Settling Abroad: 8 Tips for a Smooth Expat Transition

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Article written by: Rebecca
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So you’ve moved overseas. It’s daunting. And overwhelming. Maybe you’re living in a country where everything is completely different to your home, and your whole way of life has been turned upside down. So how do you make settling abroad as easy as possible, to really make this new country your home?

After living “la vida expat” for nearly eight years – in three very different countries – I’ve learned a thing or two (mostly through making mistakes!) about finding my feet in a new country and trying to make it feel like home. Here are some tips to make settling abroad in a new country just that bit easier.

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1. Make your house a home

There’s nothing like coming home each day to something that feels like, well, home. To really make your house (or room if you’re sharing a place) a home, decorate it with a few trinkets from your home country, stick up pictures of friends and family, add a colourful cushion – anything that makes the house or room feel like your own.

Moving overseas is overwhelming. There's so much to do before you leave - but then even more stuff when you arrive. Here are some tips for settling abroad in a new country - from a serial expat who's learned a lot in 8 years as an expat! | #expat #expatlife #expatadvice #travel

When I was an expat living in Papua New Guinea and Argentina, we lived in fully-furnished apartments and they never truly felt like our own place. In Argentina that was especially so, as nothing was ours – the furniture, the decorations: everything belonged to the owner. Our stuff didn’t turn up until 8 months after we arrived in Argentina (who knew shipping from Papua New Guinea to Argentina would take so long?!), so in the beginning we didn’t even have any photos or trinkets of our own to put up around the apartment. It was an INCREDIBLE apartment but it never truly felt like our own home.

2. Join groups to meet people

There are so many groups out there all designed to introduce people with similar interests and situations, and chances are there are a few of them in your new city.

Internations is one of the most well-known expat groups. They organise meet-ups and activities and provide general information and advice for moving abroad. They have communities in more than 420 cities around the world, so see if they’re in your city.

Check out Meetup for expat groups or meet-ups of people who have things in common or share a common interest. In addition to expat meet-ups, there are groups for people who like knitting, cooking, singing, making pottery – pretty much any interest or hobby is covered. These groups are a great way to meet local people outside the expat circuit.

Moving overseas is overwhelming. There's so much to do before you leave - but then even more stuff when you arrive. Here are some tips for settling abroad in a new country - from a serial expat who's learned a lot in 8 years as an expat! | #expat #expatlife #expatadvice #travel

Facebook groups can also be a wealth of knowledge. We’ve been part of expat groups in Port Moresby, Buenos Aires and in the United States and people are usually so willing to share their knowledge – how to get a visa, where to find the food you’re craving from home, how to set up internet or find an apartment, where to get language lessons… the list goes on. There are often people who are interested in catching up with others. It’s actually through a Facebook group that we found a whole bunch of Aussies and Kiwis in Buenos Aires and ending up watching the World Cup with them one year.

Sure, at times you have to wade through some crap, but for the most part people are generally friendly and helpful. I recommend joining the group before you arrive in your new country so that you can ask all your questions and land in the country fully prepared (or as prepared as one can be for moving overseas!).

3. Sign up for language classes

If you’re moving to a country where you don’t speak the native language, then I highly recommend signing up for language lessons as soon as you arrive. Even if it’s just to pick up a few phrases to help you order in a restaurant or find your way around a supermarket, it will help you to navigate your new city and country and make you feel more confident. It’s also a huge sign of respect to your new country that you’re taking the time to learn their language.

It’s also a great way to make new friends as you’ll likely meet other people in the class. But it’s not just a way to meet other foreigners – learning the language opens up doors to friendships with locals as well.

You could also look at tutors online. I have really enjoyed learning Spanish and French online with iTalki, which has tutors from all around the world ready to teach dozens (if not hundreds!) of different languages.

Moving overseas is overwhelming. There's so much to do before you leave - but then even more stuff when you arrive. Here are some tips for settling abroad in a new country - from a serial expat who's learned a lot in 8 years as an expat! | #expat #expatlife #expatadvice #travel

4. Volunteer or get a job

Most likely as an expat you’re planning to work (or study) in your new country. You may be moving overseas because of a specific job (like me) or you may be planning to get a job once you arrive in the country and get the lay of the land and a visa that allows you to work. A job is an ideal way to meet other people, both expats and locals, and make friends.

If you can’t work, see if you can volunteer. It’s another great way to meet people and help out the local community.

5. Tap into friends of friends (of friends)

The world is such a small place these days, it’s highly likely that someone you know has a friend (of a friend) who’s living in your new city and would be happy to put you in touch with them. This is the best way to start growing your connections – see what connections you already have, get in touch with them and then you’ll meet their friends and start to grow your own friendship circle as well. Settling abroad is made far easier with a group of friends, whether you build a close-knit circle or have a range of acquaintances.

6. Create a routine

To help you feel more settled after moving abroad, create a routine that’s similar to what you’re used to at home. It can take some time to adapt to a new place and sometimes it’s so exciting that you’re constantly on the go and forget to exercise or eat right or get enough sleep each night, which leads to burnout and even more overwhelm. Make sure you create some sort of rhythm so that life starts to feel a little more normal.

But, don’t get too comfortable though! Living abroad isn’t like living at home and you don’t want to get into too rigid of a routine that you don’t get out and experience everything your new city has to offer.

7. Say yes!

You know that Jim Carrey movie where he has to say yes to everything? Try that for a week! If someone invites you out or suggests you do something, say yes to it and see what happens! (Within reason, of course!)

I am an introvert – I love time by myself and will always choose that over anything. But when I lived in Buenos Aires, I knew that I had to get out and practice speaking Spanish in real life situations. So (crazily!) I signed up for singing classes at a local cultural centre. Surrounded by 20 Argentine women, I had no choice but to push myself and speak to everyone in Spanish or I’d look like a complete weirdo. It really got me out of my comfort zone and I ended up having a blast!

8. Get out and explore your new home

Unless you’ve moved to your new city permanently and have no fixed plans to return home, you just never know how much time you’ll have there. So, get out and explore as much as you can!

Moving overseas is overwhelming. There's so much to do before you leave - but then even more stuff when you arrive. Here are some tips for settling abroad in a new country - from a serial expat who's learned a lot in 8 years as an expat! | #expat #expatlife #expatadvice #travel

Play tourist, wander through the different neighbourhoods, learn about the food and the customs, travel to different regions. When you start to understand your new city or country, you’ll really start to feel more a part of it and settling abroad will be easier. The quirks that are different to what you’re used to will start to feel more normal. It’ll really start to feel like home.

Good luck and enjoy your expat experience!


Looking for more advice on becoming an expat and settling abroad? Check out the other articles I’ve written:

What tips do you have for settling abroad in another country? Share yours in the comments below.

This post was published in January 2019, and was updated in October 2020.



I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

10 thoughts on “Settling Abroad: 8 Tips for a Smooth Expat Transition”

  1. Great tips! I’ve ‘lived’ in different countries but it always felt temporary, and I guess it was, so definitely going to take your advice if we move again. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. These tips are so useful. 18 months in I still don’t feel settled in our new country and homesickness has set in. I’ve been going to language lessons and some day-to-day stuff is easier but I’m terribly lonely and there’s no groups my age for me to join to make friends. But I’ll keep some of your other tips in mind going forward ????

    • It’s tough… I know. Stick with it, I’m sure it will get better. Where are you living? Have you checked other expat groups in your city?

  3. Spot on! I moved from the US to Mexico a few years ago. This is solid advice. I joined a gym (a social one with group classes, not a silent everyone does their own thing). My good friends (outside the foreigner crew from work) are from my volunteer job, and yes, learning the language is the key. Thanks for the post! Say, “YES!”

  4. This is one of the hardest things to do! As someone who has moved abroad a few times now, I always struggle with this. You offer some great tips that will definitely make it easier for new expats.

  5. You’re spot on! I guess looking back we’d all do things a bit differently to help settle in (hindsight is 20-20), but I think you’re definitely doing it right. Love following your adventures around the world, it’s really an inspiration to jump into the unknown and take a risk!


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