Monday, 1 December 2014

Three ideas to kickstart your expat life

Image source: Flickr/ Creative Commons

Becoming an expat is no small decision. The move can change your life for ever, with 36% of expats finding their partner abroad, whilst there a considerable challenges from learning a new language to finding the right school for the kids.

Even if you’re the most meticulous planner – the kind of person who arrives seven hours early to the airport just in case –those first couple of weeks is going to be jam-packed with  surprises.  While you’re never going to be able to second guess every little thing, and you wouldn’t want to, you can prepare for the bigger cultural changes. To get you started, we’ve come up with three things you can do before taking the plunge that will help ease your transition and kickstart expat life.

Visit your future home out-of-season
Ah, spring in Barcelona, summer in Rio, the Swiss slopes in March and Christmas in Sydney. All breathtakingly picturesque. But don’t forget that that’s only part of the story. Of course we’re not taking anything away from the beauty of these places. Nevertheless, it’s probably wise to take a trip to your home-to-be out of season to make sure that it’s not just the 30 degree heat or the fresh carpet of snow that’s drawing you to the place. It’s remarkable how many potential expats don’t know that Spain is by no means gloriously sun drenched year around, or that winter in Beijing is almost permanently below zero! Most destinations have a small window of time when the majority of visitors arrive, and so we cannot be blamed for holding that image in our memories for the rest of the year. You might be surprised about what you find. Perhaps that thunderstorm in Florida means you don’t spend all your time on the beach and instead go and explore some of the rich architectural history instead. 

Sample the local cuisine
Complaining about the lack of good teabags and chocolate is a favourite pastime of most British expats. Arriving in your new home and already being familiar with some of the local foodstuffs will at least hold off those cravings for a little longer. If you live in a big city, chances are you’ll already have access to your new country’s cuisine. If you don’t, try and get your hands on a cook book and do it yourself!  

Find an app to help
Linguistic barriers have to be the number one thing that holds expats back from fully integrating into their new home. But it’s amazing how much pleasure you’ll get out of understanding the little things like street signs and restaurant menus. Getting yourself up to conversational proficiency is great, but in reality we haven’t all got time to go to evening classes three times a week. If your schedule is tight, try downloading an app that will teach you a few key phrases each day. Once you’ve got the basics, you’ll start improving pretty fast.  

Share your own tips for moving abroad in the comments section or on Twitter (@expatexplorer).

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