Our top 15 tips for living abroad in a foreign country

So, you have finally taken the plunge and have moved abroad, so now what? It can be quite daunting living in another country, and you start to question yourself whether you’ve made the right choice. I’ve been there and let me tell you, I felt the exact same! 

Whilst it can feel overwhelming, there’s so many benefits of living abroad and you’ll soon find your feet and will never look back. 

I’ve pulled together some of my top 15 tips for living abroad, based on my own personal experience, having lived in Germany and Spain a few years ago. Read on for all the tricks you need to know for settling in during your first weeks and months. 🙂 

Before you leave

1. Visit the place you’re going to live in

If you get the chance to visit the place you’re moving to beforehand, then definitely do so. You’re going to have enough on your plate as it is when you move abroad, so you’ll want to reduce your stress to a minimum.

Stay in a hostel or hotel for 5-7 nights and explore your surroundings as much as you can. Find out where your nearest shops are, where the best areas are to live, have a chat to locals and maybe do a spot of sightseeing while you’re there.

Advice for living abroad in a foreign country - Shows a Spanish city from above

2. Sign up to different groups

One of the most overlooked tips for living abroad is to join meet-up groups. There are many different forums you can join to find other likeminded people, where you’ll have the opportunity to get to know them before you start your life abroad.

Search for these groups on Facebook, Tripadvisor or on local forums. You can speak to others that may already be living in the country. It’ll be a great way to hear more about their experiences and for you to ask any questions! 😊

Tips for living abroad - Shows a group of friends on a hilltop

3. Make a list

To ensure you pack all the essentials (and to leave things you don’t need behind), start preparing a list!

Depending on your reasons for moving to live abroad, you may only be there for a small amount of time. You won’t be needing your flat screen TV, or those paintings hanging up in your bedroom.

Make a list of things that are essential to pack, such as your passport, clothes, and any Spanish learning books! If you have other things you need, but can’t fit in the suitcase, you can always get a parcel sent over once you’re settled in your new home.

4. Do some online reading

There are so many blogs to read these days, to help you learn about the country and region you’re moving to. Find out about the best places to live, eat out, learn salsa and Spanish classes, before you even move abroad!

A man researching on his laptop with a city skyline in the background

5. Visas!

Some countries require you to have a visa, so you’ll need to check this out well in advance of moving abroad!

Whilst you’re there

6. Download the Word Reference translation tool

If you’re just starting out learning a language, but your knowledge is limited, it’s a good idea to download a translation tool on your phone. Depending on where you’re living in the country, some areas may not be that touristy and therefore, less people will be able to speak in your native tongue.

I recommend Word Reference. Google translate is good for quick, instant translations but translations can often be quite literal and not always accurate, so be careful! 

7. Take up a new hobby

When I moved abroad to work and study, I didn’t know anyone. It got to the point in which chatting to my friends and family on Facetime just wasn’t enough; I needed to interact with real people! 

Meeting new people has never been so easy! You can join a gym class, take part in language classes, dance classes, sports…the list is endless! You can search for all of these activities on local Facebook groups, local newspapers and online. Whilst it’s important for you to enjoy yourself, be sure to be open minded, so you can pick up a new skill and meet people along the way. 🙂 

Shows a girl rock climbing indoors

8. Take part in language classes 

Even if you have a decent level of knowledge for the language, I recommend that you attend language classes. Not only will it help really accelerate your ability, but also, you’ll have the chance to meet other, likeminded people. It can be quite tiring speaking the language all day, every day and we need a bit of downtime too. Through meeting other language learners, you’ll have the chance to socialise in your native tongue! It’s a great way to meet new people when living abroad.

9. Live with the locals

If you want to become fluent one day (which is a goal that we should all strive to), then it’s important to fully immerse yourself in all areas as much as possible. When searching for a place to live online* the room ads will often tell you information about the current flatmates (i.e. nationality). I recommend that you try to find a flat with native speakers, as it’ll really change your language learning game.

*Each country will have specific rental sites which you can find through a simple Google search. I’ve listed some of the most common sites for popular European destinations below. 

France

Spain

Germany

Italy

Tips for living abroad - Dining with the locals

10. Get things sorted within the first few weeks

It can be quite easy to get caught up in all of the excitement of moving abroad, and you forget about the key essentials you need to sort out. You’ll need to open up a new bank account, which you can do directly at the branch. For your nearest local doctors and dentists, do a simple Google search and give them a call to find out if they’re taking new patients. Pro-tip: Check out their reviews too!

If you’re living in the capital, or larger cities, you won’t have many issues with communication, as English will be widely spoken. When living in the suburbs and smaller towns, there will mainly be locals and not as many tourists. If this is the case, see if you can get an interpreter to go with you (if your knowledge of the language is limited).

11. Spend as much time as possible with locals

As you settle into your new life living abroad, you’ll have more and more opportunities to meet locals. Whether that’s through mutual friends, taking part in activities, or through school and work. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the culture and put everything you’ve learnt into practice. Even talking to shopkeepers and the friendly old woman at the bus stop will help you embrace local life!

Spanish dancer and musicians in Seville square

12. Get fluent in the language 

This is a no brainer really, but I had to include it anyway! Becoming a master of the language will open so many doors for your new life abroad. It will provide you with a sense of accomplishment, opens the door to teaching opportunities, careers and be able to converse with natives at a high level. 

There are many different avenues to go down when it comes to learning a new language. These include online language learning apps, self-study guides and in-person tutoring and classes. 

There is no better way to become fluent, than living abroad, so take full advantage of this opportunity and you’ll be a pro in no time! 

13. Find your way around and explore 

It’ll take some time for you to know your way round (at least your local area). It’s important to use the first few months to get to know where you’ll be living. Where’s your nearest supermarket, doctor, bank and gym? What else is nearby and accessible by public transport? It can be quite scary exploring on your own in case you get lost. As long as you have internet access on your phone, Google Maps and your trusty phrase book, you’ll get back home in one piece! 

Advice for living abroad in a foreign country - Quaint street in Seville

14. Carry round a phrase book or download a list of phrases on your phone 

We all live in the 21st century and the majority of us have access to 4G when we’re on the go. That being said, it’s still worth carrying around a pocket phrase book, as you’ll never know when it’ll come in handy.

15. Remain safe and vigilant 

This is one of the most important tips for living abroad; be safe. The majority of countries are safe to live in, but they are always some areas with higher crime rates. If you’re living in a particularly dodgy area, make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk, especially as a foreigner. Staying in well-lit areas on an evening and don’t drinking too much alcohol. These are just some of the ways you can stay safe.

I’ve always carried around an alarm with me since living abroad a few years ago. Fortunately, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to use it, but I recommend getting one. It’ll give you that peace of mind you’ll feel safer.

Tips for living abroad - Shows a dark alleyway

I hope you enjoyed reading and found these tips for living abroad in a foreign country useful. Remember that it’ll take some time to get used to life in your new country. If you take away one thing from this article, it’ll be to give it time and enjoy the experience. 🙂 We’d love to hear about your own tips for living abroad and your personal experience, so please leave us a comment below! 

By Susie

Author bio:

I’m is a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.

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