Whether living abroad has been a lifelong ambition or you have been asked to relocate as part of your job, settling into life in a new country isn’t always easy. Even the friendliest and most welcoming of communities and environments will take some adjustment, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed if you are not prepared. However, take heart in the fact that these emotions are experienced by thousands of people who take the plunge and relocate every year, and most go on to fall head over heels for their new home.
At ExpatRoute, we want to do all we can to make your transition smooth and easy, so you feel at home in your new environment as quickly as possible. To help you find your feet, we have put together a list of 5 top tips for settling into life quickly when living abroad, so you can feel confident that you will soon be feeling at home.
1. Be prepared
From planning the logistics of your move to sorting your accommodation, there are many aspects of your new life that should be addressed as early as possible. Moving companies, for example, can vary significantly in terms of both the price they charge and the quality of service they provide. No matter where you choose to live, you will find there are numerous moving companies available to hire, so try to track down a reputable firm that can take as much of the dirty work off your hands as possible. Remember — larger items such as furniture will be bulky and costly to move, so where possible it is best to sell or place these items in storage and purchase alternatives when you arrive in your new home.
Aside from logistics, you should also consider preparing your home in advance. Begin with your utilities and bank accounts, all of which should be contacted in advance and set up before you arrive in your new home country. You can also take some time to research the local area, tracking down local amenities that you will need such as local shops, transport links, fitness facilities or even education options if you are travelling with children.
2. Improve your language skills
While many countries are familiar with the English language, improving your language skills will help you make a good impression and feel more comfortable with your new surroundings. Begin learning the basics of the local language as soon as possible, making use of any apps or language courses you can to speed up your progress and give you the foundation vocabulary you need to get you by day to day. You can also contact a tutor who is located near your new home so you can brush up your skills as soon as you arrive.
One of the best ways to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, so when you arrive in your new home try to use your skills as much as you can. Rather than avoiding those unable to speak English, try to embrace the local culture and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Often people are very understanding and will help you express yourself if you are struggling to find the right words for the job.
3. Get to know your new home
Nothing makes you feel more at home than familiarity. As soon as you have had time to do a little unpacking and catch up on some much-needed sleep, begin setting time aside to explore your new hometown or city. You should start by learning all you can about the public transport system, particularly if you will need to use it for work. In large cities in particular, transportation systems can be complex and fast-paced, so it will help you feel more comfortable if you take the time to learn how the system operates and travel around the area like a local.
Once the public transport system feels a little more familiar, you will be perfectly placed to temporarily play the part of the tourist and learn all about the history and culture of your new home. Whether you’re in a vibrant capital city or a local town, there will be many attractions and site-seeing opportunities that are just waiting to be explored. And it may not be the most obvious destinations that help you settle in — sometimes it’s just familiarity with a popular local restaurant or a few trips to the local shopping centre that will help you adapt to your new surroundings and feel like you belong.
4. Throw yourself into local life
Getting involved in the local community is a brilliant way of learning more about your local area and taking the first steps to making new friends. There are many ways to integrate yourself into your community, from joining the gym or local clubs, or volunteering at a local charity. You could also make the effort to attend as many work socials as possible so you can meet the friends and relatives of your colleagues.
If you are feeling unsure, a good way to ease yourself into your new life is to locate some local expat groups. Filled with people just like you, expat groups often include people at all different levels of their move, from those who have fully integrated into the area to people in the same position as you. Many expat groups will hold meetups and socials at local bars so you can explore the area with people who understand what it’s like to adapt to a new life abroad. Try to accept as many invitations as you can, and consider taking up offers to socialise with members away from the group, as this may give you the chance to meet some of their local friends and acquaintances.
5. Take time to enjoy the experience
It’s so easy to become wrapped up in the more stressful side of moving overseas, but it is important to try to remember why you made the move in the first place. Whether you embraced the change as part of an exciting job role or are embarking upon a journey that you have dreamed of for a number of years, you will gain the most from the opportunity if you try to enjoy each and every part of the expat experience.
Even homesickness should be embraced where possible. It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed at times, no matter whether you have moved a few hundred miles away or a few thousand. Try to focus on the positives of your move and enjoy each experience as if you were simply on holiday. Take in the culture, explore the local cuisine and get chatting to the locals where you can, and you will soon find yourself boring your friends and family with endless tales of your exciting journey.
Bonus tip: be patient
It is always going to take time to settle in a new country. Be patient with yourself and try to adapt to your new life at a pace that works for you. It will always take a little time for you to feel comfortable, so try to give your new home some time to win you over and embrace new opportunities as and when you can.