Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The 5 most common thoughts for week one of expat life

You shuffle awkwardly out of the airport’s revolving doors, a suitcase in one hand and a hastily printed set of directions in the other. It’s week one of your new expat life and even the air tastes different to home. Excitement, anticipation and dread fill your body in equal measure and a thousand thoughts rush through your head. But what if you could see thought bubbles floating over the heads of your fellow expats – what would they say? Well we listened and you might be surprised…


“I’m lost!”
Expats get lost in a very special way. Anyone can lose their way in a new city whilst visiting friends or on holiday, but only expats know what it’s like to be thoroughly lost in a supermarket or even the local corner shop. With conventions for everything from the way shops are laid out to road signs and public transport, getting your bearings can be an absolute nightmare in that first week. As one expat told us “remember to add in extra time to get lost – no matter where you’re going”.

“I’ve got a friend date – and I’m terrified!”
The friend date. Another uniquely  expat conundrum.  A friend of a friend sets you up with your first pal from outside of work and you quickly find yourself terrified. Should you go for a drink, lunch or a coffee and what if you don’t get on! Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules, but try our guide to making friends abroad to help break the ice…

“Is that even edible?”
A lack of adventure is not a common trait among expats but moving from the Orient to Europe or Central Asia to the Middle East can create some truly taxing culinary conundrums. First time expats in Japan may be surprised to see tuna eyeballs staring back at them from supermarket shelves, whilst in Sweden hungry expats should be wary of Surströmming Рa local delicacy made from fermented fish which is famous for its overwhelmingly foul odour.

Wikimedia Commons / Lapplaender

“Where do I get pencils?”
A very specific thought to convey a much bigger problem. Becoming an expat makes you realise how much of your day to day life can happen on auto-pilot. All of a sudden, expat life makes the simplest of tasks impossible. Where do you buy pencils in Prague and how does the recycling work in Beijing?

“I think I just offended someone…”
 Whether it’s getting paranoid about the local hand gestures or worrying if you’re using the right cutlery, expats  spend a lot of time worrying they might have offended someone. It’s vital to do your research but remember to keep it in perspective. After all, almost half of the expats we spoke to in our 2013 survey strongly associated their new country with friendliness. Let’s hope they’ll cut you some slack! 

Something we missed? Tweet @expatexplorer to let us know the strangest places you got lost?

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