Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Expats' Biggest Lessons

We asked our followers about the biggest lessons they learned while living abroad – and here’s what they said. Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts: @Baldrick2Dogs, @clairehs, @JeffinLondon, @cecilymargaret, @suecalola, @FlorenceLince, @EWadzinski, @Shannonthemrs, @BookofNess and @tweetsunands.

Plan in advance

“Plan, plan; then plan some more” – for many expats this is the golden rule for keeping your move abroad as smooth as possible. And we agree! Doing the legwork before you go can really pay off – particularly when it comes to seemingly simple things you’d usually take for granted, like finding somewhere to live, organising your money, arranging schools for your children and finalising work arrangements. Today it’s never been easier to move abroad – you can find lots of support from many different organisations across a range of channels, including social media and the wider internet. 

Image source: Creative Common/Greenmars

Look and listen
Researching your new country before you get there is invaluable – but of course it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect until you actually arrive. While some people will find it easiest to adapt to their new lives by jumping straight in, others might need a bit more time to get to grips with new cultures, etiquette, language and way of living. Take some time to observe the wider landscape of your new country: visit the shops, restaurants and bars, talk to colleagues and get online to find like-minded expats who have been in the same boat. As is often the case with anything new, experience is what will help you to feel more in control - and there’s no better time to start than today…!

Image source: Creative Common/NewYork1956

Learn about yourself
Although it might sound like a cliché, living somewhere completely new and outside of your comfort zone might make you reflect on things and help you learn something new about yourself. Changing your living environment, job and daily routine in general is a sure-fire way to experience new things which will change how you feel about yourself. It could be time to take up a new hobby, sport or make new friends. It might also make you think about making some other changes for the better, like quitting smoking, taking more exercise or eating more healthily. Keeping an expat journal or writing down a few notes each day about what you’re doing will help you to keep sight of how far you’ve come and could be a great memento to keep for years to come.

Give yourself a break
There’s no getting away from the fact that moving anywhere new isn’t always plain sailing. Yes, it’s an exciting time but it can also throw up lots of challenges – from simply feeling a little homesick to frustrations about understanding the language. Understanding an entirely different culture can feel daunting, so take things one day at a time if you’re finding it tough. Often, new things can feel strange – but in reality, it’s not strange, it’s just different to what you’re used to. There’s no reason to feel ashamed or guilty if expat life doesn’t come to you quite as naturally as you initially thought it might. Settling into a new way of life usually takes a while, and many people might take a few months or more to find their feet – but you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that most expats are likely to feel this way at some point. Give yourself a break, keep things in perspective and just go with it!

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an expat? Share them with other expats via our Hints & Tips tool!

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