All the tips and tricks you need to know about living abroad.

You want to learn how to feel at home abroad, whether it is for a weekend, a year or a lifetime? Here all the tips and tricks you need to know about living abroad.

Spending time abroad is a rare opportunity to reinvent yourself outside a witness protection program. It is a new chance to build a new life that is yours in a country that is not. Before getting on the plane, there are a host of things you want to consider before going abroad.

Table Of Contents
  1. Before leaving
  2. Learn the language
  3. Coping with culture shock
  4. Make friends
  5. Company culture is not universal
  6. Eat and drink like a local
  7. Change of transport

Before leaving

Here all the tips and tricks you need to know about living abroad before you leave for good.

Visit the places where you are planning to go before moving there, and several times

Take time to explore and get to know the city. Just because you spent a great weekend there does not mean it will be the same living there.

If you have a partner, agree early so that one of you can have a veto destination

Drag him or her kicking and screaming is not the best way to start a new life.

Take into account why you want to leave

Is it the big adventure you have always dreamed of? Do you leave for practical reasons such as work, a cheaper cost of living or for a healthier culture? What are you expecting? What are the means you are willing to use to make it successful?

Have physical well-being

You surely do not want any health problems when you just arrived in a new country.

Bring a large supply of medicines

Find a pharmacy and check if you can have refills of your medicines sent by emails. Moreover, give yourself time to settle in, then check if your medicines are available at the pharmacy. If it is not the case, plan a visit to the local doctor for a new prescription.

Make sure that someone receives your mail, scans it and sends it to you

In some cases, you may want the original copies sent to you. Several companies offer this service and you may need the help of a close friend or family member.

Take half as many clothes and twice as much money

You can get a new wardrobe, but only a good financial organisation can help you get through a real emergency. Make sure that you deposit money in a new, easy-to-use bank account.

Learn the language

Here are all the tips and tricks to know about living abroad to learn the local language.

Have private lessons if you can

Your learning rate will sharply increase. A private teacher can work with interesting subjects (e.g. local culture, your hobbies, food). Moreover, focusing on useful subjects such as vocabulary linked to work, children’s school, or even the persistent plumbing problem in the downstairs bath is a good idea. Pay also close attention to your children’s learning progress. Their language learning will outperform yours, but trying to keep up will help reduce the feeling of culture shock.

Give yourself time

If you are over 30, you will probably need several months to learn the basics and years to fluently speak the language, and a lifetime to work on your accent. Start with simple words and sentences, which can be useful in a social context. Keep progressing. The more you know about the language, the more enjoyable and comfortable your life will become.

Coping with culture shock

Here are all the tips and tricks to know about living abroad to cope with culture shock.

Try to see as the differences as such

Differences are not a type of comment on you, your decision to live abroad, your host country or your adaptability. So, do not see cultural stereotypes as facts.  

You will always be seen as a foreigner

This is the case in societies when people mostly socialise with their neighbours. You can never really join this close circle but you can make a place for yourself in a community of your own. Do not believe that following your traditions prevents you from adapting too. On the contrary, celebrating the Lunar New Year or Ramadan abroad helps bridge cultural gaps. You can meet locals who are too uncomfortable with unfamiliar things to make friends with anyone new, but you will meet other who will step out of their comfort zones to help.

Do not ignore feelings of alienation or homesickness

You have to accept homesickness. It is natural and take home remedies including a bottle of warm water, chocolate, a bit of wine and a funny film. If symptoms persist, take several days off and go for a walk, read funny books and meet friends at the bar. Restoring an emotional balance takes time. If you still cannot shake the blues, go to therapy and determine if it is time to make some changes.

Read the Elenore Smith Bowen’s anthropological classic “Return to Laughter”, a novel based on her experience

Immerging herself in a remote village in West Africa, she begins to describe her neighbours as living more natural, conflict-free lives. When she discovers their shortcomings (such as witchcraft), she becomes very critical of them. In the end, she accepts the moral, ethnic ambiguity common to all communities and manages to step back enough to return to laughter.

Make friends

Here are all the tips and tricks to know about living abroad to make friends.

When you live abroad, be open to all opportunities that lead to social interaction

 If someone suggests to go to an art exhibition or sporting event, consider this offer, even if you are not a huge fan of impressionism or football. You need to go out and meet new people. So, accept invitations when you can. Of course, invitations to crime or unwanted sex should be politely declined.

Locals do not want their country to be always compared with yours

Making unpleasant comparisons does not make them feel that you want to make an effort to acclimatise. On the contrary, try to get to know the interesting local places. Ask for more information about monuments or restaurants to visit.

Accept the local habits in terms of punctuality

In some countries, being an hour late for lunch is totally normal. Find out the local habits and organise your social life according to them. For example, include some punctual guests in your lunch so that you have someone to talk with while you are waiting.

Be open with people of all ages, especially people who speak your language

When you live abroad in a community with a small expatriate population, you cannot limit your social life to generational barriers. If someone shares your language or interests, cultivate that friendship.

Consider joining a social club

Some possibilities include a choir, a painting class or a cycling group. Even if you are not a huge fan, it can be a good way to expand your circle of friends. Look for social clubs in your area or consult the embassy of your country.

Do not isolate yourself

Sometimes, living abroad can be overwhelming. We all have days when we want to stay at home in our bed. However, the more you get in touch with your new world, the sooner you will feel at home.

Company culture is not universal

 Learn the local companies habits

Do not assume that everyone has the same habits as you do, for example, in terms of payment. Take time to talk to others in your company and field to find out what to expect.

Be prepared for resentment

Any foreigner who is promoted, especially to a desired managerial position, is more likely to cause jealousy or hostility from the others. Try not to take it personally.

Eat and drink like a local

Eat local

You do not have to order the grilled flies in Bangkok or the snake stew in Hanoi, but give the typical dishes a shot during your stay. Try to abandon old habits that may not be satisfied. Do not despise the local café when they refuse to take a complex coffee order. Be as forgiving as the locals.

If you are out of town, drink what the locals drink

You might discover something new. Bartenders are often happy to present their offerings and identify what others around you are ordering. It is also an opportunity to learn useful vocabulary during your stay. Moreover, a lot of people believe that talking in another language after a few drinks is easier.

Adapt to the table times

If you arrive at a Spanish restaurant for lunch before noon or for dinner before 9pm, you will be eating alone and wondering why everyone told you this place was welcoming. On the other hand, if you arrive in a German or Dutch restaurant too late, you will also find yourself eating alone.

Vegetarians have a hard time abroad

It can be difficult to stick to a fairly strict diet in the middle of a move abroad. If you want to be able to manage it, consider being more flexible. Having a mainly vegetarian diet with a few gaps with meat will ease your worries in restaurants where you have communication problems with the waiter.

Have a party

Even if you have some difficulty with the different shades of local-style fun, when you get people together in the same room with food, drink, music, and a festive atmosphere, good things happen. The locals – or even just the neighbours – will appreciate the effort, even if it is not all done in the same way as theirs.

Change of transport

You do not need a car to survive

Walking is the most practical way to get around, especially in small towns and villages. It is a good way to get around, get some exercise and become part of your new community – to say the least, it saves you money compared to other types of transport. If you live in a larger city, invest in a public transport pass and learn to use the bus, tram, or metro.

Cycling is a very good alternative, both for health and speed

A host of cities around the world have municipal bikes that you can rent for a small fee and leave in public places. You never have to worry about their safety. It does not mean they do not get damaged or stolen. It just means it is not your problem.

Gadgets and electronic devices

Many expatriates do not bother with landlines, they just use their mobile phones

If you have an unlocked phone, you can keep the same phone and just change the SIM card when you move to another country. Many expatriates start with a prepaid SIM card, an expensive option that lets you pay for your calls without a plan. Once you have found a phone service, a contract will probably be cheaper.

It is possible to live without television?

Yes! If your new country does not offer the type of programming you are looking for, you may want to forget about it in favour of other options. Or you can look into getting a TV aerial to get channels in your language.

You will be disappointed if you are used to online programmes

Some expats will not be able to use the usual Netflix catalogue but there are exceptions such as shows that upload video clips on YouTube. Downloading movies is illegal in most countries, although measures vary a lot.

If you like to read, online books are a must

There are fewer books in English in a country where English is not the official language. Of course, it does not feel the same but you will get used to it. You can often download sample chapters for free, to check if you like them. You can buy books online in less than a minute for half the price without going to a local shop.

If you miss English radio, you can subscribe to podcasts

You click and play the podcast or download them for later. Podcasts are usually free for dozens of broadcasters. Keep up with the latest shows from the CBC in Canada to SRF in Switzerland. Many applications provide expandable podcast libraries, including iTunes, Soundcloud, Spotify and Stitcher.

Now you know all the tips and tricks you need about living abroad.

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