It’s been awhile since I’ve written an expat post, so it feels good to revisit this topic that is near and dear to me. Also, relocating to a new town has brought back memories of how exciting it was to become an expat by moving to the UK. It was a crazy season in our life, but one I’m so thankful for.
Sometimes I get questions from people interested in becoming an expat, and my advice is always to go for it! It’s a life changing experience, and if the opportunity to live abroad presents itself, I definitely recommend taking it. That being said, the path to becoming an expat is different for everyone, and individual circumstances determine the exact process. It’s not really possible to write a one-size-fits-all guide, but I have some advice that I think applies to anyone interested in becoming an expat. Many of these tips can be started at any stage in the expat journey, so whether you are already in the process of moving abroad, or just tossing around the idea, these are some things to consider.
#1: Think about your belongings
I recently finished watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, so I’m kind of on a decluttering kick. We all have too much stuff people! Moving is stressful enough without having to think about the mountain of things moving with you. What do you do with it all? When moving abroad, it becomes even more tricky, so consider having a good decluttering session. Sell or donate items that aren’t essential (or that don’t “spark joy”). Think about the climate you are going to, and get rid of things that won’t be a natural fit in your new lifestyle. This will not only help you save on shipping costs, but also simplify moving into a new home (with perhaps a smaller closet 🙂 ). If you plan on hiring a local self-storage company, think carefully about how to organise everything before packing it away.
#2: Learn the language
This one was relatively easy for us since both the US and UK are English-speaking countries, but if you are moving to a place with a different language, then make an effort to learn the lingo before you arrive. This will make your life so much easier! Prepare for day-to-day conversations like shopping at the local supermarket and getting to know your neighbours. Also prepare for situations that come with any move like talking to estate agents and registering at a GP. Look into language courses to take after you move. Booking a course could be a great way to meet other people in your new community.
#3: Get ready for cultural differences
There’s no substitute for experiencing a culture firsthand, but I recommend reading other expat blogs if available. I found a few London based bloggers through my internet stalking before we moved. Reading about their experiences helped me remain positive throughout the moving process because I knew other people had been through it. It also made me excited about how my life would change.
Spend a little time researching the country you are heading to. Even simple posts comparing the culture you are moving to with your home culture will help get you started. (Apparently there are 100 cultural differences between the US and UK!) But most importantly, keep an open mind and be positive!
#4: Be proactive in your social life
Becoming an expat can be lonely at first. Even if you move with a partner or family it can be hard because everyone processes the feelings of leaving home differently. Building relationships in a new community takes time, but you got this! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Join a gym, enrol on some community classes, and reach out to fellow expats. And of course be intentional about staying in contact with friends and family back home by setting up Skype dates.