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Top Advice from Expats Around the World | Expat Dream Team 4#

Here is another group collaboration for the #ExpatDreamTeam edition.

In this group collaboration, I’ve asked a few expatriates what their take is, about the following:

  • 1) What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you?
  • 2) What was the worst advice and why?
  • 3) What advice would you give for those becoming an expat (can be, in general or specific to the country you are in)? 
  • 4) What about your expat experience has surprised you? 
  • 5) Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat and if so, in what ways?  

The Expat Dream Team posts are group collaborations provided by expatriates from around the world, that I reach out to via Instagram. Click here to learn more about the Expat Dream Team and other expatriates.

A thousand thanks you’s to the contributors of this post. I’m so grateful for your collaboration, community and most valuable insight. I’m so inspired by all of your stories and grateful for your connection. Thank you!

Round 4 of the #ExpatDreamTeam

Erin in Albania

Erin in Albania

Lifewith.Erin is Erin and her family, who’ve navigated from the States to a new way of life in Tirana, Albania. Erin and her family are newbies to the expat lifestyle and in addition to living in a new cultural environment. They are doing it during these uncertain times of Covid-19.

While Erin and her family are adjusting to random power outages and nonsensical water pressure. The kindness and accommodating spirit of the Albanian people. Has made their transition all the much better.

1) What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you?  

”I didn’t get a whole lot of advice before moving, but I had done a study abroad in college so I felt like I knew what to expect somewhat. Overall the best advice I’ve gotten about living abroad is to be flexible, have low-ish expectations (expect that things will be different from home) and you’ll be fine.”

2) What was the worst advice and why?

”Not advice per se but I got really annoyed with everyone telling me how great this experience would be for me and my family. It was also annoying when people started to do searches about where we were living and started spewing off facts to us like they knew more about our new home country then we did.”

3) What advice would you give for those becoming an expat (can be, in general or specific to the country you are in)? 

”Find a community and get involved with them. They will be your lifeline in times of need (COVID-19). We became expats because of my husband’s job opportunities; because he already knew many of the people that he’d be working with they were more than happy to help us figure things out, and loan things that we needed. I’d recommend finding and joining Facebook groups for the area that you are moving to, so you can ask questions and get advice, and if they have any activities go to them!!

Obviously do your research about the cost of living and what to expect culturally about where you plan on moving to. Gather as much information as you can – but take it all with a grain of salt. People will have opinions and they may be totally wrong. For example, a lot of the blogs and websites that I had looked at said that busses were lousy and you wouldn’t be able to rely on them but I haven’t found that to be the case at all.

4) What about your expat experience has surprised you?

”I was told that many people spoke English and that I’d be fine with just a few phrases. Not knowing the language has been much harder than I had anticipated. But at the same time, everyone has been very forgiving of the fact that I don’t speak the language and many people have helped by stepping in and explaining to me what’s going on. 

Albania is very much a cash-based system almost no one uses credit/debit cards – using cash is not something that I’m very used to, especially coins.

It’s also surprised me how nice everyone is. In Albanian culture, children are revered and respected so people will often offer their seats on the bus for kids, restaurants are more than happy to make special meals for them if they don’t like what’s on the menu.

5) Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat and if so, in what ways? 

”I think I’ve changed – we’ve only been here for about 2 months and 1 of those has been in quarantine. I think I’ve learned to appreciate the small things more – knowing what the labels say in the store (instead of guessing), good water pressure, constant electricity, sheets/blankets.” 

Michael in Japan

Michael in Japan

MichaelePerez is Mike, who is living in Kita-ku, Japan with his husband Brad, and super precious, daughter Amalia. From their days in Dallas, Texas, to seven months later. They are basking in Japanese cherry blossoms landscapes (while practicing social distancing, of course).

Fun fact about Mike. He was once the owner of the world’s most popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan site. Learn more about Mike’s creative side on his website, MikeEDesign.com

1) What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you?  

”The best advice I received was from one of my dearest friends. We sat down at a coffee shop and I laid it all out for him.

In Dallas, I had a good-paying job, a beautiful house, and my daughter had just been accepted into a great Montessori academy. My husband’s job was also going well, and he really loved teaching his students. But at the same time, he felt throttled by the monotony of life in Dallas. We are adventurous people, but while I am also a nester, my husband felt like life was passing him by. When the opportunity for him to work abroad came up, it opened new doors for his career and an exciting shift in our lives.

My friend told me that I needed to recognize that part of being married meant my husband and I share the same goals and dreams. And if my husband wasn’t happy in our situation, then I wouldn’t be either. And he was right. My job was sucking my soul. Yes, I made decent money, but I was always working and my career was going nowhere. Yes, I loved our house, but if it didn’t feel like home, then why hang on to it?

The biggest factor, though, was our daughter’s education. The school she got into in Dallas had a great reputation, but it was expensive and not really our first choice. We wanted her to have a dual language education from the beginning, and by moving abroad that would be more realistic.

What my friend’s advice showed me was that comfort doesn’t necessarily equal happiness—especially if your better half is yearning for something more.”

2) What was the worst advice and why?

”I made the mistake of reaching out to a Reddit community about moving to Japan. My concerns were over the high up-front costs to move here and the lack of LGBT recognition and representation. The majority of advice said to tell my husband to turn down the job offer—that my visa would never be approved, that we wouldn’t make enough money, our inability to speak Japanese would hinder every aspect of life here, and it would be impossible to find an apartment that would allow a young child with gay parents.

There were a lot of incorrect assumptions and several homophobic comments. One guy even made a screenshot of my post and posted it on another subreddit along with a barrage of insulting comments.

Nearly all of the advice that resulted from that post was useless. We lucked out and found a great apartment in the exact neighborhood we wanted, close to public transportation, and the language barrier has never been an issue.

The ward office even contacted a translator via Skype to help smooth the process for my residency. My visa came through just as expected, and no one has batted an eyelash at us being gay dads. Japan is a polite society, and people don’t make a fuss just because they disagree or don’t understand someone’s situation.

3) What advice would you give for those becoming an expat (can be in general or specific to the country you are in)? 

For us, it was imperative that we hire an immigration lawyer. As previously stated, Japan (except in certain areas) doesn’t recognize foreign same-sex marriage. So technically, my husband had to emigrate as a single man with a dependent daughter. I had to come over on a tourist visa, and in that time apply for a designated activities visa bound to my husband’s work visa.

There’s a lot of red tape and required paperwork, and it would have been impossible to handle on our own. Our lawyer took care of it all, and because we followed her advice to the letter, everything worked out. Obviously, this advice is specific to Japan, but I would recommend it for anyone with special circumstances looking to move abroad.

4) What about your expat experience has surprised you?

”What has always been most surprising is how easy it is to make friends as an expat. Several years ago, my husband and I also lived in South Korea. It was the same story. You arrive in a new country, and immediately join a tribe of people who are trying their best to navigate life in a new country, its culture, its political climate—not to mention the actual physical geography of the place.

In the U.S., friendships can easily be taken for granted. You tell someone, “Let’s hang out!” But never follow through. As an expat, you realize these people are just like you. You are each others’ lifeline and best resource for overcoming the challenges you’ll undoubtedly face. So you keep them close, and you appreciate them.”

5) Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat and if so, in what ways? 

”I think so. This is specifically for Japan, but living in a society where there is very little violent crime and everyone is polite has practically ruined living anywhere else for me—especially the States.

You can leave your bike parked in front of a coffee shop with no lock, and a bag of groceries in the basket without worrying it’ll be stolen. The phone you dropped on the street on the way to the supermarket will be turned in to the police, and they will notify you to come pick it up. It renews your faith in people. And possibly gives you a false sense of security.

The other thing is transportation. Americans are so used to sitting in their cars for at least a couple of hours a day, commuting to and from work, or just trying to get from point A to point B. Every other country I’ve been to has had incredible public transportation, whether it’s by train or bus.

Japan is also super bike-able, which the States is not. I was terrified to ride my bicycle back home. The streets just aren’t bike-friendly. Here, though, it is my number one method of transportation. It’s fun, good exercise, and an inexpensive way to get where you need to go.”

Esther in England

Esther in England

ThePaletteCleanser is Esther. An American (from Philly) who’s been living in England since January of 2020 with her husband.

Esther wrote in, “My husband’s company asked him to move to London last year.  We turned the offer down.  A year later, we were asked again to moved. This time, I had to seriously reevaluate my life – Was I content for us to live like this for another 30 years?  Some can and have.  I’ve seen my retired coworkers live day in and day out in the same routine for 60 some years.  That’s their prerogative.  But I felt like there was so much more to life than our small world we were living in.  So, we decided on an adventurous life.”

Learn more about Esther, food, travel, beauty and health on The Palette Cleanser. Pssst… I’m totally digging on her banana bread recipe.

1. What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you?

”As of now, the best advice I was told was:  It will take time to adjust.  Whether I was a working or looking for work when I arrived in London, keeping busy or not, it wouldn’t change the fact that adjusting to a new culture and country would take at least 6 months of struggling to get used to a new normal.  There was no avoiding this season of adjustment.  This advise mentally prepared me to be ready for the struggle.  And yes, the struggle does come.”

2. What was the worst advice and why?

“Since England is an English-speaking country, you have nothing to worry about.  You’ll be fine.”This was the worst reassurance (as opposed to advice) anyone gave me because culture is build into the language of a country.I found myself unable to understand the mixture of accents in London whether it was British, Cockney (East London), French, Indian, Middle Eastern, and so forth.  

The people who gave me this reassurance also didn’t realise how much of an ethnic melting pot London is just like New York City and Hong Kong. The different uses of nouns was difficult to communicate as well because no one understood what I meant when I asked for the “trash can” or the “restroom”.

 I’m still learning to replace the many different words that I’ve used the last 3 decades with the correct word in British English, such as “bin” and “toilet”.  

The differences seem so minute but not knowing these many differences halts a conversation and you are left just staring blankly at each other.Even the differences in expressions vary drastically, making you accidentally express what you meant in the wrong way.  For example, when you say something is “quite good” in American English, you mean that it’s very good.  For example, “the food was quite good”.  In British English, “quite good” means that it’s not that good.  So, you’re accidentally calling something bad and you didn’t even realise it.”

3. What advice would you give for those becoming an expat (can be in general or specific to the country you are in)?

”If you can move with a job already lined up in your new country, that’s the best way to assimilate.  

You are forced to learn new idioms, terminology, and phrases through your coworkers.  That’s the fastest way to assimilate.You also want to explore your new town.  Some new friends I made here coincidentally moved around the same time I did.  They use London as an excuse to explore a new neighbouring country every weekend.  That’s great.  But ideally when you first move, you want to immerse yourself in the city and country that is now your new home.

Those friends have no idea where to go for good restaurants in town and haven’t gone to a single iconic place in London.  I went to nearly all of the art galleries, museums, and famous parks in London within my first 6 weeks here and made sure to only use public transportation.  I can literally get anywhere in London without getting lost as long as I have google maps because I’ve mastered the public transportation system here.  

You want to become an expert on your new hometown before venturing out to other countries.  That’s how you make this new place feel like home instead of a temporary hub.”

4. What about your expat experience has surprised you?

”Seeing as I’m a total introvert, the definition of “homebody”, a townie (small town girl), and have the poorest sense of direction, I surprised myself by embracing new friendships immediately, becoming much more open-minded to new cultures and experiences, and actually finding my way to any place I set out to go. 

Growing up in America, I learned to keep to myself when I’m near strangers.  It’s just a culture of cautiousness.  But in London, I am pleasantly surprised by how open people are to helping out foreigners.  You can literally ask any public servant or random stranger on the street for directions and if they can help you, they’ll help you out without judgement.”

5. Do you think you have changed (even being a new expat) since becoming an expat and if so, in what ways?

”I make sure to venture out daily to a new eatery, a new gallery or museum exhibition, and scenic place.I wouldn’t just call it learning to be resilient like some of my loved ones are telling me I am.  

Resilience refers to tolerating some negative effect on you.  It’s more like a new part of me has been unlocked – an adventurous side I didn’t know I had.  

The result of that is learning, accepting, and enjoying the differences in cultures that I’m experiencing.  Being an expat is the best way to change an introverted, close-minded, small-town girl.”

Steffi in Germany

Steffi in Germany

TheAdventuresofSteffi is Steffi. She and her boyfriend traded the small city life in Hereford, UK to Augsburg in Bavaria, Germany. Steffi has been in Germany for 6 months and learning the expat lifestyle.

Learn more about Steffi and Germany on her blog AdventuresofSteffi . By the way, her post on Duolingo, is really BRILLIANT! The sentences are funny, but it’s Steffi commentary that takes the cake! You can really gather her fantastic sense of humor. Keep us laughing, Steffi!

1. What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you?

”I didn’t receive any specific advice, aside from people telling me to be open and enjoy the experience for what it was. I do remember a few people I love dearly telling me that home would always be there for me if I ever chose to go back. That feeling of knowing that I could always go home with no regrets made it a lot easier to throw myself into this new experience.

It reminded me of the quote from Lord of the Rings: “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

2. What was the worst advice, and why?

”I can’t remember really receiving bad advice either, but people definitely scared me and made me anxious about the “bureaucracy” system in Germany, always telling me about how paperwork mad they are! Perhaps I just got lucky or perhaps my previous job roles helped me prepare, but I have found most bureaucracy moments pretty easy to deal with. However, I will say this – the Germans are big on paperwork and bureaucracy, but they are very slow at processing it all, which can catch you out sometimes!”

3. What advice would you give for those becoming an expat (can be in general or specific to the country you are in)?

ASK. FOR. HELP. I was so scared and stubborn to ask my new neighbours for help with certain things when we first moved here and I would get myself so worked up and stressed out, especially with German bureaucracy. These days, so much information can be found on the internet, but there will always be certain local things that you have to find out from the locals themselves. 

If you are an English speaker moving to a non-native Language country and you don’t have a job lined up, get a TEFL qualification under your belt before you move. It’s certainly something I wish I had done. There is always work available teaching English.”

4. What about your expat experience has surprised you?

”There have been a few surprises, some not so nice. But I think the most positive surprise is actually how warm and welcoming the Germans really are. There is a stereotype in the UK that Germans are very rude and have no sense of humour. In my experience, that simply is not the case. Sure, they are certainly more direct than British people, but they are also super friendly and have a wonderful sense of humour! If you show them that you are open to experiencing the culture and are trying to learn the language, they are always more than willing to help you. ”

5. Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat. If so, in what ways?

I have changed so much since the move. I could write a full book on it! I’d say there are two major changes:

1. I now understand the importance of resting and slowing down – in Germany, but I think particularly Bavaria, free time and family time are taken very seriously. It’s very common for families to gather around the dining table and eat together, or go on a long walk/bike ride together. All shops are closed on Sundays as well, which encourages more stay at home time.

2. I have learned how much I can live without. We still have a storage space in the UK full of old furniture pieces/trinkets that we didn’t have space for on the initial move, none of which I miss. I also struggled to find a job for the first few months and have been living off my savings. Everything my boyfriend earns goes towards the bills. I haven’t spent money on anything that wasn’t a necessity for over 6 months!”

Natasha in Japan

Natasha in Japan

AwayFromOrigin is Natasha who has stunning photos on her IG. So much so, it will fuel your wanderlust.

Natasha is an American photographer and blogger, who’s filling her days in Fukui, Japan. She is on her fourth year teaching English in the Japanese public school through the JET Program. Learn more about Natasha and life in Fukui, Japan on her blog AwayFromOrigin.com.

1. What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you?

”The best advice I received before living abroad was, “Say ‘yes’ to everything.”

That doesn’t mean saying yes to some weird things, but what it does mean is that when you decide to live abroad, you should be open to trying something (food, experiences, etc.) you may have never done before.

During my four years in Japan, I’ve been invited to take pictures in wedding dresses for a local wedding boutique, I’ve learned Kitsuke (the art of wearing a kimono) from the local grandmas in town, I’ve carried omikoshi (a Japanese wooden shrine) in a large local festival, and I’ve did a farm stay with a local married couple and took a bath in their hand-made rotenburo (outside bath).

Without being open to trying new things, I would’ve never had the above experiences, nor had the great stories and memories to tell about it!”

2. What was the worst advice and why?

”The word advice I received was, “Don’t go by yourself.” Those experiences I mentioned above—many of those things I had to do without the comfort of friends or familiar faces.

If I had worried about going by myself or going without knowing anyone, I would have missed out on so much! Plus, some of the best travel experiences (and, of course the worst, too) happen when you’re traveling solo. It’s a great opportunity to take a trip with yourself and enjoy travel and experiences without outside opinions or noise.”

3. What advice would you give those becoming an expat (can be in general or specific to the country you are in)?

”No matter where you live, my advice is to get involved with the local community. Even if you’ve lived somewhere for a year or more, don’t forget to be a tourist every once-in-a-while!

In Japan, I’ve made so many friends by getting involved in my local community and even by being a tourist and trying out local experiences.

When I first moved to Japan, I had no friends in my area and really just went out and did things by myself, but once I joined local interest groups such as Latin dance and volunteering, I began to call Fukui ‘home.’”

4. What about your expat experience has surprised you?

”What has surprised me about my expat experience is how fast I began to call Fukui, Japan ‘home.’ I’ll be honest, when I first moved to Japan I really wanted to live in Tokyo.

I had studied abroad at a university in Tokyo and had made some friends there, so I wanted to live in a familiar city. Instead, I was whisked away to the other side of the island, to Fukui Prefecture. A

At first, I was really disappointed. Fukui is no Tokyo. It’s a suburban/rural prefecture with rice fields in the middle, mountains to the right, and an ocean to the left.

There’s also not so many people my age in Fukui, and if they are, they’re often already married (for reference, I was a fresh 22 when I moved here). Now when I visit big cities like Tokyo, all I really want to do is just go home, back to Fukui.”

5. Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat, and if so, in what ways?

”I definitely think I have changed since becoming an expat. I moved to Japan fresh out of graduating from my undergraduate university, so the work experience I had up to that point was part-time jobs and internships. So, it’s safe to say that working in a foreign country teaching English to children as a full-fledged teacher and working in an entirely different culture was a great learning experience for me.

If I were to compare myself then to where I have come now, then I can see my growth every step of the way.

When you live abroad, you really get to fully understand yourself for who you are outside of the comfort of your friends, family, and surrounding familiarity, so I recommend that everyone at least travel abroad somewhere and experience a culture different from your own if living abroad is not an option.

I fully believe that the best way to learn about yourself is to be faced with yourself in the unknown. ”

Benna in Italy

Benna in Italy

Gastronautluvshiphop is Benna. She and hubby, Kevin have been living in a small seaside town on the Adriatic side of Italy, for almost 2 years. This cute couple’s sense of adventure will have you smiling with them. They really know how to live it up. Benna also speaks the truth on being a trailing spouse. I’m right there, with ya’ girl!

Benna writes in, “I consider myself a “Forever Expat” as I have lived abroad from my motherland since I was six years old. Born in Manila, Philippines, I immigrated to Japan as a child. I moved to the United States as an adult and spent ten years on the East Coast.

1) What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you?  

““Make the most of it” I know this sounds trite but it really is the best advice. Be willing to go to events and explore places that seem less exciting or not what you normally would do. We discovered one of our favorite places in Italy based on a recommendation to attend a chocolate festival that was happening there. My husband and I don’t even like chocolate that much but went anyway and had the best time!’

Also, buy enough deodorant to last you until you visit the U.S. again! I thought this was odd advice but I’m happy that I followed it because the deodorant is just not the same here…”

2) What was the worst advice and why?

”“Don’t complain” It’s easy to think that moving to a small seaside town in Italy is super romantic and you will just soak up the sun, eat great pasta, and live the dream. Culture shock is real! 

There’s a point to remembering to be grateful through the stressful moments of your life but not at the expense of yourself. Yes, everyone will remind you how lucky you are to have the opportunities and experiences that you have. That doesn’t mean you can’t express yourself and your frustrations about adjusting to a new way of life. Vent if you need to vent! Everyone needs an outlet. You are in no way obligated to have a perfectly instagrammable expat life because you are living the dream. 

3) What advice would you give for those becoming an expat (can be in general or specific to the country you are in)? 

”In general; You don’t need all that stuff…your belongings do not make a place your home. This is the fourth country that I have lived in and I firmly believe that lightening your bags will lighten your soul.

Specific to Italy; you don’t have to eat five courses at every meal. Don’t let those menus fool you!  Typically, most Italians eat pasta only at lunch time. I have noticed that when locals do eat pasta it’s a much smaller portion than you would think.

4) What about your expat experience has surprised you?

”Embracing a new routine and pace of life. No one (this should include yourself) expects you to learn the native tongue in six months but learning the ins and outs of daily life such as when meal time occurs is surprisingly important. We were used to living in a large metropolitan area where one could basically get whatever they wanted whenever.

The first few days in-country, my husband and I learned the hard way what “riposo” is. In this part of Italy, towns still shut down in the afternoon during the hottest part of the day. We missed a few lunches which wouldn’t be a big deal if dinner wasn’t at 9pm! 

5) Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat and if so, in what ways? 

”I am what is considered as a “Trailing Spouse” in the expat community and this is my first time accepting this position (haha).

I really fought leaving my career on pause at first but a couple years in and I am loving every minute of it! I thought I knew what being an expat really meant but I was missing a whole other perspective! I was really surprised how easily I’ve grown into the role.

As a Trailing Spouse you have to have confidence in yourself and be secure in your self-worth. I realized I anchored my self-worth to work accomplishments instead of other things that I valued. Such as personal growth and family time. It’s really transformative to examine how you measured yourself and see how that scale misses so much about you as a person.”

Gabriela in South Korea

Gabriela in South Korea

TravelingNabi is Gabriela from Atlanta, Georgia. Gabriela followed her love for Korean culture and recently moved to South Korea (about 2 months ago). Which is perfect for her, being a Kpop fan and all. She is teaching English and embracing her new surroundings with friends.

Learn more about Gabriela, South Korea and what Nabi means on her blog, TravelingNabi.

1) What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you?  

”Bring something to remind you of home. Even though I love the country I moved to and I knew a lot about its culture, language, and history before moving, I know I can still suffer from culture shock and homesickness.

When I read that it’s a good idea to bring items that remind you of home, I decided to pack my stuffed animals. Yes, I’m a 28-year-old woman with stuffed animals but they help me sleep at night. They helped me transition into my new home.

I also brought two types of Salvadoran drink powder mixes to make drinks that remind me of my culture/home.”

2) What was the worst advice and why?

”Exchange money at the airport or just pull from the ATM all the time. I did my research beforehand and found a place that is universally said to be the best money exchange in Korea. There was a long line that I had to wait in to exchange money when I went but it really was the best.

Exchanging money at the airport or using the ATM can have a lot of fees. I would say search for a place to exchange money first and just exchange the bare minimum at home or at the airport if possible.”

3) What advice would you give for those becoming an expat (can be in general or specific to the country you are in)? 

Take something that reminds you of home.

Take food that you will crave or want. The country’s palate might be very different.

Be open-minded. You are in another country. They might do things very different from what you’re used to and you might even think it’s backwards. But you’re not there to criticize or change the culture. Just breath and accept it even if you don’t necessarily agree.

It’s okay to try and fail at speaking the language. The locals will appreciate your effort and you’ll learn as you make mistakes.”

4) What about your expat experience has surprised you?

For Korea specifically, I was surprised about the “it depends” culture. Sometimes it’s hard to get a straight answer for anything because the answer is “it depends.” 

The stares or feeling like a fish out of water. South Korea is a mostly homogenous country so unless you’re Korean or Asian, you stick out like a sore thumb. I knew this would happen and heard stories from previous expats, but actually experiencing it is a totally different story.

I moved in the middle of COVID-19, so the xenophobia was definitely felt. Nowadays it’s not as bad, but I could definitely feel people avoiding me but I had already been in the country a few weeks when the cases spiked in Korea.

All the little things I either miss or annoy me. I realized all the things I took for granted in my home country. But also I realized all the little things that annoy me so much I feel like I’m crazy for being annoyed/mad about it.”

5) Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat and if so, in what ways? 

I’ve only been in Korea for two months so it’s hard to say I’ve changed. I’ve definitely adapted but my mentality and character has not changed. I feel like after 6 months living here then I will feel a change.

I can say my health has changed. I do have amazing leg muscles now from all the walking and stair climbing I’ve done. In the USA I never was very physically active.”

Rossyle in Qatar

Rossyle in Qatar

Ever need #fitnessmotivation? Or motivation, in general? Shadow_s_Journey is Rossyle from the Philippines who lives in Doha, Qatar. Her strong spirit shines through her IG account. While, I’m huffing and puffing at climbing 64 flights of stairs. Rossyle is crushing it, at endurance runs; such as ultra marathons. I’m convinced she can provide the best advice to go from your couch to a 5k.

Rossyle has lived in Qatar for 5 yrs and 5 months and adds. “To be honest, never in my childhood dream to go out of my country and work as expat.” Learn more about Rossyle, and her journey on her blog Shadow’s Journey.

1. What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you? 

”I think, best advice given to me was to mind my money. As I’ve mentioned, I was earning more than enough back in my country but I never had a single penny left in the bank. Rather, I left the country buried in debt.

Minding my finances now help me figure out the difference between the needs and wants. Funny it sounds, but yes! I learned to make the most of budgeting since we are receiving our salary once in a month. I was offered a 2 year contract first and so was able to pay the debts left behind. ”

2. What was the worst advice and why?

”I think developing a new network of friends to avoid homesickness.  I am a friendly and easy to get along with person. And I easily trust people. I don’t even need to question your personality as long as you are human to me then we are friend.But unfortunately, this opened me up to those who took advantage of me. And it hurt me so bad.”

3. What advice would you give to those becoming an expat (can be in general or specific to the country you are in)?

”Learn to adjust and embrace changes.

Honestly,there was last minute sudden fear in me as I boarded the plane heading to the Middle East. I questioned the  uncertainty of whether I will be safe or whatever because of what I’ve read about traumatic and successful OFW stories in the internet. Rather than worrying, I focused instead on the positiveness and thought of  the reason why I chose this path.

Just be brave. Know the basics, like where to go in case of emergency, get in touch with the Embassy or the agency. Be involve in some local activities that might fit your interest. Strictly abide whatever local law mandates. Need not to worry especially nowadays that we can access all means of communication anytime, anywhere. ”

4. What about your expat experience has surprised you?

”Yes! It did surprise me. I was literally culture shocked. From the climate, to the foods, to the smell of spices, to the traffic, to dealing with different nationalities and even to my own English language grammar!”

5. Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat and if so, in what ways?

”Yes, I can say I’ve changed a lot.

I know I regained my confidence and self esteem that was buried from my doomed past. I was able to recover and took care of my physical health and mindful of my overall well being by participating in some local  activities here.

I specifically involved myself in sports, going to gym, competing local running races, marathons and ultramarathons bearing in me with pride my countries flag. 

My recent vacation also gave me the opportunity to go backpack travelling in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam for the first time..alone.  That gave me the urge to travel more.”

Marlu Dream in Australia

Matthieu & Martha in Australia

Marlu.Dream is husband & wife couple; Martha and Mathieu. Martha has lived in Brazil, Morocco, South Korea, Macau and Abu Dhabi. Matthieu is from France, and together they have made their final migration to Australia, with their precious little boy, Luca.

Together Martha and Mathieu created, Marlu Dream. A service providing guidance to families and individuals in their expatriation to Australia.

They add, “Like any migrating family, we have experienced ups and downs throughout our journey towards establishing our permanent residency in the land down under. We understand that moving to a new country can be a source of stress for many. This is why Marlu Dream was created in the first place. We want to lift the pressure from our customers shoulders and encourage them to live the excitement of discovering something new.”

1) What was the best advice you received before living abroad and how did it help you? 

“Being a third culture kid and expat herself, my mum told me to prepare and arrange the necessary and unnecessary documentation before travelling. As I was planning to leave my country and had no plans to return anytime soon, I took her advice and organized all important and indispensable documents with me. Certificates and identification documents, translated diplomas and certificates, vaccination card, prescriptions and medical reports, school history to name a few…

Before leaving, I chose my mum to be responsible for any pending issues (if any), leaving valid paperwork allowing her to act of my behalf. This advise was such a huge help: I ended up organizing my wedding from abroad, and mum with all the documents and capacity to sign paperwork on my behalf, definitely made things easier.”

2) What was the worst advice and why?
“When I announced to the family I was leaving, they all gave me a bunch of advice: -do yourself a financial planning… -study and understand well the country destination…-review the country’s health system… -plan ahead… -etc…It made me so overwhelmed, I got anxiety attack and suddenly I thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life. 

Long story short: I left after a week of my announcement (lol) – I was true to myself and to what I believed was my destiny: to live and explore abroad. I didn’t plan ahead, nor did anything of my family’s suggestions. The worst is to listen too much of what other people have to say. It’s such a cliche, but here we go: Be true to yourself and follow your heart.”

3) What advice would you give for those becoming an expat (can be in general or specific to the country you are in)?
”Being an expat definitely changes you – but there’s something you need to have within you to be an expat: open mind. So my advice to you, should you wish to move abroad, is to have an open mind for everything.

Living abroad is such a rich and aggregating experience in every way. At the same time that it causes euphoria and anxiety it raises some concerns as it is not always easy to settle in another country, with such a different culture, language and currency – that is why having an open mind is so important!”

4) What about your expat experience has surprised you?
”The first few months were the most difficult for me. All I wanted was to come back to my mum’s house. Even though I moved a lot when I was younger, this was my first experience living abroad by myself. I was experiencing so many new things, and I was wanting to be positive to overcome all difficulties and transform every detail into a learning experience, but some days were just very though. 

At each moment I was learning a trait distinct from another culture, so this was a very enriching experience – specially here in Australia where the multiculturalism is so huge.”

5) Do you think you have changed since becoming an expat, and if so, in what ways?

I’ve always been very close to my family and friends. We would do everything together, from morning till late at night… Since becoming an expat, sharing those experiences were truly something only doable online: My friends were getting married, they were having babies and I was missing all the parties and family get together.

I was missing many of those events and, again, was only able to see them via social media. It was difficult to accept, but I have learned “the show must go on” and we all have different life-style. I now give much more importance to photos and captivating those moments so I can share with my friends and family. I also feel we exchange much more experiences online than if I was still back home with them.

Learn 64 UnWritten Rules in 14 Countries given to you by #ExpatDreamTeam. It’s the best insider travel knowledge.

Are you an expat? What advice would you provide?

Outdoor enthusiast thriving in the expatriate traveling lifestyle. Looking to connect with your sense of adventure.

72 Comments

    • MariahKrystal

      My husband has been saying he wants to move abroad for years now. I’m still unsure about it. I can just imagine the culture shock. I personally would have to research and learn the language before moving, just make it a tad less stressful. Otherwise, it sounds like everyone made the right decision for themselves.

  • Ronnie

    This is super helpful! I moved abroad as well and expert advice always helps down the line. Thanks for the great tips from everyone. 🙂

  • Kristi McAllister

    This is awesome! I’ve always been interested in reading about different expat experiences, and I thought all your respondents had something valuable to offer in terms of what works, what doesn’t, and what’s amazing! Great post. Loved it!

  • Alice Mola

    I loved this post, as someone who lived in Japan previously I really especially enjoyed reading about the experience of someone in the LGBT community relocating to Japan. well done!

    • Sarah Emery

      Thank you Alice. I’m sure a lot of this resonates with you 🙂 Japan is one of my favorite countries to visit. It would be so interesting to live there (fingers crossed, maybe one day). Thanks for the read and comment.

  • Scott DeNicola

    The life of an ex-pat seems so interesting to me but I think I’d be too nervous to take the leap especially to somewhere like Japan or Qatar. I give you all credit. It was interesting to read everyone’s different perspectives.

  • Jules

    Read this and even read a few of your other posts. It’s a different way of life, being an expat. It really has such allure! Enjoyed reading the viewpoints of those interviewed.

    • Sarah Emery

      Thank you Jules for reading this and the other expat dream team posts. I appreciate that 🙂 Yes, expat life is a different way of life. There are a lot of adjustments and rewards along the way 🙂 Thanks for your comment and reading these posts 🙂

    • Sarah Emery

      I love putting these expat dream team series together, for exactly what you just said. There are so many perspectives and it’s so interesting (to me) to see how other people are living their expat life around the world. It’s really just fascinating to me. Thanks Lavern, for your comment 😉

  • Kat

    So wonderful to see the different perspectives and the extremely diverse places people travelled to!
    I was especially interested in Esther’s experience, as I also moved to London as an expat (from Switzerland, but lived in NYC before). I agree that it takes a long time to feel comfortable here. London is a melting pot and everyone’s really friendly, but people are less open to inviting others into their circles than they are in the US. I’ve been here 2 1/2 years now and when this crisis started, I was pleasantly surprised at how many friendly messages and phone calls I received from my new friends here. Even though I’ve been very busy, I guess I’ve still managed to build a very nice community.

    • Sarah Emery

      You have just named a lot of countries that I really cherish! I’m so happy to hear you are receiving messages from the community you have built over there. I wish nothing but good things for you. Stay happy, safe and healthy Kat!

  • Trijit Mallick

    Although I don’t have a plan right now to move but in future if I move to an unknown country this post will surely help me a lot. I also shared it with one of my expat friends and he likes it a lot.

    • Sarah Emery

      Thank you Trijit and I’m glad to hear your friend likes this post. When you are ready to start your planning, I would love to know your story. Thanks for the read and comment 😉

  • Shristi

    I really enjoyed these interviews. I have been to Japan and when it comes to accepting few things that need open minded thinking Japan is always on top. I personally want to mention South Korea as a 2nd open minded country (Only if you know how to ignore few things) this country is beautiful for everyone. Thanks for sharing these beautiful informations.

    • Sarah Emery

      Thank you Shristi – I appreciate your kind words. I agree, Japan is on top. I’ve yet to visit South Korea (it’s on my list), and I too hear it is a beautiful country for everyone.

  • jerry godinho

    As someone who was born in Asia, lived in Dubai, studied in Switzerland and did my postgraduate in Uk and now living in Canada I can relate to a lot of the people you have interviewed. We have to be open to other cultures and realize there are other ways of doing things. Thanks for this amazing blog for expats love it.

    • Sarah Emery

      Wow Jerry, you certainly have quite the global experience. You have to be a part of the Expat Dream Team. I bet you have amazing insight. Thanks for the read and comment 🙂

  • Natalia Vorche

    I am so amaze to the people who moved from another country I was thinking if it’s too hard to moved and find a new friend and job? I was planning to move soon thanks for this article.

    • Sarah Emery

      One of the best things about moving is. If it doesn’t turn out to be what you wanted, you can always move back. I hope you get to move abroad and find out what it’s all about. Good luck to you Natalia and thanks for the read and comment 😉

  • Ashlee

    I have a friend who is an expat and so many of the things she was telling me are in these comments. Steffi from Germany was the closest with her ASK FOR HELP comment. She is so right. My friend was afraid to ask and thought she should get accustomed to figuring things out on her own. She was wrong, ask for help from helpful people and also enforce your own personal boundaries to live happier.

    • Sarah Emery

      I agree with your friend and Steffi, so much. I’ve found, those who love to help others. Are the people that I want to be associated with. Also, it’s a great way to connect and learn. Additionally, being able to return the favor, is pretty amazing as well. Thanks for your comment Ashlee. I would love for your friend to be part of the Expat Dream Team, if they are interested. 🙂

  • Life Mag Health

    I’m a proud expat too, a Filipino staying in Dubai, UAE. I work here for a living. For me, you will really not know how it feels like abroad, unless you’re already in there. It’s difficult yet promising as you’ll be able to learn many things you’ve never known before.

    • Sarah Emery

      I love it! Yes, learning many things you’ve never known before, is one of the many benefits to being an expat. It’s amazing how much experience there is out there and how to take it all in. I’m glad to hear your expat experience is going well in Dubai. If you’re interested in the next Expat Dream Team post, please let me know. It’s wonderful to gain so much insight from all over the world. Thanks for the read and comment 😉

  • katrina Kroeplin

    great information. def have to do your research and not listen to people who have no idea what they are talking about. i would love to live abroad one day.

    • Sarah Emery

      I couldn’t agree with you more Prakhar. I love doing the Expat Dream Team series and learning from others who are all over the world 🙂 Thanks for the read and comment.

  • Julia

    I’m an immigrant. I had to emigrate from my country urgently and unexpectedly – no advice received. My advice to others: “Come to Rome be Roman” and… Don’t demand – offer.

  • Smita

    I’ve been living in Switzerland for over a year now and all of this resonated a lot with me! It was great reading others’ perspectives on issues that I faced – from language and culture shocks to bureaucracy and tons of paperwork – it’s reassuring to read that everyone goes through it. Benna’s mantra of ‘lightening your bags will lighten your soul’ is what I have been following too as I now prepare to make a move to Sydney!

    • Sarah Emery

      I LOVE Switzerland. I find it to be such a beautiful country with a lot to offer. WOW and you are now off to Sydney (another place that I love)! You should be a part of my Expat Dream Team. Let me know if you’re interested. I would love to get your insight 🙂 Thanks for the read and comment Smita! Safe moving and I hope it all goes swimmingly for you.

  • Debra A

    I can’t imagine having the financial or family freedom to be able to up and move to a random country. It sounds exciting and liberating. If I ever came into a money windfall and was debt-free, I could see myself doing this! How inspiring to experience life this way–and how challenging it must be with the current pandemic situation.

    • Sarah Emery

      Yes, expat life is very exciting. Many expatriates make the move through their company, that provides an expat relocation package. Which is very helpful (both financially and logistically). Thanks for the read and comment Debra. I hope you are happy, safe and healthy.

  • Trisha Mishra

    This is such a valuable post because you often need to hear it from other people to be in a position to take that step. I am glad you collaborated with these people to offer such an insightful post.

  • Erica (The Prepping Wife)

    I’ve always been interested in the expat lifestyle and how it was done. This was certainly an interesting read! I’m not entirely sure that would be for me, but there is some great advice in here and seeing it from the perspective of those who have done it helped me to understand it more.

    • Sarah Emery

      Thanks Erica. I’m glad you found this interesting and gained insight from other’s perspective. I find it a great way to learn from others and share the knowledge. Thanks for the read and comment.

  • Elizabeth O

    It truly helped me a lot reading the best advice mentioned here. Thanks a lot! It helped me understand other people’s perspective.

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