Six years ago, I moved to the Netherlands and signed a new work contract before I ever even visited the country! It was a downright terrifying experience but one I would repeat over and over. Moving to another country is a wild adventure of self-discovery. It is completely freeing and terrifying to know no one in this new country. You can create a new version of yourself. I learned so much through the process that I think everyone should do it once in their life. Here are 9 pieces of advice from one expat to another:
1) Start with Expat Friends and then befriend locals
Expats are very welcoming as friends since they also went through the process of moving abroad recently. They are the most accessible friends you will make and can be the most emotionally supportive since they understand what you are going through moving to another country. They can also help navigate the bureaucracy of moving to a new country. After you made a few expat friends, make an effort to befriend locals. It is the best way to learn about the local culture.
2) Say Yes to every invitation and put a solid effort every day into making friends
No matter the activity or if you are feeling down, say Yes to every invitation. You never know who you will meet and what might surprise you. Make an effort every day to make friends. Treat it as your new hobby. Look for meet-ups (running clubs, book clubs, expat meet-ups) and classes (art, woodworking, dance, workout etc.) in your new city. Anything routine (meeting weekly for a few weeks in a row) is excellent for building a friendship.
3) Google Translate is your best friend
Google Translate is AMAZING these days. Download the app on your phone. You can translate any menu, label, or sign using your camera and the microphone to translate live mid-conversation. Install the google translate chrome extension to translate any website live. It is all free and completely fantastic technology that will make your life moving to another country so much easier.
4) Have a routine to connect with the people back home
I set up recurring times to connect with my friends and family back home. It was crucial for me in the first few months to have a routine of social contact. My best friend visited in the first few weeks of living there, and it was so great. It was so helpful to have someone to explore your new country with while you are still making friends after moving to another country. Get a local eSim card before you arrive with Airalo. This has been a game changer for us as we travel around to get a digital sim for over 200 countries around the world. Get one before you arrive to be connected from the moment you land.
5) Research the visa, registration, and bank process in your new home
Every country is different, but one thing is always the same: Moving abroad takes time to set up. It will take you a few months to settle everything you need. Research the process in the country you are moving to and also the order of the steps required. In the Netherlands, you need the local social security number before everything and the bank account before getting a phone. The date of the social security number kicks off your 5 year clock to a permanent residence with the Inburgering Exams. Each country is different, so be patient.
I used SafetyWing to cover my health insurance until I set everything up. It was cheap and gave me peace of mind through the moving abroad journey.
Short to-do list: Country Registration, Country Visa, Bank Account, Temporary Housing, Cell Phone, Permanent Housing, Local Credit Card, Health/Housing Insurance, Utilities, Moving Company.
6) Meet up for a coffee with anyone in your network that experienced moving to another country
Ask your network if anyone knows anyone that moved abroad. Before you move, have a coffee with them. It can make it much easier to understand the adventure you are about to embark on.
7) Be patient
It will take a long time for your new country to feel like home. It took 6 months for me to feel comfortable and 12 months for it to feel like home. The progress is not linear; it is bumpy. Some days are easy, and some days you are super homesick. Be patient and open to the experience, and you will learn so much about yourself. See it all as an adventure, and you are the explorer.
8) Learning a language takes daily practice
Learning the local language basics is so helpful to experiencing your new country. Commit to daily practice, even for 5 minutes. It makes all the difference. I tried so many language apps, both free and paid. I got the most out of Babbel. They teach you practical phrases that you will actually use. It helped me so much.
The only way you will get better is by practicing with locals. It is okay to sound stupid. It is so much more important to practice so you can get better at the language. Start with short interactions with the waiter or the cashier, then work your way up to an entire conversation with a stranger.
9) Routines help create structure on your down days
You will have down days. Create a routine on your good days to help with the bad days. For me, that is the gym, daily meditation, and ice cream on Sundays. Having the routine kept me more level, even on bad days.
If you are moving to the Netherlands, check out our posts about life in Amsterdam: Side Hustle Ideas in the Netherlands, Best Doggy Day Care and Pet Sitting Sites in the Netherlands, Best Gyms Amsterdam!