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Living in a foreign country is an opportunity to reinvent yourself. This is a new chance to build a new life in a completely new country. However, before jumping into a plane and moving to the UK from the USA, you should consider a number of things. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you start living as an expat in Europe.
Living as an expat in Europe: before you move
Here are some handy pieces of advice on what to do before you make the big move.
- Visit any place you are considering before moving there – several times if possible. Spend time exploring the area and getting to know the city. Just because you had one great weekend somewhere does not mean that it will be good for living.
- If you have a partner, agree in advance that any of you can veto your proposed destination. Dragging over a reluctant partner is not a way to start a new life abroad.
- Think about the reasons for your departure. Is this the great adventure you’ve always dreamed about? Are you moving for practical reasons such as work, low cost of living, or a healthier culture? What are your expectations? What resources are you willing to devote to success?
- Have a complete physical to prepare for moving abroad. You do not need health surprises when you have just arrived in a new country.
- Bring a good supply of medicine if you need one. Find out if it is possible to get refills sent to you by mail.
- Lay out all your clothes and all your money, then take half your clothes and twice as much money. You can buy a new wardrobe, but only a good financial plan to move can help you in an unforeseen situation.
Some useful tips for living as an expat in Europe
If you are, for example, moving from the USA to Germany, you will find it very difficult to learn the language. Take private lessons if you can afford it. Your learning speed will skyrocket. A private teacher can work with subjects of interest to you (for example, local culture, hobbies, food). It is also useful to focus on the topics you need, such as vocabulary related to your work, children’s school, or that ongoing plumbing problem in the bath below.
It takes time. If you are over 30, you will probably need months for basic knowledge, years to master skills, and a lifetime to work on your accent. Start with simple words and phrases that may come in handy in social situations. Keep your progress steady and gradual; the more you know the language, the more pleasant and comfortable your life will be.
Dealing with culture shock as an expat
Try to see the differences only like differences. They are not a comment on you, your decision of living as an expat in Europe, the country in which you are located, or your ability to adapt. Resist the acceptance of cultural stereotypes as true facts.
You will always stand out as a foreigner. This is especially true in societies where most people spend their whole lives communicating with their neighbors. You can never truly join this inner circle, but you can create a place for yourself in a community that is exclusively your own and richly useful.
Making European friends
When you live abroad, be open to all the possibilities that can lead to social interaction. If someone offers to get together to attend an art exhibition, sporting event, or even a bullfight, consider it carefully, even if you are not enthusiastic about impressionistic paintings, football, or watching animal killing. You have to go out and meet people; just say yes when you can.
Consider joining a social club or participating in social events. Some features include a choir, a drawing lesson, or a group of cyclists. And if you are moving with kids abroad, try to find a social club for them too. Even if you don’t do it often, you will find that this can be a great way to expand the circle of local friends. Find social clubs in your area or consult a consulate or embassy in your country.
Do not isolate yourself. Sometimes life abroad feels overwhelming. We all have days when we want to stay home and pull a blanket over our heads. But the more you go out and interact with your new world, the faster it will start to feel like home.
Business culture is not universal
Learn local business customs. Do not think that everyone has the same attitude, for example, to payment schedules. Spend time talking with other people in your company and your area to find out what to expect.
Be prepared for resentment. Any foreigner who is hired, especially to a desired leadership position, can cause jealousy and hostility. Try not to take it personally.
Eat and drink like a local
Eat local food. Give the local cuisine a chance while living in Europe as an expat. You may be pleasantly surprised. Try to get rid of old habits in which you cannot indulge.
If you are in the city, find out what the locals drink. You might just discover something new. Bartenders are usually happy to describe their proposals and determine what other people around you are ordering. It will also give you the opportunity to practice linguistic skills and gain useful vocabulary while living abroad. In addition, many people find that speaking a foreign language becomes much easier after a few drinks.
Adapt to local food schedules. If you come to a Spanish restaurant for lunch before 12:00 or for dinner before 21:00, you will eat alone and wonder why everyone said that this place was so fun. On the other hand, if you come to a German or Dutch restaurant too late, you will also be alone.
Change of transport
You do not need a car to survive. Walking is the most practical form of transport in many places, especially in small cities. This is a great way to move around, get some exercise, and get to know your new community – not to mention the cost savings compared to other modes of transport. If you live in a big city, buy a public transport pass and learn how to use the bus, tram, and metro.
Getting used to living as an expat in Europe can be difficult. But, with the right approach, you can make it much easier for yourself. Most importantly, be patient. All big changes require some time to adapt to them. And moving to a different continent is probably one of the biggest ones in your life.