The expat’s experience of living is truly unique. Whether because of work or curiosity, you’ve been uprooted and dropped into a new culture. There, you’re left to fend for yourself, finding a way to preserve your own cultural identity while also being receptive and respectful towards your host country. The truth is, every expat’s experience is slightly different, and that’s dictated by the choice you make on moving to your new country. Here are some of those key choices – and how to navigate them on your entry to a strange, exciting new country.
Making a home for yourself is important. It’s the same as in your home country: when you stop through the threshold of your property, you want to feel a sense of ease and calm. That makes your home a great base for exploration because you’re always replenished when you leave your home. Make sure you find a place that fits your needs and that you can decorate to make you feel comfortable and happy. This might take time – you might even have to move house once or twice – but it’s an important first step.
Making friends is a key step in an expat’s life. In general, you’ll not find it difficult to make friends with other expats. It’s a small community, often, that’s very used to receiving new people. If you’re sending your children to school, like the expat-friendly Rugby School, Thailand – you’ll make friends with the parents of their friends. Further afield, make sure you’re making friends in your job and that you try to pursue new and existing hobbies and passions. This will expose you to new friendships, including with people from your new host country.
Some expats tend to prefer to live in a similar way to how they lived in their home country. They cook the same meals, follow the same schedule, and rarely dive into the culture that is all around them. This isn’t unusual, but it seems a bit of a shame considering how much you can learn from your host country. Even if you’re a creature of comfort – and who can blame you – it’s worth trying to lead a kind of hybrid lifestyle while you live as an expat. Take cooking courses in the local cuisine. Adopt some local customs. Try local traditions. It’ll help your experience of living abroad so much richer and more memorable.
Finally, one huge reason that expats choose to live abroad is that they want to travel. With a new base hundreds of miles from home, short-haul flights can take you to incredible new places that you wouldn’t have been able to visit from home. There will also be opportunities for you to take weekend trips to your new host county. You should leap at these opportunities, especially if your local friends can show you the very best beaches, cultural hotspots, or natural marvels in your area.
Living as an expat requires thoughtful lifestyle curation, as this short guide aims to outline. But there are opportunities for nourishment in this lifestyle, and they’re well worth seizing with both hands.