abroad. Expat groups can also provide a social outlet, allowing you to build connections with people from your home country.
But, yes there is one, even though connecting with fellow expats is great, it may slow you down when it comes to language learning or even getting used faster to your new country’s traditions and customs. So try to mix connecting with expats and locals equally.
7. Set attainable goals and create definitive plans
When you’re living abroad, it can be daunting to think about all the things you need to do to adjust to living in a new country or environment.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, create goals for yourself that are attainable and make plans to actually achieve them. Make a list of tasks you want to complete after settling in so that you have a definitive plan.
This may help ease some of the stress that comes with transitioning into a different lifestyle abroad.
8. Adjust your money goals depending on your destination country
It is important to understand that the cost of living and income potential may fluctuate depending on the country. Be realistic when setting financial goals while abroad, and always select a destination where you are likely to make more money than you spend.
If possible, calculate all expenses including healthcare, in advance and plan your budget around it. Try to save as much money as possible in preparation for costly surprises!
Are you considering French Guiana for a living? In this blog post, I break down our monthly budget.
9. Save money to go back home
Between all the new expenses you will have, it’s easy to forget to save money. Even so, add a line to your monthly budget and save some money for your trips back home.
If you are lucky it will be just a few hours’ flight. In other cases, like mine, saving for a trip home means several €€€€. Between the long haul flight, the hotel, and our second flight, the budget go high really fast. Often for us going home means we will have to choose between that dream place on our bucket list or our family. That’s really difficult, especially for travel lovers!
Do not feel guilty about not choosing always your family over vacation. It’s a good decision to make or you will end up feeling resentful for not having the possibility to travel elsewhere.
10. Get access to quality healthcare and other services
It is important to familiarize yourself with the healthcare system in your new country, as not all medical services are the same everywhere. Research what kind of coverage you will have and make sure you are aware of any paperwork that needs to be done before leaving your home country.
Additionally, take time to look into other necessary services like public transportation, banking, and phone/internet providers so that you are prepared when you move.
11. Take the citizenship of your new country
Unlike the other actions on this list, this is a more “advanced” expat tip. Many countries require between 3 and 5 years on their ground before you get to apply for citizenship. But once you can you should go for it!
Why? It’s simple, there are many benefits after obtaining your new country’s citizenship. The most important? Administrative papers! You can get all your documents from the country you are living in without having to worry about rushing to administration offices during your home vacations.
And you get to vote!
Last and very particular case, you will get access to some classified jobs. Like national security, or offices that deal with secret related documents. What if you want to be your new country’s James Bond?! 😉
12. Enjoy your new country
Eventually, you will get to love your new country after a relatively short period, and finally, you will feel at home! Everything will look familiar and you will finally create your new routine.
Even though you should not forget from time to time, to look at your expat country with “new eyes”. Be in awe of the diversity of your city/country. For me, it will be observing the incredible lush Amazonian Forest, or watching a rocket launch (you can never get used to that, I promise, even after +80 launches).
Just remember why you fell in love with this new place, what caught your eye…
13. Accept that you will always be seen as an expat
No matter how fluent you will get, how much you will progress in your career, or if you marry a local.
You will ALWAYS be an expat.
And that’s perfectly fine. After all, you are you, and that is what makes you unique, and stand out from the rest. Take pride in your story and origins. Expats are brave people who decided to defy the unknown and throw themselves into new challenges.
We are awesome! 😛
Let’s wrap the best expat tips
Wherever you are in your expat experience, stay true to yourself and enjoy what you are doing! It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will give you so much value!
I really hope you found these expat tips valuable for you and that they will help you to settle down faster. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or message me on Instagram. For more expat topics and tips, check out our Expat Life section where we collect everything we have learned along our expat journey.
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