10 Things Expats Need to Know

View of Rome from Vittoriano

You have taken the leap, signed the contract and landed in a new country. Whether it is your first assignment or you have been doing this for decades there are a few things that you can do to make your life as an expat just a little bit easier.

After recently contributing to an expat tip campaign myself over on HiFX (see here), I thought I would share with you the 10 things expats need to know before moving abroad.

1)Don’t settle down right away. Before signing a permanent lease, rent something temporary. The urge to create a routine and make your new country a home as soon as possible is strong, but if it is in any way possible take a little time and explore different neighborhoods, commute times and school runs. Get a feel for what places feel like at different times of day. After a few weeks you might be surprised at how much your requirements and impressions can change. 

2) Learn the language. If you will be living in a foreign language, watch films, TV programs, read the local newspaper or magazines, listen to the radio. Whatever your favorite activity is in your native tongue, try that in your new language. Try a yoga class, go to a movie, take a cooking class in the new language. You will be much more motivated to understand if your passion is involved. 

3) Back away from the computer.  Yes you want to stay in touch and share your new life, but hours spent on Facebook and Skype with friends and family back “home” can keep you from connecting in your new place. Set limits on screen time for everyone, not the just kids. 

4) Go to expat events. Go to at least one event that each of the expat clubs hosts in your new home. You might think you would never join a woman's organization or a expat social club, but you never know there might be a kindred spirit feeling just the same as you.

5) Pack for the future. Going with elementary school age children? Often in the first weeks of school there is a write your autobiography assignment. make sure you have a few digital copies of baby pictures,family members and pets with you and not packed away safely on that hard drive that is in your sea shipment.

6) Papers please. Make sure your paperwork is on order. Double, triple quadruple check. Often visa and work permit applications must be completed and approved before you arrive in the country. Avoid an unpleasant, disruptive and expensive surprise by confirming the details with your relocation company or destination embassy.  

7) Voting, taxes and demonstrations. Even though you are living overseas you will probably need to keep official ties with your home country. Register with your embassy to stay up to date on current security matters. Your embassy is also usually a good resource for your absentee voting rights and income tax requirements.

8) Find out what and when major holidays are. You don’t want to arrive and try to settle in when the who country is in vacation mode celebrating Water Festival/Chinese New Year/Ferragosto when you need to get the power turned on and internet hooked up. 

9) Find the bloggers. They don't necessarily have to specifically be expat bloggers. Look for food & lifestyle bloggers who can be a rich resource on all manner of details about your new home. 

10) Be a tourist. When you first arrive, take the bus tour, go to the museums, take a walking tour. Have a little fun and take a break from learning the day to day basics that are probably occupying most of your time. This will serve you very well when the visitors start to arrive and want you to show them around. 

 No matter if you are following career opportunities, adventure or love, expat life can be a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. You will experience culture shock and disorienting moments. My experience of over 20 years of living overseas is that the rewarding moments far outweigh the difficult ones. Do you have tips to share to make expat life easier? 


  1. Accept every invitation your first year. You can be more discriminating later.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts