Home Moving Abroad About Being an Expat New Year’s resolutions only expats will understand
Last update on April 26, 2021
Sophie Pettit Written by Sophie Pettit

Looking to make some positive changes in your life this coming year? Well, these common expat New Year’s resolutions might inspire you.

As cliché as it may sound, entering a new year inevitably prompts many of us to consider what we would like to accomplish in the months that lie ahead. But for expats, New Year’s resolutions are often more about memorizing foreign vocabulary and ticking local landmarks off their list, rather than losing weight or quitting smoking; both good goals, nonetheless. Depending on how long you have lived abroad, you may have already ticked a few of these off your list. But if you haven’t, then don’t fret, because now you have 365 days to do it. To help inspire you, here are some of the most common New Year’s resolutions that often top the list for expats.

Learn the local lingo

For some expats, learning how to speak like a local might seem like an impossible task. But while reaching a level of fluency may seem insurmountable, developing your vocabulary and conversational skills will help you immensely when it comes to integrating into the local culture. At least that way, you won’t sound – and feel – like a babbling toddler whenever you engage with your neighbors.

Commuter with headphones

Luckily, there are loads of popular language learning apps that can help you acquire the skills in your own time. Duolingo, Mindsnacks, and Babbel, for instance, all offer a variety of courses in multiple languages. They also work on the principle that you can learn a language by studying it for 15 minutes a day. What better way to spend your daily commute? Another tried-and-tested technique is sticking post-it notes with various words around your home. Before you know it, you’ll be repeating them in your sleep.

Make some new friends (while finding a hobby)

You can never have too many friends, right? Well, New Year’s resolutions are the perfect way to boost your social life. Of course, it takes time and effort to do this and sometimes involves stepping out of your comfort zone to make it happen. However, making a few small changes can have a big impact when it comes to expanding your social circle. And with so many social networking apps and websites on offer, there’s really no excuse not to get out there.

Friends greeting

One of the most popular ways for expats to meet like-minded people is to join a local Meetup group. Whether you want to practice salsa dancing, play football, or even meet singles in your area, you won’t have any trouble finding a friendly bunch to connect with. This can help reduce culture shock and any feelings of isolation in your new home too. And if you happen to make friends with a local, you’ll quickly learn more about where you live. Just think, your new BFF might only be a click away!

Try that unusual local dish you’ve been avoiding

You’ve seen the local kids gobble it down, so surely it deserves a try, right? Well, one of the best ways to truly integrate into the local culture is to eat like a local – or at least try it once. No matter how bizarre national dishes might seem to your taste buds, they are part of a country’s DNA – so open wide! Whether you’re munching on a fried tarantula in Cambodia, some maggot cheese in Sardinia, or a pungent can of surströmming in Sweden, you’ll be proud you did it – and lived to tell the tale!

Intimidating local food

Of course, we all have our limits when it comes to food. But as they say, travel broadens the mind – so why not start with your palate? And you never know, you might actually like it, too.

Get adventurous in the kitchen

Speaking of food, one of the best ways to save money – which is a common resolution for many people – is to cook more at home. And if you dig around for some tantalizing local recipes and explore the ingredients in your nearest supermarket, you’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to whip up an impressive meal in your kitchen.

Friends cooking together

Better still, you could use your newfound culinary skills as the perfect excuse to invite your friends over for a delicious dinner party. You could even treat them to your own country’s national dish – and no, that doesn’t mean ordering in pizza and palming it off as “rustic Italian”. If you need some inspiration, check out these Spanish, French, and Swiss recipes.

Brave the crowds and go to a local festival

There’s no better way to experience local culture than by immersing yourselves in the crowds at a vibrant festival. After all, you get to witness first-hand the local quirks of your host country, all the while lapping up the buzzing atmosphere around you. Depending on where you live, you could end up throwing tomatoes at La Tomatina in Spain, going ‘orange crazy’ on King’s Day in the Netherlands, or drinking copious amounts of German beer at Oktoberfest.

La Tomatina Festival

Of course, whichever festival you choose to go to will likely be heaving with locals and tourists. But if you’re willing to brave the crowds for just one day, you could end up with some unforgettable memories that last a lifetime. Just make sure you wear an extra shirt!

Go sightseeing and visit local landmarks

Don’t be that expat who lives in Paris and has never visited the Eiffel Tower. ‘I live there and can visit any time’ is an unreliable mantra. Remember that friend who had to suddenly relocate? They regret not seeing it, too. It’s easy to take for granted the famous landmarks that lie on our doorstep and simply cast them aside as shameless tourist traps.

Three women sightseeing in Rome

But it can be surprisingly enjoyable to stroll around the Colosseum, climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or take a tour of the Sistine Chapel. After all, these epic landmarks helped to put where you live on the map, so they deserve at least one visit, right? Having friends and family come to visit also gives you the perfect opportunity to experience these cultural gems like a tourist. Perhaps you’ll even see them in a whole new light.

Visit more countries

As an expat, it’s generally not a matter of ‘if’ you will travel, but rather how many trips you can squeeze in this year. And if you’re lucky enough to live in a country with a generous holiday allowance, you can plan your fair share of vacations without having to take too much time off work. Of course, this requires some forward planning but is well worth the effort.

Couple visiting Cinque Terre

After all, booking in advance can save you a lot of money, not to mention the disappointment of dealing with fully-booked flights or over-priced hotels. Using travel comparison websites like Skyscanner and Agoda can also help you find the best deals on airfare and accommodation. Meanwhile, Airbnb is a great option if you’re on a tight budget. If you need some inspiration for your next adventure, then check out these beautiful places to visit in Europe.

Make more time for friends and family

Perhaps the most meaningful New Year’s resolution of all is making more effort to stay in touch with your loved ones. This is particularly true of friends and family who you have left back at home. Sure, we’re all busy with our jobs, social events, and exciting expat lives. But that shouldn’t stop us from investing time in maintaining our most important relationships.

Expats calling home

And with so many messaging apps, there’s no excuse not to stay connected. Whether you schedule a weekly Skype chat with your mum, call your best friend every now and then on WhatsApp, or share fun videos with your siblings on Facebook, modern technology can make the world feel a lot smaller. So why not use it to your advantage – or better still, invite them to visit you and ditch the screen completely.