Pondering a move abroad? Living the expat life can be an exciting new adventure, but it can also be terrifying. What do you take with you? What will you do if you can’t buy your favorite mascara? How will you communicate with your family?
If you plan on moving abroad for more than just a month or two, these 5 tips are designed to help you acclimate to your new surroundings in as smooth of a transition as possible.
1. Do Your Research
Before you make the leap to move abroad, sure you have checked out the new city you will be living in. There are a ton of blogs out there specific for expats in the process of relocating. Read them!
Expats are usually willing to help newcomers by offering advice on the best coffee shop to how to send packages back home. Think about where you will be living. If you are moving to the Middle East, do some reading about the local customs and traditions.
This will make sure you don’t show up in the region in short shorts, drinking soda during the middle of Ramadan. (Tip—Middle Eastern countries would not take too kindly to this. Women dress pretty conservatively and don’t show their knees in public.)
It would also be considered extremely rude to drink something in public during Ramadan. Muslims fast from Sunrise to Sunset so this would make you seem insensitive to their religion.
2. Ask for a Settling In Allowance
If you’re going to move abroad for work, most companies will provide settling-in allowance money to help you relocate. You can use this money to ship an extra bag full of your favorite products you aren’t sure that you will be able to get in your new city.
After living in the Middle East and Central America, I make sure to stock up on basic toiletries and tampons. They can be harder to come by or much more expensive than they are at home.
3. Check Out Social Networking Sites
Websites like Facebook and Couchsurfing are excellent tools to help you connect with people already living in your new country. Usually, you can join a group to help you settle in and meet people. The wonderful thing about moving abroad is that someone has already done it before you.
Use them as a resource! Like I mentioned above, people are typically more than happy to help you settle in. They may even introduce you to other people who have recently arrived in your new home as well.
4. Join New Activities
It can be a lonely experience to move abroad, especially if you don’t know anyone in your new country. You have left all of your friends, family, and familiar comforts behind, and that’s terrifying!
One way to ease the transition is to join a club or activity. Not only will the group keep you busy, but it will also give you the chance to meet new people. Once you have a friend or two, it will be much easier to feel at home.
In Doha, I found a group of people who loved to go rock climbing. I had never done it before but joined anyway in order to meet people. It was the best thing I could have done.
I fell in love with a new (and healthy!) activity and met some amazing people in the process. If rock climbing isn’t for you, try a photography club, a cycling group, or a language class. Chances are, there will be some sort of activity that appeals to you.
5. Say Connected
Download Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, or iMessage to stay in contact with your friends and family back home. Chances are, you will get homesick at some point during your stint abroad.
Being able to communicate with your Mom or your best friend is extremely important. Having the opportunity to speak to someone face to face or on the phone is so much better than a basic email, and all of the apps mentioned above are $1 or free and allow you to make free calls to people who also have the app.
I have been living abroad for the past 4 years, and these tips have helped me relocate twice. Talking to people within your company (if you are working abroad) or other travelers (through Couchsurfing or Facebook) can be an invaluable experience. Make of the most of your new experience. It is something you will never forget!
Have you moved abroad? What’s helped you?