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Welcome to the last week of our series: How to Move Abroad: An Expat Survival Guide!
Last week, we talked about What to Do Before You Move Abroad and took care of everything on our to-do list. This week we’ll help you tackle what to do your first month living abroad so you can start enjoying your new life.
Don’t rush to do everything right away. Jet lag is real and she is a cruel mistress. Take a day to let your body adjust and then tackle everything in order of importance. The first thing you need to do is cover the essentials – the basic things you need to survive and thrive in your new home. Once you’ve got the most important stuff taken care of, you can rest easy and start having fun living the expat life.
Find the essentials
If you moved abroad without a job pinned down (common for teaching English) then this needs to be your first priority. Check out our previous post on Finding a Job Abroad for specific tips and job ideas. Some schools and businesses abroad don’t have a big online presence like you’d expect in the US. Make phone calls, send emails, but then hit the pavement and go talk to potential employers. Without a job secured, you won’t be able to get your work visa and will officially be in the country as a tourist. For many counties, this means you won’t be able to rent an apartment, set up a bank, or even get some mobile data plans.
Once you have a job, next step is a roof over your head. When you first move to a new country you don’t have the same resources and support system you did at home. Take advantage of help and recommendations from anyone you can. Check with your new employer to see if they provide any housing placement assistance. Chat with coworkers to get their recommendations for neighborhoods, rental agents, and apartment hunting websites.
Finding an apartment abroad is often less complicated than finding one in the US. We used a rental agent and looked at a few apartments before picking one, then signed a lease. We had the keys the next day and were all moved in less than 10 days after arriving in Taiwan. No credit checks and no long wait period, just a signed lease and deposit.
Other important things
Depending on where you’re living this could mean different things. If you’re in an urban area, get a local metro pass and learn the public transportation. Spend the first month or two deciding if you can get by with only public transportation and walking. If not, then buy a bike, scooter, or car. We bought a scooter our first month in Taiwan and it’s only been used 3 times.
Mobile Data Plan
Having a mobile data plan is your connection to the world. When you’re living abroad for the first time, that connection can be a lifeline. Feeling homesick? Skype or message friends and family. Don’t know the local language and need to communicate? Google translate’s got your back. Lost in a new city and have no idea where you are? Google maps will get you home. Need your permanent roommate to grab bread on the way home from work? You get the idea. Even with wifi available everywhere now, mobile data is an insurance policy when living abroad. Get a local prepaid plan and breathe a little easier.
Now the fun stuff!
Now that the important stuff is out of the way, have some fun! You moved abroad to build a better life for yourself, experience new cultures, and see the world. So get to it! Take part in the local cuisine and culture. Find out what dish your new home is famous for and go eat it. Find a local farmer’s market or night market and go to the booth with the biggest line of locals. Wander the streets of your new home and get just a little lost. Talk with the locals and find out what tourist sites are actually worth seeing. Your first month abroad is the time for fun and excitement. Make great memories and don’t forget why you came.
This concludes our series: How to Move Abroad: An Expat Survival Guide! What was your favorite part? What do you want to see more of? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to like us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more exciting content.
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