Tuesday, 26 May 2015

"The first time I felt like a local" - Expat Milestones

For people moving abroad, especially those with families, it is important to make a new location feel like home quickly. It’s through reaching certain milestones that a land which at first seemed completely foreign gradually becomes familiar and starts to feel like home. This post looks at four of these milestones – what are yours?  


In addition to being a valuable skill, learning the local language can also do so much to assist you integrating into and moving around within society. A language barrier in some instances can become a literal barrier, and that is why when people are able to speak the local language it can feel like this barrier has been torn down.  Try using the new language when out shopping or running errands, and if you’re unsure of what an item is called or how to say something, just have a go…!

Local Friends

Although there’s a tendency for expats to cluster together, you can’t underestimate the importance of making local friends who know the area. For one they can provide emotional support at a time of change and adjustment. They can also show you around, making sure you see more than just your new desk. Another way that local friends can help expats to feel like locals is by helping with the previous point, learning the language. One of the best ways to learn a language well is to use it in everyday conversation and receive correction with specific pronunciations and local friends can help with both areas. The help and encouragement of local friends can do so much to help expats out of their expat bubble and add to the quality of life in their new setting.

Local customs

There’s no two ways about it; understanding the local customs is a surefire way to helping you make the transition from expat to native. Mundane everyday actions can quickly remind you how different the country is when they are not familiar. For example, in Venezuela, dinner guests are expected to arrive late as arriving early implies that you’re greedy, and in Japan the direction of your chopsticks can secure your food on a shared plate. Read up and ask your network for insight on this, and don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes – most people will be very forgiving in the event that you make a faux pas!

Flickr – Nicoleyfun

Knowing your way around

Knowing your way around the new city you’re living in and learning about your surroundings is another step towards feeling like a local. Navigating through any new town can be puzzling at first and the complexity could even be increased by road signs and maps in different languages or even a completely different transportation system. But the only way to solve the puzzle is to explore. There is also the ultimate sense of accomplishment that comes when you are able to provide directions to someone else unfamiliar with the area. 

What was the moment when you started to feel like a local? Tweet @expatexplorer your top tips for finding your feet. 

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