Being an expat comes with challenges. You do not realise before you leave your home country as you are overwhelmed with excitement and adventure. Once you arrive you are completely outside your comfort zone and scope of understanding as reality hits you with the decision you have made.

While some people thrive in these matters some people's excitement turns into fear. Surrounded by new cultures, new accents, new languages, new food, new everything. It takes a while to get used to everything and truly feel at home in your new country of residence. Here are a few points you can take into consideration to make anywhere feel like home.

I have experienced this myself 3 times. The first time moving from The UK to The Netherlands, the second time, UK to Sweden. Let me tell you the first two moves were amazingly chaotic from The Netherlands back to the UK. I went home for Christmas and the culture shock slapped me in the face. I stayed for 2 weeks at home and just as I was getting used to The UK again, I was slapped again with culture shock of moving to Stockholm. It was an amazingly chaotic time. I wouldn't change for anything. Most recently (just over a year ago) I moved to Lisbon, Portugal.

Don’t Let The Experience Overwhelm You

Take a breath everything will be ok! Plan ahead, unpack your things as soon as you arrive. Explore but, if you feel tired and want a day or two to just chill and watch movies in your room do it! There is no reason to feel guilty take things at your own pace, this is your experience.

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Celebrate Holidays From Your Home Country

Just because you are away from your native country this does not mean that you can’t celebrate the holidays you grew up with and that mean a lot to you! Introduce your friends in your adopted country of traditions that mean something to you, get your new friends involved and continue to make memories around the holiday you love.

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Learn The Language & Culture Of The Country You Are In

This can help you a lot especially when it comes to filling out documents and getting yourself situated legally within a country. If you did not learn a few phrases before you left you better learn quickly!

Once you understand the language of a country you can understand the ways in which they conduct themselves and think. Everyday life and tasks become easier once you learn the language and you can engage with people without apprehension.

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Make Friends With Other Expats & Country Natives

Other expats in the area will know exactly how you are feeling. Just like you away from home other expats and digital nomads can provide you comfort and even advice for situations they may have been through before! Trust me, veteran expats can help you so much they went through the struggles that you don’t have to. They can advise you ways of doing things and give recommendations that can help your daily life run smoothly. Get to know your neighbours, this can bring comfort and give a feeling of community.

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Get A Sim Card

Having a local number not only helps you stay connected with your friends and family back home but also, make new friends and connections you can communicate with daily in your new home. If you plan on staying within an area for a long time this will also make your life A LOT easier.

When you want to get your residence permit or see the dentist they will ask you for a contact number. If it is not in the country you are currently residing in thing will not go smoothly as many companies do not like to call numbers that are outside of their country.  

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Decorate Your Home

Make it feel like home, the more comfortable you feel in your space the more relaxed your mind can be within your new environment. Buy quality bed sheets, some decorative pillows, even some cool art that you can hang up on your walls. Making the space your own will make your time in the country feel less temporary and make you feel more at ease.

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Get Your Documents & Paperwork In Order

This is crucial! The sooner you get this task out of the way the better. Depending on what country you have moved to will depend on the experience you have during the process. If you need to apply for a visa, handle it, if you need permits, want to open a bank account etc.

I highly suggest you dedicate the first week to really understanding what the government needs from you and what documents you should fill out to make your life a whole lot easier. The sooner the better, trust me I learnt the hard way.

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Bring Some Of Your Favourite Things From Your Home Country

Bring some of your favourite snacks from home or your favourite blanket. Living abroad does not mean that you can not take a few comforts with you! Your life in your home country and your life in your adopted country can co-exist. If you have something sentimental that you want to have with you it can really help you feel more grounded to have something from home with you in your new home.

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Get Familiar With Your Local Area

When you enter a supermarket in your host country you get a sense of the everyday lives of the people of the country. The types of foods that they eat, the size of packages, the pastries and sweets that are normal for them.

What are the supermarkets that hold the products you like on a day to day basis? This is something you figure out in your home country over time but now, it is time to figure that out in your new home. What are the train stations and bus stops around you, what locations can they take you to, where is the nearest pharmacy, GP practice, dental practice or local police number.

All of these little things are things that help you get self orientated within your new environment and act accordingly if something arises in case of an emergency and allow you to live independently within the area.

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Find Your Favourite Spots

Find your new favourite coffee shop or bookshop. Try new spots and get acquainted with the area. This can help you feel that you are a local to the area as you have your own little list of places you like and do not like in order to give recommendations to others and suggest places to meet with your new friends.

Walk around and get lost in your area, find all the cool spots to watch the sunset or if there is a public park nearby that may be your go to spot on a slow Sunday morning. Explore!

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Immerse Yourself In Local Life

Get involved within the local community, join clubs, volunteer within causes that are of interest to you. What hobbies did you have in your home country? Did you like to attend spin class? Cook? Make art. Look online for activities you can participate in. This can help massively in terms of meeting new people and feeling more at home. Go to local museums and festivals, understand the place you are living within.

Don’t sit around feeling lost, get out there, build friend groups and your own little community. In doing this you can come to understand the local way of life better, and be accepted by the locals that have been living in the area for their whole life.

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Be Open Minded

Being outside of your native country you will be immersed in traditions and customs unfamiliar to your “normal”. You need to be open to embrace as this is a key to being and feeling accepted within the new society. This is your opportunity to learn and experience. Respect and understanding is a part of everyday life. Depending on where you originate from and where you emigrate to, the culture may be way more closed or way more open than you are used to. Respect the country's customs with an open mind and the willingness to adjust.

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Being an expat is amazing but there are also times where everything can overwhelm the senses. It is ok to question your choices at times but one thing is for sure, it takes time to truly feel at home no matter where you are. Give yourself time, be open and enjoy the experience!

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