5 Tips for 5 Years as an Expat
Contributing Author: Kelsey Cetin
It is one thing to visit a destination, it is quite another to move for work. Navigating another culture and (most likely) language is not for the faint of heart! As someone who lived as an expat in Turkey for 5 years, I am sharing 5 of my top tips for expats in this article.
Top Tips for Expats
Tip 1: Build Community
My number one tip is the most important of the tips for expats. In order to survive and thrive in your new home, you need a community! I believe this is so important that I have written an entire article about it on my blog. Life is already tough, so when you add the extra stress of adjusting to a new place it is important to have others to connect with.
This community should include both locals and other expats. You won’t be best friends with everyone you meet, but you should make a valent effort to make real connections with others that you share things in common with.
Tip 2: Join an Expat Group
This goes along with the first of the tips for expats. You may have asked yourself, okay “build community.” How do I do that? Well, one way is to find groups of expats who live in the city (not country, the specific city) that you have just moved to. There is about a 99% chance that they exist! Not only is this a great place to meet people, this is a great place to do some important research and learn from others’ mistakes. Did I mention you will probably fail a lot as you try to figure out life?
Unfortunately, since locals are not foreigners, there will be many questions you have that they will not really be able to help you with. The key to finding the answers you need is gaining wisdom from other veteran expats who can guide you. If you have a question about something, the odds are great that someone else does too! ThisFacebook group will help you find the answers to your questions as well as give you a platform to ask them! After building some rapport with others in the group, perhaps you will find a few good friends.
Tip 3: Ask for Help
As an expat, you are not accustomed to the local culture and language. You will make mistakes, do things wrong, and fail. It is a difficult reality and it never truly goes away.This is where the local’s wisdom CAN help you. I have seen so many expats make silly, unnecessary mistakes just because they were unwilling to ask locals for help and advice. They were “intelligent, capable people” who could “figure it out!” They were definitely intelligent and capable, but that does not mean they were experts on the culture.
I made it a point to always ask a local what they thought about the way I planned on doing something.This is especially important if you are in a culture that is very different from your own. Don’t make assumptions. Even after 5 years, I still consistently asked locals for guidance and advice on work-related and life-related things.
Tip 4: Make Time for your Hobbies
When you live abroad, you will become exhausted much more quickly than you normally would in your home culture. This is because not only is your brain trying to process in another language, your social intelligence is also challenged all day as you try to adapt to local social cues and norms. Making time for your hobbies is just a way of saying do the things that fulfill you for no other reason than you just enjoy it. You have to make time for things you enjoy doing. No matter what it is, even if you have to sacrifice something else, make the time for it.
Tip 5: Do Not Skimp on your Language Learning
This is by no means the least important of these 5 tips for expats, but I am counting on the psychological principle “recency effect” that this one will really stick in your mind! Language is the key to unlocking a culture and understanding a people group. Do not just count on the fact that locals can speak your language or a common language. If you want to develop meaningful connections with locals and a deeper understanding of the culture, you must become fluent in the language. It will take years to become truly fluent. Do not believe those “get fluent in 60 days” ads, it takes dedication and hard work to become fluent in another language. It is not a sprint; it is a marathon. If you set aside at least 1 hour every day, you will see major results at the 6- and 12-month marks. For language learning tips, you can visit this post where I share some tips on how I became fluent in Turkish.
I hope you enjoyed this article 5 tips for expats!