How to live in a foreign country? - As an Expat

An Expat is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person's upbringing, usually for financial or economic reasons.

-travel with someone when possible

It is always safer to travel with someone than by yourself. This also gives you a bit more stability and gives you someone to talk to when you are just by yourself. You might be surprised to think that travelling by yourself is awesome and amazing, but there can definitely be some crisis times that you need to call someone. In this case it is also good to know the crisis line of the country or to have some close relative that you can call just to talk to.

-try out different houses and styles of living

It is not a waste to try different styles of living. This actually broadens your horizons and improves your flexibility, besides that it is fun to live in different areas of a country to understand a country better and how it is built and what kind of people live in the different areas. You might also become more aware of your true necessities and the things you really enjoy doing in the long term.

-don’t get too attached

With moving to a different country there comes part that you emotionally cannot get too attached to places, people, food and surroundings. You become more aware of the temporariness of things and have to develop a lot of emotional flexibility and learn how to cope with attachment and detachment. This is usually easier for men than for women, at least on the surface. Women are supposed to be more attached, which is totally true emotionally and biologically. This is why it is more difficult for women to travel to another country and stay there for a longer time. You might plan enough trips back and forward, especially in the beginning.

-always have a plan B and C ready

If it so happens that your first plan doesn’t work out with your career, be prepared to school yourself, to be accommodated in a different place or different type of house or to change your whole career if necessary. Chances are not low that your first plan doesn’t totally 100% work, because theory and practice differ really a lot from each other. There are always some unforeseen circumstances, for example unexpected discrimination or intolerance of the local people, difficulties to blend in because you might become more introvert over time, difficulties of connecting because you are bilingual or multilingual. And not everyone is made to be an extravert and partying with everyone, especially if your first feeling was to move for professional reasons.

-connect to local people if you feel you can blend in

It is never a waste to try to connect to the local people, but this needs to be done also with some kind of caution, because you know you have to be reliable on yourself. You cannot expect that local people can fix everything for you. In the end you might want to become part of a new community. In this case it is important that you also feel you can contribute or add some kind of own value to that community, besides thinking of your own career. This can work through relevant voluntary work or coming up with solutions and a new job or career related to the local people. This takes a lot of effort, reflection and pioneering to see what is really needed in a certain society or community. Even community living might be an option for some foreign people, as it gives you different opportunities to actually get to know local people and blend in more with the local customs and culture. It also gives a common goal and connects people.

-also connect to people from different places and countries if possible

During this time of age it is possible to connect to multiple different people over the internet. This gives you a bit more space and can help you attach and detach better and learn how to deal with your own feelings as an Expat or foreign worker. It is not a waste to invest in internet relationships and connections, especially if you plan to travel more. You never really know when you might need to talk to someone, and it is always good to have someone to talk to instead of always being totally alone. On the other hand, alone time is also important as you need, especially as an introvert, to retreat and recharge yourself. This all has to do with adjusting and exercising your flexibility in a foreign country.

-look at it as a learning journey, even if you decide to go back

It is never too late to decide to go back if you feel you explored all options and you feel you reached certain goals that you set for yourself. You can always decide to go back and forth at some point or even decide to leave again long term. Don’t place any definite statements on your decisions, as you might change your mind again because you suddenly can compare at least two different countries and their lifestyles. You might feel that both have a great deal to offer and share, so there is really no need to judge or make judgments on your decisions. It really depends on your feelings and what you want to reach and how you weigh your pro’s and con’s to make long term decisions.

Shehnaaz graduated from the Leiden University in Psychology. She has a practice in Holistic Counselling and Therapy. You can contact her through her website,

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