5 Tips for Expat Living

After two years of living abroad, there are a few tips for expat living that have come up frequently that make life and settling down in a foreign place a little easier.

5 Tips for Expat Living

Be patient

Things will go wrong, you won’t understand what’s happening around you and will get frustrated, but if you’re patient everything ends up working itself out.

Ask for help

Chances are there are plenty of expats who have been in your position before with the same questions, problems or frustrations.  There are a ton of Facebook Groups made up of expats living in Chiang Mai where people post everything from questions and concerns, to new apartments and special event information.  If you ask for help, you’ll probably get it and save yourself some headache for trying to figure things out on your own.

Learn the language

I’m still shocked about the number of people who live here who can barely even order food.  It’s embarrassing.  Even if you don’t have to use the native language to get by, still try.  You’re choosing to live in the country, and a country’s language and culture are completely intertwined.  Knowing how to speak and read the language around will open up your world and understanding of the place.

Limit your tie with ‘home’

It’s important to keep in touch with people and happenings back at home, but if you spend too much time trying to stay connected you’ll miss out on your current life.

Make local connections

It sounds obvious, but isn’t always simple to do.  However, the sooner you’re able to make connections and build relationships with those in your new community the better.  Having someone to turn to who knows the area better than you is invaluable.

These tips are from an interview I did for Expats Blog, read more here.

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16 Comments

  • Posted May 14, 2013
    by Adam Pervez | HappinessPlunge.com

    I think making local connections is the most important one of the bunch – also sometimes the hardest. Good tips!

  • Posted May 14, 2013
    by Ian Ord - Where Sidewalks End

    Being an expat myself (in Thailand as well), I can relate to exactly what you’re talking about! These are fantastic tips for someone just getting started with their new life, and I even know a few long terms who could learn a thing or two from this! nice one Alana!

  • Posted May 15, 2013
    by Heather

    Asking for help is so important. Even for things as simple as where to shop for towels or what phone plan to use. Reaching out to others who have been in your shoes and have figured things out can save you from frustrating searches. Plus, you can make a new friend in the process!

    • Posted May 15, 2013
      by Alana Morgan

      Exactly, sometimes it’s fun and rewarding to figure things out on your own…other times you should save yourself the hassle – especially for the menial things like towels, etc.

  • Posted May 16, 2013
    by Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    I would say all of these except maybe #4 are solid principles to follow even as a traveler, not just an expat! I think travelers who embrace these ideas wind up having a better experience in which they forge a deeper understanding of wherever they are visiting than those that stay in their little bubbles and never try to break free! I am crazy independent and i am always reminding myself of how much easier I can make things for myself if I just stop and ask someone for help! who would have thought that locals would know more than someone who has only been in the country for less than 24 hours… ;)

    • Posted May 16, 2013
      by Alana Morgan

      Thanks for reading :)
      Everyone says how you should try and learn a bit of a language and try and meet locals when you travel…but I really don’t understand how you’re supposed to do that unless you’re spending a lot of time in one place. It’s easy to step outside a resort area or not do a package tour, but beyond that it can be very difficult to get out of the traveler/foreigner bubble 9even if you’re trying)!

  • Posted May 16, 2013
    by Ash Clark

    great words of wisdom here Alana. I think the last one is great. Becomnig good friends with people like Arnon at restr8o’s in chiang mai made the experience of living there much easier…

  • Posted May 17, 2013
    by Agness

    I guess learning the language is crucial. People seem to be so lazy nowadays, especially Westerns. Your life can be much easier if you know some basic words when living abroad.

    • Posted May 17, 2013
      by Alana Morgan

      There are many places you can go where you can get by with English, but, for me, I don’t understand why you would live somewhere else if you weren’t wanting to try and speak the same.

  • Posted May 23, 2013
    by marissa

    My biggest pet peeve while living abroad was definitely other expats not learning the language, then getting miffed that they didn’t understand what people were saying or got lost all the time. I just wanted to shake them and say, “You are not in America. Get it together and learn some survival phrases, at least!”

    Seriously though, learning even basic phrases will lift your experience to a whole new level.

    • Posted May 23, 2013
      by Alana Morgan

      I understand it’s difficult to learn and easy to make excuses not to…but what’s the point of living in another country if you’re not going to try and learn about it/adapt?

  • Posted June 19, 2013
    by Emily

    These are all awesome tips. Limiting ties with home is such a good one to remember. Even when living abroad, I can stumble into times where I am checking Facebook too much and wishing I were back living a “normal life.”

    • Posted June 19, 2013
      by Alana Morgan

      It’s like you have two different worlds/lives going on in your head!

  • Posted June 2, 2014
    by Richelle (Adventures Around Asia)

    Great post! I definitely agree with all of these, especially learning the language. I live in China and I can’t tell you how many people I meet that speak almost no Chinese and have lived here for years! We expect everyone to know English in the USA, even tourists! A little goes a long way. Even if you’e just traveling for a week or so, if you know just a few phrases (hello, thank you, goodbye), it’s amazing how people’s faces light up.

    Also I think limiting your time with home is a great point because most people never talk about that. If you spend all your time on your computer or skyping your friends or boyfriend back home, you can’t really live in the present and enjoy your experience abroad. You really have to make an effort to have a balance. Talk to your family, friends and significant other if you have one, but don’t base your life around it and don’t let it inhibit you from immersing yourself in the new culture.

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