If you’re planning some big changes for 2018 and moving abroad is one of them, you’re probably feeling a combination of excitement and anxiety as the new year gets closer and closer. Living overseas can be an extremely fulfilling experience, and definitely the best way to open your eyes to new cultures and ways of life. But moving abroad for the first time can also be a stressful experience if you’re not quite sure what to expect. Don’t worry, we’re here to help ease the way for you with these great tips for first-time expats!
“The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.”
During your first months in another country you’ll probably experience a whirlwind of exciting new things. The downside is that you’ll most likely face some severe feelings of isolation too. After all, you’re going through a steep learning curve as you try to adapt to a new lifestyle, all the while not having your usual foundation of family and friends to fall back on when things get tough. As soon as you arrive in your new country of residence (and after you sleep off the jetlag, of course), force yourself to get out and meet locals and other expats. These days the Web makes it very easy to meet new friends no matter where you go in the world, and if you take the time to do a little research you’ll discover tons of local meet-ups where you can socialize with people who share your interests or are expats like you. The quickest way to break free of the expat isolation cave is to get out and talk!
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“Such is the nature of an expatriate life. Stripped of romance, perhaps that’s what being an expat is all about: a sense of not wholly belonging.”
One of the most important things to remember as a newbie expat is that most things about your life will change. Go easy on yourself and be sure to approach the expat experience at your own pace. Everyone learns at a different rate, and just because Erika Expat learned how to speak the local language in less than a year and figured out the transportation system in a single day doesn’t mean you have to do that too. Getting lost, struggling with local transport, and using the wrong phrase when speaking the language are all a normal part of being a first-time expat in a new country. Try not to allow yourself to get embarrassed when you make a mistake and instead learn from it and move on. You’ll figure it all out eventually, and then you can look back on the days when you were green and laugh.
“When abroad, boredom, routine and ‘normal’ cease to exist. And all that’s left is the thrill and challenge of uncertainty.”
As an expat you’ll develop a thicker skin and will soon discover that you don’t embarrass as easily as you used to. While adjusting to your overseas lifestyle, you’ll open yourself up to strange and wonderful experiences and become much more flexible in the process. This means that learning or trying something completely outside your comfort zone is no longer as big of a stretch! Find an activity in your destination country that you’ve never done before, and get involved. This can be anything from dragon boating in Taiwan, to hiking in Sweden, to cooking classes in France, the list goes on and on. Not only will you challenge yourself intellectually, physically, and emotionally, but it also opens up the door to meeting new people who enjoy doing these activities too.
“Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once.”
During my years of moving around the world I’ve discovered one very practical tip that always helps me to stave off the loneliness bug and jump straight into the local life, and that is to always make sure to live in a busy part of whatever town or city I’m in. While this may seem like an odd bit of advice, it actually makes a lot of sense. Living out in the suburbs can lead to isolation and makes it difficult to socialize and meet people. It’s also tricky because you don’t tend to get to know the city itself very well if you’re living on the outskirts. At least in the beginning, opt for staying somewhere central and once you’ve made friends and feel at home in whatever city you’re living in, make a call on whether or not you want to move further away.
Do you have any tips for first-time expats in a new country? Share some of your advice with us!