Friday, 18 January 2013

Five things I wish I knew before becoming an expat

Image source: Creative Commons

By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen our new Hints & Tips Tool. We’re really proud of this new community resource, where expats can share tips to help each other along their respective overseas adventures. One feature the tool offers is a bank of “Top 5 Tips lists. Seeing this in action inspired us to write our own top 5 list for today’s blog post. Let us know what you think in the comments, and try the tool out for yourself here. 

1. Local customs and faux pas
It can be sometimes be tricky getting the local customs right when you move to a new area, and it’s inevitable that you’ll put your foot in it from time to time. We’re sure you would've been saved some minor embarrassments along the way had people perhaps told you that it’s rude to tip in Japan, or that you should avoid wrapping birthday presents in green, black or blue in Thailand.

2. The rules of the road
Driving in a new country can be one of the biggest culture shocks of all. From which side of the road to drive on to rights of way. Different countries can have very different rules and attitudes to getting around and it can take a bit of time to get used to it all.

3. Attitudes to work
You’d expect people’s attitudes to work will be pretty similar wherever you go. In fact this can be among the most dramatic differences you come across. While senior executives around the world are always on, it may come as a surprise to American expats just how seriously Europeans take their leave – and not just with regard to the Spanish tradition of taking siestas. If you’re one to send your work emails on a Saturday, you may need to get used to waiting until Monday for a reply.

4. Balancing old and new friends
Your friendships may be really strong, but sometimes it can be pretty difficult to get out there and make new friends without neglecting your pals back home. Fortunately, with all of the social networking services available to us, it’s never been easier to keep in contact with those you’ve left behind – just make sure you don’t spend all of your time tied to your laptop.

5. The local language
This last one is perhaps obvious, but it’s always easier to get on when you can speak to the people around you. No matter, the best thing to do when you can’t understand a word is to be outgoing. Enroll in language classes and then get out there and practice, practice, practice!


  1. How right you are. I especially agree with the balancing of friendships!

  2. This is also true when you "return" because you have to re-learn everything.


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