What makes for the perfect expat transition? If you are newly expatriated, or perhaps thinking about starting a new life abroad, you may be thinking about how you’re going to fit in, or if there are any specific things you should be doing.
Well, a recent study by Expat & Offshore has examined the different factors that help British expatriates settle into, and enjoy, their new homes. They looked at the different attributes and skills that assist successful expats with a full and seamless integration, no matter where they are in the world.
Our researchers spoke to current expats, foreign employers, and even government officials, as they set out to find what makes up the perfect recipe for an enriching expatriate experience.
Interestingly, the report found that many people simply don’t bother with an appropriate amount of planning, prior to their journey. In fact most of the expats who were spoken to claimed that they did very little life planning whatsoever, instead choosing to get their new home and just go with the flow.
Luckily, the report also found that expats, by their nature, are usually, clever and resourceful, enabling them to make the best of their new lives on the strength of their character. As an expat you may naturally be prepared, but it’s always good to have a bit of advice beforehand.
First of all, make sure you immerse yourself in your new surroundings as much as possible. All the expats who were successfully integrated into their new societies did so by forging worthwhile relationships by taking the time to get to know new colleagues, and making effort to meet new friends.
When you start your new job ask your new colleagues what they do in their leisure time, what are the local haunts, where you can go to watch sports, places to shop- that kind of thing.
If you are travelling with a family then you may find that your children will be a handy tool in your quest for successful integration into the local community. Through their schools, children will be invited to local events, and by attending these you could meet fellow parents and also fellow expats, especially if your child will be attending an international school. Meeting fellow expats will of course be a massive bonus for you as they can lend you a bit of their experience in the area.
The subject of family ties was also a strong point for the expats, they stressed that maintaining ties with family and existing friends was almost, if not as, important as making new friends. So if you do have a family of your own take them with you! If you are travelling alone then keep in contact via email, text, phone, Skype or even Facebook. In today’s age of hyper-social-interaction being a thousand miles apart is no excuse for not keeping contact, and everyone knows that if you’re feeling a little over-worked or glum, a nice chat with a familiar friend is often the best cure.
Talking about talking takes us onto the next important point- language. Learning, or at least attempting to get a basic understanding, of your new country’s native language will be a priceless boon. The bulk of the happily integrated expats spoken too all spoke the local language. Unless you can interact with the locals in the same way they interact with each other, you will always have an element of ‘outsider’ to your image. Speaking the language will help you settle in immeasurably.
Taking heed of these words will no doubt put you in good stead as you begin your expat life. For more information on a number of individual cities, visit our city guide section.