expat network

Five Ways to Settle into Your Home Abroad

home abroad
Moving abroad is an exciting opportunity and the first few weeks can be very important as you settle into a very different lifestyle.  Here are five tips to help you to settle in and ensure the long-term success of your move abroad.

Written for Expat Network by British Corner Shop


The time has come – you’re leaving your life in the UK for greener pastures abroad. It’s an exciting (and rather daunting) venture that is going to turn your life upside down… in a good way. Those who have been settled into their new home for a while now will all vouch that there’s a transition period before you’ll feel ‘at home’ again. Whatever your reason for moving, expat life offers new and exciting opportunities that are worth the initial struggle. If you’re about to start your new chapter (or recently started), make sure you check out our top five ways to settle into your home abroad and you’ll start feeling like a local in no time.


1) Give yourself time to settle in

Whether you’re moving for a new job, retirement or just a new start, there’s always going to be a transition period. Unfortunately, integration doesn’t happen overnight! Whether you’re expecting it or not, you’re likely to experience a culture shock and homesickness (this happens even if you just relocate within the UK!). The “settlement curve” has four distinct stages: fun, fright, flight and fit. But not to worry! If you understand these stages in advance, you’ll be prepared to tackle each stage as they happen.

The excitement of relocation is sure to make the first stages of settling in good fun – you’ll be exploring the area, trying new things and overall having a whale of a time (hopefully). However, at some stage, something may happen that leads the realisation that life in a new country isn’t quite as you expected and will make you wistful about life back home. This may lead you to consider relocating, but remember you’re only human! It’s perfectly normal and expected to have these feelings, and if you stick at it, they’re likely to go away. Once you’ve made it through this stage, this is when things start to fall into place, and you start to fit in. Your routines start to stick, and you start to feel more at home (queue sigh of relief).


2) Learn the language

If you’re moving to a country which speaks the same language, you can meander over to tip three. If you are moving to a country where English isn’t the primary language, it’s important to at least understand the basics before you move. Even if English is widely spoken there, you’ll be amazed at how much this will help you when you first move! We’re not saying this will be easy, but a little goes a long way in helping ease everyday interactions and locals are much more likely to respond positively if you speak to them in their language. Once you’re settled, you’re bound to pick up more of the language in no time!


3) Keep in touch with loved ones back home

When you move, one of the most important things is to build a new support network around you. However, you don’t want to neglect your relationships back home. This may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t underestimate how easy it is to be swept up in your new life. However, a new home in a foreign country can all too soon become a lonely place. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can call or make video calls to different countries for free (it wasn’t this easy 20 years ago!), so make sure you schedule in some much-needed catch-up time with your loved ones back home.


4) Live like a local

You don’t want to learn the local customs the hard way – it can be rather embarrassing if you do! Different cultures have different ways of behaving – everything from greetings to mealtimes will take some getting used to (how the Spanish wait until 10 pm to eat dinner is still a wonder to us). While most people will be understanding that you’re not aware of the culture, you can save yourself a lot of potential awkwardness if you’ve researched typical customs beforehand.


5) Know your creature comforts…and get them

A top tip for new expat life is to know the creature comforts that make you feel at home…and get them. For some, it may be a comforting cup of English Breakfast Tea, a dollop of Marmite on your toast or perhaps your favourite chocolate bar from your childhood. While it’s of course important to embrace the life of your new country, the traditions you’ve had all your life which bring you joy (Fish & Chips Friday or Sunday Roasts) will help soften the blow of the culture change and ease of the homesickness a little. If you don’t have access to your favourite products in your new home – we can help you out with this… just sayin’ (but we’re sure you already know this).

Oh, and remember to do the important admin-y stuff: get your visa, buy a new SIM, open a bank account etc. Now that you’re ready to conquer life in your new home, it’s time to spread your wings and fly!