I’ve lived as an expat in 3 countries – S. Korea, Thailand and Germany, where I still live and have found that if I take care of 5 things, I enjoy expatriate living.
Expatriate living sounds very exotic. While it can be exciting, it is not the same as being on vacation, and you may find that you have to make an effort to enjoy expatriate living. As an expat in Germany, I learned a few things that have been an asset in my everyday life. See how you can live a good life abroad:
1st Tip for Expat Living in Germany: Make Friends
Making friends is a challenge whenever you move somewhere new and it doesn’t happen overnight, but the sooner you start making friends, the sooner you will enjoying expatriate living. I’m a fan of joining clubs where you share a similar interest (such as hiking or a book club).
You can try googling your interest with your city name, but also check out www.meetup.com. It’s a free service listing clubs around the world for every interest you can think of from cooking to game board meetups to public speaking to travel groups.
Facebook is also a good place to find local clubs. Most places will also have an international or expat group and I would recommend joining one of these as well, www.internations.org is an international organization that organizes get-togethers across the globe.
There are lots of ways to meet new friends, the point is to do it sooner than later since friendships take time to develop and the sooner you have people to share your new expat life with, the sooner you will start to enjoy expatriate living.
2nd Tip for Expat Living in Germany: Have a Purpose
If you have a job, great, hopefully, it’s one that you enjoy, and it will give you a reason to get up every day. If you don’t have a job, you will need to find a purpose in order to enjoy expatriate living. This could be a job, but not necessarily.
This can be a great time to focus on something you’ve always wanted to but just never had the time to. It could be volunteering, learning the local language, taking an online course, or exploring a career as an artist. When I moved to Germany I was in Intensive German School which is 5 hours a day. Plus I had homework and it’s very busy, but still, I have noticed that the people who have something else going on in their lives are much happier than the people who only have German school.
I think having a purpose in life is a key to happiness regardless of where you live, but particularly true for expatriate living where you lack the support of friends and family that you have at home.
3rd Tip for Expatriate Living: Get Involved in the Local Culture
It can be tempting to spend all your time hanging out with other expats, and while you will no doubt form friendships with other expats, I do think it is important to immerse yourself, at least to some extent into the local culture because you have such a unique opportunity to do so and by doing so, you will feel a greater sense of belonging.
For more ideas on how to do this check out Cultural Assimilation – Why I Refuse to Live on the Fringe but the possibilities really are endless. It can be as simple as taking a yoga class in the local language, even if you don’t speak it, checking out a local musical act, taking a cooking class of the local cuisine, or making friends with some locals. The point is to get out of your comfort zone and try to assimilate to at least some extent.
4th Tip for Expatriate Living: Learn German
No doubt you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating. Even if you just pick up a few of the basics, expatriate living becomes so much easier. When you can understand how much something costs, can order at a restaurant and actually get what you want, or explain to a taxi driver where you want to go, the quality of your life as an expat substantially improves. Plus if you take a language course, you may just meet some new friends.
5th Tip for Expat Living in Germany: Explore Your New World
Exploring my new city and country is without a doubt my favorite thing about being an expat. Living in Germany, I explore castles, ruins, museums, and ancient civilizations on a regular basis that are not found in Canada. I also visit nearby cities and other countries that are only a stone’s throw away from my new home, but thousands of miles from Canada.
Many expats are good about exploring initially, but then get comfortable and stop exploring. I find that by continually exploring my new surroundings and taking full advantage of expatriate living, I am much happier than I would be if I just stayed at home.