So you’ve landed in your new home, your suitcases and boxes are (mostly…) unpacked, and you’re ready to begin your big adventure! Don’t feel too overwhelmed – we’ve got ten great tips to help you get settled as an expat in those first days of your expat life.
Things That Will Help Get Settled as an Expat
1. Explore Your City
One of the most exciting things about being an expat is the opportunity to have almost limitless time to explore your new city. Whether you have landed in a major metropolis or in an out-of-the-way village, taking some time to explore will be an experience you will never forget. Not only will you enjoy taking in the new sights and sounds, but you’re also likely to start getting your bearings on where to find nearby amenities as well as meeting local shopkeepers.
2. Make Your Home Your Own
Whether your new home is a cramped dorm bedroom or a sprawling country home, put some personal touches in place as soon as you can. You may be preparing to live abroad for just a few months, or indefinitely, but don’t view your home as temporary. No matter how long you live there, it’s your home, for now, so make it a cozy refuge for yourself while getting settled as an expat.
3. Expect Bad Days
Every expat has a day like Alexander of the famous story – a day that is terrible, horrible, no-good, and very bad. It’s an obvious outcome of living in a place with a totally new pace and routine than what you’re used to. If you go into it expecting that a bad day is just that – a bad day – it will help you avoid catastrophic thinking that you’ve made the wrong choice, or that your new host country is impossible or full of terrible people.
As you begin your expat journey, expect that you will offend someone, you will forget your wallet, you will make a mistake on some big administrative procedure, or you will get lost. Roll with it, and make sure to write about it in your journal or diary – you’ll enjoy looking back on that important part of expat adjustment.
4. Make Friends
While it may be tempting to hide in your home video chatting with friends or family from back home, challenge yourself to get out and make friends in your local community. Your life will benefit greatly from the richness of forming friendships with locals and other expats alike. Perhaps some people in your language class are meeting for drinks, or another mom at your kids’ school is up for a mid-morning coffee. Say yes to any opportunity you have to make friends and to get to know them. And don’t be afraid to be the one initiating the friendship!
5. Get a Job or Volunteer
If making friends feels impossible for you, try getting a job or finding a local nonprofit to volunteer with. Your visa may not allow you to hold employment – there are still lots of local organizations who need help, and will likely be glad to have yours. Many areas have organizations to help the homeless or hungry, animal shelters, city clean-up initiatives, or religious volunteer opportunities. If you don’t know where to start, try checking with local places of worship or googling non-profits in your area.
6. Join Online Expat Forums
These days, Facebook has a group for almost anything you can think of. These groups can be treasure chests full of helpful tips from expats who have been around much longer than you. This is where you can ask questions, search for needed resources such as education aids or hairstylists, and – yes – make friends! Try searching the internet for expat groups in your local community, or searching Facebook for the same. The great thing about these groups is that the longer you’re in them, the more you’ll become aware of even more great groups for expats, and your resource list will keep growing!
7. Get in a Routine
While part of the adventure of expat life is a new scene with new people and new things to do, getting in a predictable routine will be important for your stress levels and mental health. Making friends is still important, so make sure you leave some room in your routine for the unexpected lunch invitation or dinner out with friends. Setting a time to get up, developing your morning routine, taking the same route to work or class most days, and having a bedtime routine can help your adjustment immensely.
It can be something as simple as waking up, having a coffee, and taking a few moments to meditate, or as complex as finding a group exercise class in the mornings and joining some meetup groups on a regular basis. No matter what your routine entails, make sure it works for you, and make sure you stick with it on a consistent basis.
8. Be Patient
No new beginning is easy or painless. If you remember your first day at a new job, or your first day at high school, or the very beginning of a new relationship, you’ll remember that everything feels unpredictable and a little bit scary. You’re also likely to not remember the exact moment where that thing went from being unfamiliar and scary to being comfortable and normalized. The transition from new to comfortable takes a while, but it does happen. The longer you live in your host country, the more normal your life will begin to feel. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen, so hang in there and be patient.
9. Take Care of Administrative Details
Expat life isn’t all just wandering around in a dream state like a scene out of a movie. Real-life comes will real responsibilities, and the sooner you can learn to be informed and proactive on the administrative details of your host country, the less stressful your life there will be. Here are a few questions to ask yourself – and your new expat friends – as you settle into life abroad:
● Are there steps you need to take to renew your visa? When do you need to start that process?
● What is required for banking? How will you know if there is a problem with your account?
● What is your responsibility to your landlord – and what is their responsibility to you?
● What is the process of receiving healthcare when needed? How do you make appointments or pay? (Make sure you have reliable international health insurance BEFORE you leave your home country. Check out at ExpatFinancial.com for expert help with sorting this out.)
10. Buying International Medical Care
When you are living abroad, one of the most important items for your checklist is making sure you have adequate health coverage for you and your family that will cover you both in your expat destination country, but also back home and regionally as well. While it can seem quite daunting when examining different international health plans, talking to an expert is wise – one such global insurance expert is Expat Financial and they offer lots of different plans to meet the needs and budget of just about any expat.
Settling into life abroad may seem like a daunting process. It is certainly not for the faint of heart, but it will lead to adventures that will make all the work totally worth it! Yes, there is still Covid-19 to contend with, but life goes on and some of us need to travel and live abroad.