5 Tips for Living the Expat Life


As a new expat, having recently moved from the States to Finland, I find learning opportunities everywhere I look. Though I have traveled quite a bit, living in a new country is an all together different experience. Here are several tips that I’ve picked up over these past few months to make the transition easier.

1. Keep an open mind and try new things.

Maybe this one goes without saying, but it’s something I like to remind myself constantly. Moving to a new country can make it challenging to find all of the favorite things you are used. Though it may feel like you need something specific from home, it is true that everyone in your new country has everything needed to survive. It’s important to stay open to the idea of finding new favorite things. Part of the fun of moving to a new place is getting to experience things that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity for. Take advantage of this!

2. Create opportunities.

Of course, there will always be things that you miss from home while living the expat life. For me, I miss certain restaurants and ethnic foods. But one of the great things to come out of this expat experience, is that I’m learning to expand my cooking repertoire and make my favorite foods at home. Sure, I could have done this before moving to a new country, but it was so much easier to just buy what I needed. Now, I’m taking advantage of what I don’t have and creating a new opportunity. What opportunities can you create for yourself?

3. Be brave.

Though this one is often hard, I’m constantly reminded that I have to put myself out there in order to make new friends and create a social life abroad. When I can ignore this sometimes scary or uncomfortable feeling, everything usually turns out for the best. Chat with random strangers at the cafes, shops, or anywhere you go to learn from the locals. Learn from new friends and other expats in your similar situation. Everyone will have different tips on adapting, so use the ones that work for you. Invite new friends on your adventures and they will in turn invite you along on theirs. Join CouchSurfing to meet people in your town. Don’t become comfortable with a new routine and forget to get out of the house. The more you can explore and try new things, the more fun you will have and the less you’ll feel like you miss home. Take a class in something you are interested in to meet others with similar interests.

4. Create a “home” in your new living space.

When you move into a new place it usually feels very sterile. Bring some of your favorite things from home (such as paintings and pictures, books, knickknacks) or go out and buy a few new favorite things to make your home cozy.

5. Stay in touch with friends and family back home.

Even though you have moved far away, it is important not to lose contact with your family and friends. In my experience, it won’t feel like you’re so far from home if you can stay in touch. There are so many different ways to easily communicate including:

Skype and FaceTime – These are definitely my favorite ways to communicate right now.
GoogleVoice – A good way to keep your old phone number and continue making local calls back home.
E-mail – I don’t know about you, but I’m usually pretty terrible about responding to emails. I’ve realized it’s necessary to become good at following up on these emails.
Facebook – Post lots of pictures for friends and family to see. This helps them stay connected to your new life, even though they are not experiencing it with you.
Blogs – I started blogging when I moved to Finland and have found it to be an awesome way of connecting. I can express myself a bit more than short comments on Facebook and it’s an easy way for friends and family to make comments and feel involved in my life.
All other things social media – Some of my new expat friends stay in touch by playing social games such as Words with Friends.

Of course, there are many different ways to approach life as an expat. What tips have made the transition easier for you?


About Author

Allison has had the travel bug for as long as she can remember. Hearing stories and reading about new places only fuels the fire. Not wanting life to just pass her by, she wants to learn as much as possible and grow old with inspiring stories and adventures of her own to share. Currently, Allison is living her dream of teaching yoga and exploring. She is a US expat living in Finland for a few years. After Finland, who knows what will come. It is her hope to pass along some of what she learns along the way. Find out more about her at Arrival Gate, www.arrivalgate.wordpress.com, her personal blog.


  1. Great tips! I’m moving to England next year and these will certainly help.

    I would also suggest whatsapp text messaging service. You can send/received international texts for free.

  2. I’m an expat who has been living in China for the past year. My tip would be to break out of the “expat bubble.” It can be hard to do when you are surrounded by other foreigners and live in more privileged conditions. But by venturing out to the local markets, taking in cultural events, signing up for classes in the local arts and volunteering, your experience will be so much richer.

    And staying in touch with friends and family back home is so important. Making friends in your adopted city can be difficult since most foreigners you meet won’t be there long term. They are working in the city for a few months, or have been there for years and are about to leave. That’s not to say that you can’t make friends, it just takes more perseverance. I made a great friend in language class and she moved three months later. But new people arrive and you have to be open to the possibilities.

  3. Allison, here’s to adventure! A life without it is not worth living! Keep up the good work and have fun! Great tips =)

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