It’s more than a little daunting making the move to a foreign country. Most people don’t have any desire to become expats, while others are seasoned pros by the time they hit their 30s. Whether you’ve just gotten a job as an ESL teacher in Korea or are moving to Berlin to become location independent, there are so many reasons why people choose to move abroad. One thing does remain the same no matter the person or the country though, and that’s that expat life brand new to us all at the beginning. Here are a few tips for new expats with things we wished we knew before we booked our one-way ticket abroad!
10 tips for new expats: What we wish we knew
1. Organize your finances before you go
If you need to open certain accounts, add relatives to bank accounts or approve of your mum to make financial decisions on your behalf, do it before you go not while you’re abroad. Otherwise, you could end up like me on a bus from Thailand to Cambodia, talking into a phone that your mum has held up to the house phone to talk to the bank teller on the other end to unblock your debit card… If reading that sentence gave you a headache, just try living it!
2. Join a community before you arrive
Search on Facebook and find a group or community as you’re getting ready to go. You can ask or search for all sorts of information – where to buy groceries, where to get bedding, what’s the neighborhood like, etc. Trust me, someone always knows the answer or can lead you in the right direction. If you’re struggling to find the right groups, join a general expat/travel group and ask there.
3. Learn at least some of the language
At least the basics — hello, goodbye, thank you, do you speak English, and please help me. If you can, learn the alphabet as it’ll go a long way in helping you communicate.
4. Make sure you fully understand your rental options
Did you know that most places in Korea have really high deposits for rent? I’ve heard a lot of normal places in Seoul require $10,000! These are the kind of things you should be aware of when you try to rent or buy in another country. You never know when renting a long-term, fully furnished Airbnb could actually wind up being cheaper than renting a regular apartment.
5. Find and read destination-specific resources to help you adapt
A quick Google search will show you multiple blogs that have all spent at least a year in the country. It’s always good to read from someone who’s been in your shoes. While there are so many blogs out there, you can also read books, watch Youtube videos or documentaries to help yourself learn more about where you’re going. As a bonus, it’s probably going to make you more excited to make the move.
6. Always pack less than you think you need
Seriously, if you’re about to pack up three, big suitcases and move abroad, unpack them right now. I can tell you it’s not fun to lug them around or to have to figure out how to store 3 suitcases for at least a year. Pack one, maybe two and set up some boxes to have friends or family ship you if you need. There are also so many franchises around the world, you can buy more than you think once you’ve settled down.
7. When you arrive, figure out your phone immediately
The first thing you should do is figure out your phone situation. If you can, get your phone unlocked (or buy an unlocked one online) before you leave. Most airports have tourist SIM cards that are good for a certain amount of days or GBs, so that’s a good place to start. Then, once you’re settled and have all the paperwork, get a regular SIM card at one of the phone companies. You might need a local to help you. If you’re moving for a year or less, I’d recommend just getting a prepaid SIM and using it as you go.
8. Adopt the motto, ‘Just roll with it’ and be realistic
Listen, there’s just no way you’re going to enjoy living in Rome if you move there expecting things to be like the Lizzie McGuire movie. I can’t even go into how disappointed you’ll be with Paris if you think it’s going to be a magical fairytale montage all the time. It’s important to be realistic when you move to a new place and that means recognizing the good with the bad.
Another important thing is to just roll with it! Moving abroad and getting settled in a foreign country is hardly ever going to be a smooth road as even seasoned expats will tell you. Don’t lose your patience and don’t have a meltdown in the middle of some government building. Just take deep breaths and roll with the challenges.
9. Go for a long walk around your neighbourhood within days of moving in
I highly recommend walking and even getting lost in your new neighbourhood. Get used to the different landmarks near your apartment or house, make notes of restaurants or coffee shops and just wander. The more you get to know your area, the more comfortable you’ll be, and the quicker this foreign place starts to become home.
10. Never be afraid to ask for help
Above all, don’t be afraid of asking for help! Whether it’s from co-workers, someone in an expat group, or the stranger on the street, people are a lot kinder than we generally give them credit for. You’re not dumb if you need help with local banking or can’t figure out where the main town building is. You’re just new.
Looking for more expat posts? Read these next:
- The Best Thing About Being an Expat
- 10 Quotes about Expat Life
- 10 Reasons Why You Should Become an Expat
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Do you have any tips for new expats? Share them in the comments!