13 September 2014

How to survive life as an expat

Sometimes you'll hate it, let's face facts.

Your alarm will still go off every morning (unless you are a travel nomad with a perfectly Pinterest-worthy life without mussed hair, a few too many kilos or frumpy clothes) and boring work days will stretch ahead of you where everything you do is picked at.

Completely new social behaviors will have to be learned the hard way (like when it's appropriate to kiss your boss, and strangers), you'll learn to live without road signs and where to find really expensive tastes of home.

The train will occasionally breakdown en route to an important (cocktail) meeting to discuss urgent matters. The weather might suck, a lot. Life will be expensive.

You'll have to re-make friends, establish new networks and suss out multi-person calender notes to have Skype sessions with family around the globe.

And you know what, it is absolutely worth every second.

Living permanently in another country as an expat, it is so easy to fall into days where the grass looks greener on the other side. It is so easy to think "Hmph, if I were at home it would be so much easier/better/simpler/this wouldn't happen..." when you run into problems and you're not in your home. C'mon, really?

Know that homesickness will pass.

Do *that* thing you've thought about for so many years and put off. There are so many opportunities in a new city if you're prepared to take a risk to do something outside of your comfort zone.

Buy a sarnie and sit in one of the Royal Parks with a group of chattering friends, peruse one of the free weird and wonderful London Museums. 
Make the everyday extraordinary.

A New Zealand Favourite
Get on Twitter or join a social/meetup group if you are struggling for moolah/people to do stuff with/unusual activities. Seriously - and brands are always doing competitions and giving away tickets.Go! Add me whilst you're there, come say hey!

Book another adventure.

Take a break, get the blood pumping and listen to a few uplifting tunes.

And if the above doesn't work, have a massive Pinterest session of things that make you smile. And Cats.

Sometimes you might even need to sit down and write a psuedo-narcissistic blog post in the form of advice, simply to excorcise those demons and remind yourself of the wonderful things in your expat life.

Adventures of a London Kiwi


  1. Awww Emma, I hear ya. Wonderful advice. I was originally leaning towards not going home for Christmas. Then I geared myself up and got all excited to go back and my parents decided to come here! So now I'm not going home again and feeling a bit of that expat randomness too. Gotta gear myself up for the autumn/winter long haul. (Add drinks on a houseboat in Amsterdam to your list of expat distractions.)

  2. So very true. When your feeling down it is so easy to get stuck in thinking it would be so much easier and better if you were just back at home. Seeking out the wonderful little things that make life abroad so worth it help remind me why I am here. Great tips! And how awesome is that UK equivalence chart for food products!

  3. I am absolutely going through this right now. The novelty of relocation is just beginning to wear off, and I find myself really pining for America some days. But then I look at it as a whole, and realize that I'm actually adjusting quite well, and that I'm really happy I made the move. Such is life!

    <3 dani

  4. Smashing post - especially enjoyed the NZ - UK food chart too. I haven't come across the US version of the Tunnocks and biscuits are certainly lacking in the US, especially for dunking. Being a Brit I gotta dunk my biscuits in my tea! I always say that the grass is just another shade of green being an expat, there's things the US does better then the UK and vice versa and i'm lucky to have the chance to experience both. Although with September being my birthday month and now being an expat, I tend to just pass my birthday over, same with Christmas, I find those two times the hardest.

  5. I have just been out today to the English store to get my fix of galaxy chocolate - food is great for helping with homesickness (and pretty much everything else too).

  6. This is a great post and I agree with your ideas. I found the table of NZ/UK food comparisons really interesting (I'm from the UK). But how can you not like Penguins? :)

    I think the thing that helped me most when I lived abroad was that if I missed friends and family, I could have a Skype chat with them and that meant I could also show them what I was doing, or give them a virtual tour of my apartment! Technology helped me so much.

    As well as getting comforts from home, I found it helpful to really embrace the new culture I found myself in and just throw myself into it. It looks like you've really done that here in the UK and I'm sure it's helped you get more settled.


  7. I'm contemplating printing out your biscuit comparison and putting it on my fridge as a permanent shopping list. Great post.

  8. If you follow the link there are even more - it has been a wallet saver...!

  9. Oh, I really like penguins it's just that I've been spoiled by Tim Tams - have you tried then? Yummy. We have done several international bl8lind taste comparisons over the years, and Tim Tams come our on top.

  10. It's only a plaster, but such a tasty one!

  11. Dunking biscuits in tea is one of life's pleasures. Do you have any new US favourites?
    Aah, I can understand entirely (and happy birthday for this month!)

  12. It is surely a balancing act - but one entirely worth it! Are you enjoying settling?

  13. It's so true - and having trips booked really helps to have something to look forward to.

  14. I lived as an expat in the UK for almost 7 years before starting travelling and, as you said, it wasn't always easy and there will always be things I'd miss from Italy and that cannot easily be replaced. Nonetheless I learnt to appreciate more and more what was available in the UK that couldn't be found in Italy for instance, as result I cannot stay without Marmite now and I wish I had an unlimited supply with me, but I don't :(

  15. That biscuit chart is THE BEST THING ON THE INTERNET. Find a way to incorporate a cat video into that shizz and I will remain your humble servant forever.

  16. I think taking adventures periodically--adventures on purpose--is an excellent way to remain in a good mood about being an expat!

  17. It will make such a difference to have a corner to call your own!

  18. I think the fact that we go on so many adventures makes me a lot less homesick. Seeing that where I live now has so much to offer makes me feel better. That and visits from friends and family :)

  19. Exploring & blogging assuages guilt as well I think - family can explore with you (from the comfort of their sofa!)

  20. Challenge accepted - there is a whole blogpost dedicated to the art of Kiwi substitutes.


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