Moving abroad is exhilarating, nerve-racking, and one heck of an adventure. However, moving to a different country can pose challenges as well. You can feel lost and alone. So much goes into making the big move from packing and unpacking to sorting out a visa and other legal requirements. Then, with so much build-up, it can feel strange once you’ve actually started living abroad. On top of that, it can take a while to get settled in and get used to the differences between where you live now and where you’re from.
In March, I moved from the United States to the United Kingdom. I had never even lived outside of my home state, Tennessee. Even though I was beyond excited for this new adventure, I was still concerned with how I’d deal with being so far from my family and friends and if I’d struggle settling in. Over the past few months, I’ve went through some of the ups and downs of expat life. So I’ve put together a few tips that have helped me meet new people, explore the local area, and cope with homesickness.
Meet new people
As an adult, I find it much more difficult to meet new people compared to those university days where you were constantly surrounded by peers. If you’re like me and living abroad in an area where you only know a handful of people, it’s important to put yourself out there to make new friendships. And technology has made that much easier to do.
Download Bumble BFF
I never thought I’d sign up for an app to make friends. But there I was downloading Bumble BFF, which is basically a friend version of Tinder. You’ll only see users who are the same gender as you. And it’s pretty simple. Swipe right on users you’re interested in connecting with. You can only message users who’ve mutually swiped right on. However, if a conversation isn’t initiated within 24 hours, the connections expire. Bumble BFF allows you to meet like-minded people. I’ve now met up with three wonderful women through it with plans to meet up with them all again.
Meetup is a website and app that allows you to connect with groups of people who love the same things as you. You choose what you’re into from topics like Outdoors & Adventure, Photography, Food & Drinks, Music, and Hobbies & Crafts. It’s simple to search for groups and events near your location. I noticed some meetup groups have a small fee like £5 to become a member.
Find local social activities through Google & Facebook groups
I love playing tennis, so when I moved to the UK, I found a local tennis club and became a member. Sports and fitness activities are usually easy to find through a simple Google search. From basketball teams to yoga classes, find what you like to do or activities you’d be interested in trying. If you’re an avid reader or writer, bookshops and libraries often have book clubs and writing groups. Additionally, I’ve come across Facebook groups that arrange local meetups like a women’s hiking club and women’s social group.
Explore local area
When you move to a new place, you, of course, have to do lots of exploring! Sometimes it can be difficult to know what the local area has to offer when you first move there, but there are plenty of ways to learn more about your surroundings. So take the time to be a tourist in your new home!
Visit local tourism office
Tourism offices are perfect places to visit to learn more about the local area. Usually you’ll find leaflets, brochures, and booklets about attractions, tours, museums, dining, nightlife, and shopping. Additionally, tourism offices often have someone there to answer people’s questions and offer recommendations.
Buy a guidebook
A guidebook allows you to learn more about an area’s history, culture, and things to do. There are guidebooks for cities, regions, countries, and even continents from a wide range of brands like Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Rick Steve’s, Bradt, Rough Guides, and Fodor’s. These days you can even find ones that cover specific interests like walking and cycling or going to bars, cafes, or shops. If you don’t want to purchase a guidebook, your local library might have ones available for rent.
Make an effort to ask locals you meet what their favorite things to do and see in the area are, including favorite restaurants, cafes, and bars. By doing that, you may hear about places you didn’t come across in a guidebook or online.
Cope with homesickness
Being away from family, friends, and maybe the place you consider home can be one of the most difficult parts about living abroad. It’s easy to feel homesick whether you just moved away or have been an expat for years. So here’s a few ways to cope with feelings of homesickness while living abroad.
Keep in contact with loved ones
Modern technology has made it so easy to stay in contact with people around the world. WhatsApp is an application you can download on your phone. It offers free messaging and calling all over the world. It uses data so is best used when you have a WiFi connection. Skype and Facebook Messenger are other options. Sending postcards and letters can also be a fun way to keep in contact with loved ones.
Bring your home to you
Find ways to incorporate bits of home into your new life abroad. See if there’s any local restaurants that serve food from your home country. Or cook your favorite recipes from home. Watch films or read books centered around your native country. It’s important to still make your home country a part of your life.
Living abroad can pose challenges, but I hope these tips help expats meet new people, explore their local area, and cope with homesickness. And just remember you’re not alone. All across the world, there are so many fellow expats dealing with the same ups and downs of living abroad.
If you’re an exapt or have been before, what tips do you have for someone new to expat life? If you haven’t lived abroad, what do you think you’d struggle with the most and how do you think you’d deal with it?
Want to read more about my first adventures living in the UK? Check out A guide to walking the Cotswold Way and Scenic Bath cycle routes | Exploring Bath, UK & its surroundings!