How To Make Your Expat Home Feel Like Home
If you’ve recently relocated and are experiencing a touch of cultureshock, rest assured that this is a perfectly normal stage of being an expat abroad. Your new expat home may feel strange and anything but homely at first. Perhaps you’re missing your friends and family and all those home comforts that somehow seem much more important now they’re no longer at your fingertips. And if you’ve arrived in Spain and your Spanish is more on the beginner level (principiante) than advanced, you might be a little nervous about finding your bearings and settling in.
Living in any new country can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be a daunting experience, especially when you’ve only recently arrived. Whether homesickness, unfamiliarity or loneliness are the biggest issues for you at the moment, we’re here to provide some ideas and inspiration on how to settle happily into the expat lifestyle.
Embrace the expat mindset
First off, living in a different country requires a fresh mindset. After weeks and months of preparation for your relocation, you (and your family) are no doubt excited to finally arrive and see what your new home is all about. And with all those new areas to explore, things to do and local customs to discover, it will feel like a long holiday except that you get to stay there!
Embrace that sense of adventure to help you get to know your way around. Once you’ve discovered how the public transport system works, where the best restaurants are and which credit cards you can use at grocery stores etc, your expat town won’t feel half as alien. As we all know, the more familiar something becomes, the more it feels like home.
Why not record all those new experiences by keeping a diary, starting a blog or sharing posts on social media? You could make a habit of going to a local park and writing a journal. Or pack a camera to capture all those places of interest you’re exploring and, if you do want to share the images, it might be the right time to set up an Instagram account for your life abroad.
Make a home from home
Home is where we feel safe and nurtured, which is why it can be difficult when a relocation abroad uproots our equilibrium. When you move into your new place, the house or apartment can feel sparse and unloved at first. Whether you’ve moved with a truckload of your own belongings or just a couple of suitcases, it’s important for your sense of wellbeing to take some time to personalize the space to make it feel more like yours.
If you’ve brought your own furniture, moving in will be easier in many ways as you’ll be surrounded by familiar items that remind you of home. If you’ve only brought a few keepsakes, make sure they’re prominently displayed – you can still have a piece of home with you wherever you go.
Once you’re fully unpacked and moved in, it’s time for all those finishing touches that make a house a home. Put uplifting pictures on the wall and cozy rugs on the floor, add a touch of nature with flowers and houseplants, and fill the house with the sound of the music you love!
Learn the language and culture
If you want to get under the hood of the country you’re visiting, you might like to get to know the local language and customs a bit better. In Spain, for example, most people do speak reasonable English, so if you’re only staying for a few months, learning the language may not seem worth it. However, don’t underestimate the power of being able to communicate with the local population in their language.
What’s more, when you’re able to make yourself understood in Spanish, many aspects of daily life will become less challenging. From going to the dentist or hairdresser to getting to know the neighbors and making Spanish-speaking friends at the local gym, school or sports club, it can seem like you’ve overcome a major obstacle to feeling at home here.
Learning the language (even the basics) will also open the door to gaining a greater insight into local culture. Look out for any opportunities to take up a new hobby or learn new skills and get involved in the local community. Whether you’re helping to organize a local Christmas fair, sing in a village choir or join a hiking group near you, it’s a great way to broaden your horizons, meet local people and make new friends.
Nurture friendships and family relationships
With your family and friends far away back home, it makes it even more important to build local connections in your new expat hometown. The easiest way is to make contact with other expats who are in the same situation as you are and bond over common experiences and problems. When you have supportive expat friends in the neighborhood, it relaxes you and makes you feel more comfortable living abroad.
However, one of the biggest mistakes many expats make is limiting their social contact to English-speaking friends only. While getting out of your comfort zone and into the new world outside may be scary at first, it really is the only way to make the most of your stay abroad.
Mix up your social interactions to give you a more balanced and more nurturing social life. Make new English-speaking friends and build local friendships too. Invite your family and friends back home to come and visit you and act as the tourist guide to show off your local knowledge. Combining the best of both worlds means it is totally possible to feel at home in two places.