Girl in a hat standing in China.

13 Things You Need to Know About Living Abroad

So you’ve decided you’re going to take a new job in a foreign country, spend some time studying abroad, or move with a significant other during an overseas PCS. But where do you begin to get yourself ready for moving to another country? From determining what’s important to pack to learning how to get settled in an unfamiliar place, our guide below has helpful tips and advice for how to live abroad!

Visit Ahead of Time

Girl standing in front of glacier. Photo by Instagram user @michellewirawan
Photo via @michellewirawan

Not sure if you’re ready to live and work abroad? If you’re able, one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for moving to another country is visiting the place you’re interested in ahead of time. That way, you can get a better feel for the area and figure out if it’s somewhere you could live and work before you get into the logistics of moving.

Research the Area

Girl with hand on map. Photo by Instagram user @brycelandstld
Photo via @brycelandsltd

Just like moving to any city within the U.S., it’s ideal to do some research before packing up and moving to a foreign country. Things like cost of living, crime rates, places to avoid, where the best schools are, how close the nearest grocer is, if there’s public transportation, and local customs should all be research priorities before living overseas.

Consider Your Expenses

Girl sitting inside of a box. Photo by Instagram user @_samalamadingdong_
Photo via @_samalamadingdong_

There are more expenses to think about than the cost of a plane ticket when moving out of the country. Rent and utilities, transportation, healthcare, entertainment, foreign work permits, and more will be things you’ll have to pay for while living abroad, so be sure to have enough money saved up. Also, remember you’ll need to exchange your current currency for your new country’s currency, and you’ll want to inform any credit card providers about your move in case there are foreign transaction fees.

Make Sure You Have Your Documents

Passport in a pink wallet. Photo by Instagram user @prettylittlepassports
Photo via @prettylittlepassports

You don’t want to get to your destination only to find out you lost your passport or that your paperwork wasn’t completed. Before you board your flight, make sure you have copies of important overseas documents like your passport, government-issued ID, birth certificate, medical records, health insurance, and any marriage licenses. Whether your company or school is sorting it out, you should also triple-check to confirm that work permits and visas have been approved.

Secure Your Housing

White apartment building with blue squares in Belgium. Photo by Instagram user @globalspaces
Photo via @globalspaces

Just like ensuring your paperwork is good to go, you need to make sure you have secured housing before moving out of the country. Your reasoning behind living abroad—such as work, a school program, or getting transferred to a new military base—can often determine where you’ll live. But regardless, consider your needs and how much money you’re willing to spend on housing, then make certain everything is set before departing.

Don’t Overpack

Open suitcase of clothes. Photo by Instagram user @nickinewington
Photo via @nickwinewington

It might be tempting to pack everything you own and bring it with you when moving overseas, but there’s only so much you’re allowed to transport with you. Stick to a packing list that only includes essential items, such as toiletries, voltage converters, a computer, and clothing. If you’re only planning on living abroad for year or so, you can rent a self storage unit in the states to hold the belongings that you can’t bring with you.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Tall glass building with a white pattern. Photo by Instagram user @dionturner
Photo via @dionturner

The last thing you want to think about while living overseas is having an unexpected emergency. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you have an emergency plan established for any issues could potentially arise. A few things you can do to prepare before leaving include staying up to date on current events abroad, registering at the U.S. Embassy so they know where you are and can provide travel alerts, and designating emergency contacts.

Learn the Language

Cup of tea and Japanese language book. Photo by Instagram user @zarryb
Photo via @zarryb

While some countries might have English speakers, you shouldn’t approach locals and assume that they speak your language. Take a few classes to brush up on your new country’s native language or learn basic conversation skills with apps like Duolingo. You don’t need to be 100% fluent in the language of your new country, but knowing how to communicate and get around the area will be a major lifesaver and can help you feel more at home.

Embrace the Culture

Woman standing with her hands pressed together in Indonesia. Photo by Instagram user @mapsnappers
Photo via @mapsnappers

One of the best things about living abroad is being able to experience a culture that’s different from your own. Once you’ve unpacked your stuff, get out and embrace the lifestyle of your host country, whether that’s attending a cultural festival, walking through marketplaces, trying new cuisine, or cheering for your new country’s soccer team.

Make Your Place Feel Like Home

Table with blue table cloth and vase of yellow flowers. Photo by Instagram user @casasmoraira
Photo via @casasmoraira

Don’t know how to make your new place overseas feel like home? Decorate with pictures of friends and family or quirky decor and accents that remind you of home. While you won’t be able to bring everything you own when moving abroad, a few sentimental items can add a little familiarity to your new abode.

Get to Know Your Neighborhood

Guy walking through a market in Marrakech. Photo by Instagram user @nandoandre
Photo via @nandoandre

The best way to get acclimated after moving to a new city is to act like a tourist until you master the lay of the land. Locating public transportation stops, area parks, hip bars, local boutiques, and even a coffee shop or cafe will help you feel more settled. You can also sign up to take a tour of local attractions to better understand the area’s culture and history.

Don’t Be Afraid to Meet New People…

Group of guys eating and talking. Photo by Instagram user @blythacademyinternational
Photo via @blythacademyinternational

One of the best things to help you get settled while living abroad is making new friends. A good way to build a network is to join clubs, attend events, or form a study group with people in your study abroad program. If you’re moving to another country for work, having lunch with coworkers or joining a volunteer group can help you meet new people. There are also tons of Facebook groups you can join and gatherings on Meetup you can attend to meet people with similar interests while overseas.

…But Stay in Touch with Home, Too

Girl chatting with a guy on Skype. Photo by Instagram user @skype
Photo via @skype

While living abroad and starting a new adventure can be incredibly exciting, it’s okay to feel homesick from time to time. Be sure to keep in contact with friends and family back home through letters or Skype. And after you get more settled, see if a friend or relative can come visit you!

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Pinterest Graphic: Living Abroad: 13 Things to Know

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