Cultural Integration

The first week abroad: 10 tips on moving to a new country

The first weeks and months in a new country can be exciting yet disorienting as you adapt to your new life abroad. Here are 10 tips that will make moving to new country easier.

Moving to a new country

By Expatica

Updated 29-2-2024

When you’re ready to take the plunge while moving to a new country, a lot of things can cause anxiety during the first few days. You might feel anxiety about your new job or university program; you could be worried that you won’t be able to figure out the public transportation system; or maybe you want to find the best places to get your groceries from.

But as long as you take some time to organize your first few days and give yourself small goals to accomplish, you can settle into your new home more comfortably. Moving to a new country is stressful, especially if it’s your first time being an expat; these tips can help make the process a smooth one.

1. Pick one or two of your favorite items and take them with you

It could be your pillow, a family photo album, your favorite mug, a handmade sweater from your mum, or your alarm clock. It could also be something as simple as watching a television show from back home. Basically, make it anything that reminds you of home. Keeping a small piece of home with you helps ground you as you learn about your new home.

2. Do your homework before moving to a new country

Before moving to a new country, always look for more information. You can do research the place online, talking in forums, or talking with people who have been there. It is important to note down and find out at least the first few things you can do, and the places you need to know upon arrival. Research all of your needs before you go, whether it’s about pet relocation or local healthcare.

3. Sign up for a local language class

If you already speak the language, join a community club, an expat club, or any organization that gives you the opportunity to make new friends. Language classes are most helpful, though. You’ll not only develop your linguistic skills, you’ll also have a chance to meet other new arrivals. These classes are full of people who are probably just as desperate for company as you are.

4. Figure out where the locals buy their groceries

Buying from a local store instead of an international one will save you tons of money and make you feel so much more at home. Products are usually much cheaper in stores for locals compared to those for foreigners. Explore the local cuisine and learn to cook it at home (especially if the country is renowned to be super healthy).

5. Get a reputable agent to source your accommodation

It might cost a bit extra, but you will find a better place to live and save yourself a significant amount of the unnecessary stress that comes from living in a bad neighborhood or somewhere far away from your work place. Don’t jump right into buying the first home you see; be restrained and do your research before buying a house abroad.

6. Get a mobile phone with a local number

A mobile phone is essential: you can call anyone in times of need, especially when you’re moving to a new country where you don’t know if any unforeseen problems might happen. Plus, the sooner you have a local number, the easier it is for you to make new friends. With today’s technology, you can download tons of free apps that allow you to call home (e.g., Facetime, Line, Skype, Tango, Viber).

7. Go for a wander around your neighborhood

Take a stroll and find out where the restaurants and local bars are around your area. Don’t be afraid to get lost; you can always take a taxi home or ask for directions. This is the best way to learn any new place, foreign or not.

8. Make an appointment you cannot miss on your third day

This forces you to get with the program, get in the right time zone, and get a life. It could be anything: sign up for a new class, watch a movie, buy some utensils for your new apartment, open up a bank account – anything. Just make sure you get it done on the third day, because sooner than three days is too soon and later than three days is too late. Having a small, attainable goal in your new home gives you a small sense of purpose and forces you to discover your new city.

9. Give yourself permission to be homesick

It’s only natural to miss home, family, and friends. Don’t be too harsh on yourself and allow yourself some personal time to feel homesick and miss your friends. Try to embrace this feeling instead of fighting it. When you feel homesick, recognize that the feeling connects you to the place in which you were born or grew up and to the people you love still living there. You can always make a call home to talk to friends and family as much as you like.

10. Be grateful, friendly, and polite

The first few months in any new place, especially a foreign one, is going to be stressful. The fact is that most people live and die very close to the place they are born. You are experiencing something wonderful and unique – no matter how much culture shock makes you want to cry, scream, or rip your hair out. You’re already here; instead, try to be grateful that you have the opportunity to see the world and experience a different culture. Moving abroad for an adventure is something millions can only dream about. Always bear in mind to be friendly and polite towards new people and new cultures and you will have no problem fitting in and making tons of friends.