So, you feel ready to explore new places, meet new people, and travel to foreign lands, but you’re also nervous? Read on.
Living in a foreign country is a unique opportunity to reinvent yourself. Still, it can also be a nerve-wracking experience – especially if you’ve never done it before. Whether you’ve secured a job or opening your own business overseas, starting a new life abroad is a life-changing event.
Before you hop on a plane and start your adventure, read these five tips for living and working abroad as an expat to get the most out of the experience.
1. Prioritizing Your Health and Finding Housing
When planning your move abroad, the first thing to do is ensure your healthcare needs are covered – contact IMG medical for health insurance options designed for expats. Now that you know you’ll be safe if you have a medical emergency, the next thing to do is secure safe, long-term housing.
Because apartments in any city are generally more expensive than living in the suburbs, you may have to be more flexible about where you want to live if you’re on a tight budget.
To find somewhere to stay, contact local real estate agents, talk to other expats, look through classified ads, or use an online accommodation provider like Airbnb.
Some services specifically cater to people who need long-term housing – like teachers on contracts, students, and people who want to scope things out before committing to one area. Two European examples of these longer-term housing services are Study Abroad Apartments and UniPlaces.
2. Making New Friends
Now that you’ve found your new home, you’ll want to settle in and make some friends. However, making friends outside of high school and college can be trickier than you think, especially in a foreign country.
An excellent way to make friends is to follow other expat bloggers in your area and contact them directly. Search for people writing about their adventures in your area and ask them if you can meet for a coffee.
Bloggers also tend to know other expats in the community, so ask about expat get-togethers and local travel group meetups. You can also join local organizations and see if there are local language schools. When getting together with people you meet online, make sure to meet up in public spaces for safety reasons.
3. Keeping in Touch with Loved Ones
Now that you have a few buddies to spend time with, remember to maintain your relationships with loved ones back home. Although staying in touch takes some effort, social platforms like Facetime, Snapchat, and Skype make speaking to friends and family members face-to-face much easier.
You should set aside time to speak to your loved ones back home. Schedule video calls with them in advance so you can work around any time differences.
Although you should make an effort to call and video chat to maintain your long-distance relationships, another fun way to share your adventures is to start an online blog about your travels. You can use WordPress to create a blog site or set up an Instagram account to keep friends and family posted.
A word of caution – make sure you’re not sharing personal information like your address or phone number online.
4. Navigating Public Transportation
Soon after settling in, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with public transportation to get from point A to point B.
Remembering the bus schedules and buying tickets from automatic dispensers without instructions in your native language can feel overwhelming. Carrying the correct amount of change in a foreign currency can also be confusing. Still, the sooner you learn how to get around, the better.
Preparing for your bus, train, taxi, bike, or rickshaw ride in advance can help immensely. Find out if you can buy monthly passes and learn which modes of transportation are the safest.
Another thing you’ll need to learn is how the traffic works in your new home. You need to find out how safe crossing the road is for pedestrians – and if you’re on a bike or moped, pay close attention to how everyone else uses the road.
5. Dealing with Culture Shock
Don’t be afraid of looking like a ‘tourist’ – of course, you’ll stand out from the crowd of locals, but that’s fine. Always remember common courtesy, memorize the country’s etiquette rules, and be prepared to learn.
A foreign country’s social norms and etiquette can be very different from home, so learn what may offend the locals. This may mean never showing the soles of your feet, eating only with your right hand, or refraining from sticking your chopsticks straight into your bowl of rice. If someone offers you food, the golden rule is to be polite and not refuse to eat it.
Two things you should learn as soon as possible are local greetings and how the people share meals. You should also find out which days are local holidays – this will help you better understand the cultural landscape. Above all else, always be respectful.