Top 10 Tips for first-time expats

Moving abroad for the first time and finding yourself surrounded by a brand new culture and lifestyle can be extremely daunting. The challenges that come hand in hand with relocating can seem like a mountain to climb, however, with these top 10 tips you’ll hopefully feel more prepared to start your new life.

  1. Thoroughly research your new location

It is important to feel at home as soon as possible when you move abroad. There is nothing worse than feeling lost or out of place somewhere, so thoroughly researching your location and new city is vital. Before you move, make sure your accommodation is in a good area, where you will feel comfortable and safe. Are there restaurants, pubs and other facilities close by?

If you’re more of a city dweller, then setting up home closer to the city could make you feel more a part of the community. While living in the city has its many benefits, it can also be overwhelming as a first-time expat. So, depending on your preferences, you could also consider moving to a more rural area, just outside of the city to allow yourself some space to breathe and adapt to life in your new home country in your own time.

  1. Learn the language

This will take some time for most people and the part that will make you feel the most like a foreigner in your new home. Thus, learning the language or even just the local jargon and phrases is essential. There are plenty of apps, websites, books and other online means that will help you learn the language. However, if you have the time, a language course or school is great, as not only will you quickly pick up the language, you will also make other expat friends and meet people you can relate to.

  1. Utilise social media platforms

Keeping in touch with your family and friends back home will make you feel less alone and out of the loop, especially with the help of Skype. With Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you can share your new lifestyle and experiences with everyone you are missing, so that they can also feel a part of your new life. Social Media can also be a massive help in finding out about new restaurants or opportunities in your area. Nonetheless, also make sure that you do not spend too long yearning after your old life and hanging on to your old friends, as this will take you a step back again.

  1. Conquer homesickness

Everyone feels homesick from time to time, even if they just go on holiday for a few weeks. Therefore, homesickness is a very common feeling, especially when moving abroad. There are many different ways to overcome this and you just have to figure out what works best for you. Finding comforts from back home, making local friends, living like the locals or just knowing when the next time you are going back home is, are a few of the things people may find comforting. It is extremely important to learn to love where you live – it is the main way to start forgetting about your homesickness.

  1. Look into health insurance before relocating

Being ill or needing medical care abroad can be very nerve-wracking. In your new country, the standards, costs and systems of healthcare may be different to what you’re used to. This is why it is essential for you to research and get to know all the options before moving, so you can feel more prepared on arrival. Many expats, for example, invest in health cover which will cover them globally, to ensure that they receive a high-quality of care quickly and efficiently, which is essential when you have a health complaint in a foreign country.

  1. Find expat events

Making friends with the locals and meeting people who are fluent in your language may be tricky at the start, especially when you’re busy with a new job, so finding expat events and places where expats can meet one another is a good idea. Social media can be helpful here, as it will enable you to find profiles and blogs of like-minded people in your area, who you can reach out to. There may also be group events or activities such as international book clubs or coffee clubs that you could join. This will massively help with overcoming the initial loneliness and fear.

  1. Remain flexible and calm

It’s easy to get stressed when moving abroad, as there will be a lot on your mind and a lot to remember. Whether you’re worrying about the visa process, banking, your new job or accommodation, it’s important to stay calm and not let yourself feel too anxious, as this will make moving abroad a lot harder than it may already be. There will often be delays or something may not run as smoothly as planned, but patience is key when relocating.

  1. Organise your finances before arriving

The last thing you want to be laden down with when you have just moved abroad, is problems with your new bank. Whether you need to open new accounts, add relatives to accounts, or take out a loan, these can all be tricky and time consuming. Therefore, make sure you have sorted everything out before your arrival. If you’re moving to a country with a different currency, it would be helpful to know the conversion rate before you arrive; maybe even get some cash out in the new currency from your bank at home to start getting used to it.

  1. Pack light

If you think you will need absolutely everything you currently own, then you are probably wrong. Relocating is the perfect time to start from scratch and re-decorate. The culture and design in your new country may be different to what you are used to, so adapting to it and incorporating it into your home will help you feel more involved and a part of the culture. Plus, you can always get your family or friends to ship something over if necessary.

  1. Never be afraid to ask for help

Whether this is from co-workers, neighbours, someone in an expat group or even a stranger on the street, asking for help and being inquisitive is essential to finding your way around your new surroundings. Do not be afraid or scared of judgement, as most people will understand your situation and be a lot more open to help than you may think.

Moving abroad and being an expat for the first time can be quite terrifying if you feel like you are being thrown into the deep end, having done no preparation. With the help of these top 10 tips, you can hopefully feel more reassured and calm when taking the leap.


Sabrina Bucknole is a professional copywriter from the United Kingdom. When she’s not looking for her next adventure abroad, she spends her time writing about travel, expats and finding work abroad.