Moving to a new country will challenge you, that’s an inevitability you must embrace before you begin your expat life. You will feel uncomfortable and confused, but also awed and inspired. Expat life is a wild ride! The goal is to find your footing when you land and then to make your experience a wonderful one.
As a serial female expat, I’ve noticed some consistent traits regardless of my destination. From personal experience, here are some actionable tips to facilitate your transition into expat life.
Practical Tips for Finding Your Footing
For me, having a community of girlfriends nearby is vitally important. It’s as important as overall safety and I’ve learned that I don’t feel settled without that group welcome. If you’re like me, take these steps so you’re ready to jump right into your expat life upon arrival.
Tip #1: Research, Research, Research
Exploit the absolute wealth of information available online and learn everything you can to feel better prepared.
Research your destination beyond the tourist level. Learn about local holidays, grocery stores, and banking. These are the things that make up a life – not the “Top 5 Can’t-Miss Sites” for a whirlwind tourist.
Just remember that not everything you find online is fact – blogs, reviews, and even much of the news is filled with opinion. Opinions are great, but take these details with a grain of salt.
Also, look at the date something was posted online. If it’s several years old, use it as a reference but not proof. Life moves quickly, especially in expat enclaves where business is booming. You might find information from years ago that is no longer valid. But finding those details helps you to understand the locale better – both past and present.
Tip #2: Be Honest With Yourself
Only you can truly know yourself. Dig deep and decide how comfortable you feel with change, with challenges, and with completely abandoning your comfort zone.
If you’re scared before you go, understand that emotion and embrace it. It’s okay to be uneasy with such a huge life change! But don’t let it overpower you.
Being honest with yourself means understanding your needs. If you’re a very social person, consistently reach out to new contacts without hesitation.
If you don’t know the local language, sign up for a class right away so you don’t feel lost and isolated.
Be honest and allow yourself to feel all the emotions involved with becoming an expat. It truly is like going back to childhood: you’ll discover the world anew, which can be simultaneously scary and enlightening.
Tip #3: Ask for Help
Whether you’re moving alone or with family, you need to establish a new community. Join online forums and Facebook groups, say yes to every invitation, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
As the new person on the block, it’s up to you to integrate and to create your new community. You can’t sit back and wait for others to invite you in. Step outside that comfort zone – you’ll need people around you to make you feel at home.
Expat communities are famously welcoming around the world. Go introduce yourself. And if you’re moving somewhere with very few expats, you’ll be more of a novelty and may find it easier to connect with locals.
If your company offers assistance with the transition, take advantage. Attend trainings, ask questions, and make sure you fully understand their expectations for you upon arrival.
I can’t reiterate this enough: reach out, ask for help, and don’t be afraid to look a little silly.
We’re all human; we all need the same things and we all make mistakes. That’s a universal concept you can take with you wherever you go. Remember that, and your expat life adjustment will be much easier!
Amanda Walkins is a freelance expat writer and blogger currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Previously, she has lived in Spain, Ecuador, and Honduras…after her native USA. She writes for tourism operators, real estate companies, travel agencies, and more. She has also written for International Living magazine, Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, and Women Who Live on Rocks. Read more from Amanda at www.amandawalkins.com.