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18 Top Tips For Expats Moving Abroad For The First Time

Are you moving abroad for the first time? If so, congratulations on making this big step.

It’s an exciting journey in which you’ll learn very valuable lessons and create many funny and good memories.

However, if you’re wondering what things you should know before moving overseas, I’ve put together a list of tips for expats moving out for the first time with the help of fellow bloggers.

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The best tips for expats moving overseas for the first time

1) Attend a language exchange

By Cristina of My Little World of Travelling

It isn’t always easy to make friends abroad, especially if you’re an introvert.

Something that can really help you meet new people and improve the local language, in case your native language is different in the place you’re moving to or a language you want to learn, is attending a language exchange.

You can find language exchanges in different places like Facebook for expats in your new city, websites like Meet Up, etc.

During these language exchanges, you’ll look for or you’re matched with people that speak the language you want.

Although the main purpose is to practice the language, it’s a great way to start a conversation that could lead to a friendship.

Attending a language exchange is also a great thing to do before moving abroad as this gives you the chance to start practising the language with native people for free.

View of Santander city centre

2) Be prepared for a new identity

By Bea of PackYourBags

One of the things you should be prepared for after living in a new country for some time is the feeling of a new identity.

Once the initial culture shock of newness wears off, you will begin to learn the social norms of your new home country.

Given enough time, your new life will become second nature to you. You might not be aware of it but you will gradually become a new person, not quite who you used to be and not really a typical local.

Instead, a new hybrid identity will form, a mix of your birth culture and the one of your new home country. Scientists call this phenomenon “third culture”.

When will you know you have become a new you? The easiest way to tell is when you go back for a visit to your birth country. When you arrive and feel a “reverse culture shock” it is a sure sign of you becoming a different person.

You might even feel shocked at some of the customs you grew up with, especially if the new culture you are now living in is very different from your original one.

3) Bring tech products from home

By Carley of Home to Havana

When preparing for your move abroad, make sure you bring your important tech products from home and make any tech purchases prior to departure.

While it isn’t always the case, many countries have steep import taxes on technology products and other products not produced locally, which can make securing these items much more expensive.

In some cases, it can even be less expensive to travel home and make a purchase of a new smartphone, tablet, or computer there!

Living as a digital nomad in Ecuador, it was often easier and cheaper to visit neighbouring Colombia to purchase new items like laptops or phones instead of paying a higher price in Ecuador.

Read up on how import taxes might affect you in your new home country prior to your move, and consider upgrading your old laptop or purchasing an extra hard drive before you depart.

4) Bring your own medication

By Kelly of Girl with the Passport

If you’re a first-time expat, one of the best tips you’ll need is to bring all of the medications and over the counter drugs that you’ll need with you.

For example, if you have trouble sleeping and take Melatonin to help you sleep, you won’t be able to find that over the counter in the UK but will be able to find it in the vitamin section in the USA as you road trip from New York to Los Angeles.

Conversely, if you want to get Zovirax for cold sores, you can easily get that over the counter in the UK but can only get it by prescription (plus it’s really expensive) in the USA.

Therefore, any medications you need to have, be sure to bring them with you. Also double-check that it is legal for you to carry that drug in the country that you’re travelling to.

After all, laws vary from country to country and you do not want to be caught carrying a medication that is legal at home but illegal elsewhere.

moving abroad checklist banner

5) Bring what you need to celebrate the holidays

By Lanie van der Horst of Make More Adventures

One thing to think about as you are preparing to move to another country is what items you will need to celebrate holidays while you are away.

Is this holiday celebrated where you are going? Will the items you need to celebrate be available? Are the items you need nonperishable?

Keep in mind that Amazon does not quickly deliver items to all areas of the world. Some places will have incredibly high shipping charges and long wait times. Plenty of items won’t be available at all.

If you can fit the important items in your suitcase, bring them! Celebrating holidays away from home can be a lonely time, and having everything you need to celebrate the way that you would like helps make celebrating the holidays away from home a lot easier.

While some holidays are celebrated around the world, you may not be going to a place where your religion is common. Obviously, American holidays won’t be celebrated in other countries. Prepare holiday items before leaving home to help you feel more at home in your new country.

6) Check out different areas and accommodation first before you decide to live somewhere

uk packing list and travel essentials

By Jennie of Jennie Wanders

If you’re moving abroad for the first time, try not to move too fast and make any major decisions when it comes to choosing neighbourhoods to live in. Just because you’ve read some blogs or heard about a place through a family friend, doesn’t mean it will be well suited to you!

In fact, locations can turn out completely different to what you expected. You’ll either fall in love with it or be totally disappointed and know immediately it isn’t somewhere you want to live.

Begin by staying in a hostel or Airbnb, check out the local transport links and visit some of the surrounding areas.

This is the best way to get a true ‘feel’ for a place, and you’ll know pretty instantly if you could see yourself living there! It also means you’ll have a lot less pressure when planning and prepping for your trip, giving you a bit of breathing space.

7) Connect with someone from your embassy

By Marya of The BeauTraveler

Being an expat not only comes with the benefit to work outside the country of your origin. It also comes with some setbacks, especially if you’re new to the country. Having a connection with someone from the embassy can come in handy in an emergency.

When you live abroad for the first time, it is easy to overlook what may happen if you live alone.

Whether you get ill overseas and have no one to take you to the hospital or you need some assistance to translate your documents to make sure your residency is legal in the country, having some contact from your country’s embassy can give you some peace of mind as an expat.

There is a sentiment that when you move abroad for the very first time, you can get a sense of family when you connect with your fellow countrymen overseas. In which case, what’s better than joining the community through your embassy?

8) Conquer the feeling of homesickness

By Venaugh of

When you first decide to leave your comfort zone and become an expat in another country, there is a lot that you can’t prepare yourself for.

One point especially is about how incredibly homesick you can get, and this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve made the wrong decision. Feeling this way is something we all go through at some point but there are always things you can do to conquer homesickness.

This feeling is usually one of sadness from missing something from your home country whether it be food, family, friends, or something you used to do.

It can stem from many different sources but usually results in your feeling like you’re missing being in your home country. And this is all normal! Missing home is totally fine.

Fortunately, you can try several things before considering visiting back home. For some, it can be expensive so it’s not as easy to jump on a plane back home. And usually, the homesickness passes.

9) Educate yourself on culture shock

boats in a lake in asia

By Erie of Everywhere Ontario

One of the best things you can do to prepare for life in a new culture (host culture), is to educate yourself on the stages of culture shock. They are as follows:

1) Honeymoon Stage: You are excited, curious and idealize the new culture, seeing everything through rose-coloured glasses.

2) Irritation Stage: Frustration, uncertainty and hostility emerge as you see the differences in the host culture with increasing annoyance. You feel homesick and idealize your former culture.

3) Adjustment Stage: You begin to adjust to your new culture and develop more balanced perspectives. You’re creating new routines and friendships and are growing in understanding of the host culture.

4) Acceptance Stage: You now identify with and accept the new host culture, feeling you belong there. You now have the tools and connections to be happy again.

5) Re-Entry Shock: When you choose to return home, you feel irritated towards your home culture. Things that used to be easy and familiar no longer are, and instead, you find yourself clinging to your new cultural identity.

Though the road through culture shock can be rocky, the reward is in making it through to the other side, where true biculturalism can be attained.

10) Find a new hobby

By Gemma of Two Scots Abroad

Becoming an expat for the first time can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to socializing and entertainment. Join this sports team, do this pub quiz, go to this party – it’s OK not to want to participate in all of the high energy activities in the unofficial welcome pack!

However, introverts who prefer their own company and extroverts who need downtime can have a positive expat experience too.

Consider what brings you joy, and then work out what activities contribute. For example, if you are a reader, seek out local book clubs. They don’t have to be in person; there are plenty of online communities that allow you to connect with people outside of your new home area.

Maybe you prefer art, photography or languages? Search for private tuition or local classes at schools and colleges.

If you really don’t want to speak to anyone, invest in a new hobby. Dig into free YouTube videos or a premium online course and spend time practising your new skill. If you can do this outside, you are still connecting with your ex-pat environment, engaging with it uniquely. What about painting, skating or wild swimming?

Finally, there will be times when you just want to binge on Netflix, alone! If you miss your favourite shows, VPNs can gain you access to home country TV streaming. There are always Zoom games too if you want to keep entertained and in contact with new expat friends or pals back home.

11) Immerse yourself in the language

a couple staring at each other in a viewpoint at sunsett

By Pablo Fechino of The Happiness Function

Imagine being a foreigner in a new country, surrounded by people who speak a language that you thought was familiar when you learned it through school. Still, it was unfamiliar to you once you got to the country because everyone around you was using slang terms and had unexpected accents.

This can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience, but it doesn’t have to be! There are many ways to increase your chances of success while living in a foreign country, and language immersion is one of them. Here are some tips for making the most out of your time as an expat while learning the language style.

Don’t hang out with only your friends that speak your language. Instead, immerse yourself with the locals. Make new friends and learn from the people around you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask what slang terms mean. Share trendy slang for fun! Be patient and agile with yourself. Most locals love to go out of their way to help.

Watch local TV with the closed caption on. This is one of the top ways to pick up on how sentences are put together in real conversation. Then you can read and hear the language. And know, it is okay to assume a new accent.

These easy tips will get you up to speed, and you’ll be blending right in with your new community in no time!

12) Keep in mind that moving abroad isn’t a forever decision

By Amanda of Amanda Walkins

Moving to another country can feel like such an enormous decision, with innumerable questions to ask and logistical steps to sort out.

But there’s something incredibly important you should continuously say to yourself during this whole process…

This doesn’t have to be a forever decision.

Living in this other country doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. Your life might take you in an entirely different direction someday — it could be very soon or it could be years from now — and you might move on yet again.

You’ll have moments of panic when you question why you moved to this specific place or why you moved away at all.

You might consider going back home or going somewhere new…constantly.

Just do your best to live in this moment and get the most out of this unique experience while you’re here.

The privilege of being an expat is that you have a choice; you are not moving out of necessity and it is so very important to remember that.

So remind yourself whenever the need arises: this doesn’t have to be forever.

13) Know when your passport is due to expire

By Diane of Slow Stroll Travel

You’ve purchased your tickets and packed your bags. But there is one more really important thing you need to do before travelling abroad. Check the expiration date on your passport!

If your passport only has three to six months left until it expires, many countries will not let you in!

You can check your passport’s expiration date on the information page. That is the page with your name and photo. At the bottom of the page you will find the date the passport was issued and the date it will expire.

Many European countries require that your passport be valid for three months after your arrival date. Are you visiting one of the Schengen countries?

They require your passport to be valid for three months after you intend to leave the European Union. Some countries have a six-month rule, meaning your passport must be valid for another six months before you start your international travel.

Don’t get caught with an invalid passport! Make sure to check your passport’s expiration date and the passport rules of the countries you will be travelling to.

14) Learn about the local food culture

anchovies in milan

By Denise of Chef Denise

Learning about the local food culture and norms can be very helpful in avoiding embarrassment and staving off a few “hangry” episodes.

First, familiarise yourself with traditional foods in your new country. Most likely there will be something that you consider exotic. Knowing about it ahead of time allows you to handle the situation politely, and possibly even warm up to the idea of eating it.

For example, the national dish of Scotland, haggis, or sheep’s lung, may not appeal to everyone. Likewise, many foreigners squeal over the famous French food, escargot (snails). Guinea pigs in Peru, giraffes in Kenya, and scorpions in China—the list is endless!

Sometimes the food you’re used to may be presented differently. Like fish and shrimp in most countries outside of the U.S. will come with its head-on.

Perhaps even more importantly, learn about the cultural norms of what is eaten when, and the restaurant and market hours.

In Italy and many other countries, a big eggy breakfast is definitely not the standard. In Spain, dinner may start at 9:00 pm. And in many countries, you cannot be guaranteed access to meal service or groceries all day long.

15) Learn how to navigate relationships with friends and family back home

two women drinking red wine

By Janelle of Make the Trip Matter

It can be tricky to navigate relationships with friends and family back home when you first move abroad. Emotions run high because there’s simultaneous sadness and excitement about leaving home to start a new adventure.

Before moving you should talk with your friends and family about how you will communicate and keep in touch after your move.

Will you text your friends frequently on WhatsApp? Or maybe have a weekly Zoom call with your parents? Set expectations early that you will try your best to keep in touch regularly, but that you will also be trying to settle in and explore your NEW home.

After you move, be aware of when you might be using your loved ones back home as a crutch and safety net. For most people, it is much easier to rely on familiarity than it is to put yourself out of your comfort zone in a foreign country to meet new people and develop brand new relationships.

However, stepping out of your comfort zone is the beauty of living abroad! And while you absolutely should keep up with the people you care about back home, make sure it’s not taking away from the new bonds and friendships you will be forming and experiences you will have.

16) Research which items are hard to find or more expensive where you are moving to

By Isabelle of Move To Vietnam

Regardless of whether you are moving two countries away from your home country or across the globe, it’s important to do your research and check which items are hard to find or more expensive in the place you are moving to.

For example, when you move to Vietnam, as a tall and larger woman, it will be hard for you to find bras that are bigger than 36C or shoe size that is bigger than 8 (US) / 39 (EU).

The same goes for men, waist sizes in pants in Vietnam don’t go past 35 inches and are not longer than 40 inches in length. While shoes don’t go bigger than 7 (US) / 39.5 (EU).

On the other hand, if you are a person from Asia who enjoy the use of traditional medicine or herb-based home remedies, moving to the west, you might not be able to find those. You might also find yourself shopping for shoes at the kid’s department since the average shoe sizes there are much larger than in Asia.

These things don’t stop with clothing and footwear, oftentimes, gadgets are also affected. Some smart devices are only available and sold in limited countries. It’s best to spend some time looking up and asking other expats what items they wish they brought with them before the move.

17) Use Facebook groups to make friends

By Cami of Travel Cami

A great way to make friends in a new city is to join Facebook groups. This will allow you to connect with people who share your interests and who live near you.

In addition, it can be a great way to learn about upcoming events and activities. And if you ever need help or advice, there’s sure to be someone in the group who can lend a hand!

To find the right groups, you can search for “Expats in X” or even look for activity-related groups such as “Hiking in X”.

18) Use Wise for banking

WISE card

By Shev of ShevStrolls

The world can feel like a small place, and in a lot of ways, it is! But as many a veteran expat can attest to, the ways in which you can access your money become extremely limited the moment you step across the border. So, before you go, make sure you have a reliable solution!

Wise is a mobile, international banking solution that has made itself the best way for travellers, expats, and ordinary people to bank.

Wise allows you to access, send, and exchange your money from anywhere, at any time. The app functions much like a normal chequing account, with the added luxury of allowing you to transfer large sums of money across currencies, for very low fees. And the best part, most transfers happen within seconds!

It allows you to deposit into any bank account in over 50 supported currencies so you can make your rent payment, or even send a large deposit for a house without waiting for wire transfers from your banks, paying hefty fees, or needing to visit your bank back home in person!

If you have any questions or want any advice on living abroad, reach me by email or on Instagram. I’m always happy to help.

Cristina xx

P.S. Do you know any friends who are moving abroad? Share these tips for expats with them.

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