A Veteran’s Guide to Expat Life: 5 Tips for First-Time Expats


Uprooting your life and becoming an expatriate is a unique experience that not many people will have in their lifetime. Moving abroad will come with a host of emotions and feelings, from excitement and curiosity to anxiety and anticipation, especially for first-time ex-pats. You’ll make many mistakes and gain many learning experiences, but preparing for your move to a new country will ensure you can avoid common issues many expats face. Here are five tips to prepare for your journey abroad and facilitate a smooth transition into your new life.

Turn to tech

Traveling is stressful enough without moving your entire life to a new environment, but it doesn’t have to be. Thanks to technology, transitioning to life in a different country is easier than ever. How? For example, cloud computing has made it possible to work from anywhere in the world, ensuring all of your important documents and projects are only a click away. 


For those tech-forward expats, a virtual P.O. box allows you to forward packages and letters wherever you are and makes receiving mail simple no matter how long you’re away from home. With an online PO box under your belt, staying connected with your home country, all while maintaining optimal security, will be a snap. 


Should nagging cases of homesickness be a point of concern, turn to tech-forward solutions. No longer are the days of handing over extravagant international fees to stay in touch with long-distance loved ones. With apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, you can use the internet to text and call family members without extra cost.

Conduct thorough research

A significant part of moving to any new place includes doing research. Moving overseas means you’ll likely need a visa. While the visa process varies from person to person, being prepared with every possible document you’ll need along the way can make obtaining your visa fast and painless. Additionally, you’ll need to conduct research to find your new accommodations. It’s not always possible to visit the place you’ll be living before you move, so discovering the best neighborhoods to live in will likely be done virtually. You’ll also want to learn about local customs and gain a basic understanding of your soon-to-be everyday lifestyle.

Renew identification documents

Once you’ve received your visa, it will stay in your passport. If your passport needs to be renewed while you’re abroad, switching your visa from your old passport to your new one can pose a challenge. To streamline the process, visit your nearest U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate to begin the renewal process, and shipping documents and waiting on your new passport can take weeks. Instead of waiting for expirations dates, it’s best to ensure that all of your IDs are renewed before you move abroad, including your driver’s license.

Learn the language

If you’re moving to a country that doesn’t use English as an official language, it’s wise to learn the language of the place you’re going to live. While you shouldn’t expect to become fluent immediately, learning a few key phrases will make exploring your new home less stressful. You’ll find it easier to adjust, and locals will appreciate the effort you make to integrate into their culture. Learning the language of your new home can help you become more independent, and immersing yourself in the local environment will make it far easier to develop proficiency.

Be patient and realistic

When living abroad, there isn’t much under your control. Obtaining a visa may not happen on the timeline you originally planned for, and your new living accommodations may not be everything you’ve dreamed of. While being an ex-pat has its moments of fun and glamour, you won’t be living out your wildest wanderlust dreams every day. The daily tasks and chores you perform are just as much a part of the experience as jet-setting and exploring. 

The bottom line

While moving abroad may be both stressful and thrilling, being prepared is the best way of avoiding significant surprises or impactful setbacks as you adjust to your new life. Try to learn as much as possible about living abroad by consulting other ex-pats or connecting with locals in your new home neighborhood. While it may be challenging to feel truly ready for your new adventure, even as the day of your departure approaches, know that this experience will be one you’ll never forget.

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