Life of an Expat: 10 Things to Get Right as an Expat

So you’re interested in the expat life, and who could blame you? With inflation hitting all-time highs and wages seemingly not keeping up with the cost of living, more people than ever are looking overseas for new opportunities and new lifestyles.

The best part of this new expat lifestyle is that many cities seem to be embracing it. We have tons of examples of why moving business abroad is a great choice for young professionals because city governments worldwide are trying to improve the business environments of their cities, hoping to become the new hub for emerging industries. 


The pandemic showed us that living as an expat was possible from the comfort of your own home, or for that matter, anywhere. As more workers and entrepreneurs come to this realization, business ventures will continue to spread across the globe, which is great news if you’re a talented young professional.

What Is an Expat?

Expats, or immigrants, are simply those who have decided to leave their native land behind to look for a better working environment abroad. The world is a large place, and many are realizing that they shouldn’t have to settle when there is so much to explore.

Most expats moving abroad are young professionals seeking online work in an area that is comfortable, affluent, affordable, and new. 

The other typical expats are entrepreneurs looking to tap into foreign markets or labor forces. New markets are attractive regardless, but looking abroad for new employees can help bring perspective to a company that otherwise only focuses on a single market. Cities that don’t have strong job markets but good education may have eager young professionals looking to break into the market. Regions without easy access to new technologies and techniques need consultation and training. Something as simple as building construction expertise or experience in the tourism industry is in strong demand if you know where to look. 

10 Things to Know About Living as an Expat

While it’s exciting to pick up your life and more abroad, there are several factors you should know before taking the plunge.

Accommodation Is a Must

It’s hard to think about when you’re getting excited about a big move into expat life, but you should guarantee you have a place to live before you even board a plane. Communicating with landlords or even finding a place from abroad can be nigh impossible and you do not want to be living in a hotel while you search for a place and start a business. 

The best thing to do is contact a local to work as a proxy. They can take care of the in-betweens while you focus on establishing your budget. Expat services are another great option to make sure you don’t end up homeless after arrival. 

Learn the Language

It can be daunting, but to truly integrate with the locals, business contacts, and VIPs of a new city, you really should learn the language of the place you’re going. In most cases, living the expat life means getting by with English, as most people know at least a little. But this is no way to endear yourself to the people you want to call “customer,” “employee,” or “friend.” 

Check out DuoLingo or other learning applications to get a foundation and learn some phrases. Once you arrive, seek the help of a teacher to get on track with learning the subtleties of the tongue. Most importantly, do not give up. Languages can be hard, but the reward you will feel is worth the time and effort.  

Plan for the Life You Want

Before packing a bag, consider the pros and cons of the area you want to live in. Moving to a new region can feel like a dream, but to people living there is just another day. Like it or not, living abroad is not going to feel like a movie; it’s going to feel like life. 

Focus on the benefits of moving to a new place. Maybe it’s easier to travel, or there’s better access to fresh food. Maybe the healthcare is more affordable, or there are more like-minded people. Do your research about your new home, and figure out if it’s actually what you want it to be before dreaming of a lifestyle that may not exist. 

Expat Lifestyle Is Not a Vacation

Can’t wait to start your new business in Spain because of the sandy beaches, beautiful locals, great food, and travel opportunities? You may be going for the wrong reasons. 

Remember that you are traveling abroad to work and create, not relax and disconnect. It can be easy to fall into the latter category because of all the new things surrounding you, but this approach will quickly deplete your savings and leave you scrambling to earn enough to pay rent. 

Start planning your new company or expat life shortly after arrival, and don’t stop until you have a grasp on what needs to be done and those tasks are underway. Once you get some of the nitty gritty handled, you can breathe and take a road trip somewhere fun

Research, Research, Research

When you arrive at your new home, will you need a visa? How long can you stay before having to renew your residency? Will you be able to throw a new SIM card into your phone and get it to work in this new city? What happens if you get hurt; can you go to the hospital and not break your bank? 

Life as an expat means being adaptable and thinking a couple of steps ahead at all times. It can be easy to fumble through a new situation at home where you can easily call people, discuss issues with service people, or use your family/friend’s lifeline to get you out of a jam. Those things are thousands of miles away now. You must understand what needs to be done the second you step out of the airport.

Acclimate to Your Surroundings

Your understanding of how things work at home is not going to work a living as an expat. There will be some crossover, of course. “Please” and “thank you” still go a long way, but far more is going to feel foreign. Most European city-dwellers will not accept an after hours work-related phone call. Grocery stores, restaurants, and many retailers in France close in the middle of the day for lunch and may not even open on Sunday. Utility arrangements can take far longer than you expect, and doctor’s appointments may need to be made weeks before. 

This may seem inefficient to you, but this is just how the system works in other places in the world. Making a local friend is a good way to start learning these intricacies as well as any faux pas you may stumble into. 

Interact With the Locals

You may be wondering how you are supposed to learn all of these social interactions. After all, you came here to start a business, but to the local business people, you may seem strange or have odd mannerisms. That’s ok; it’s all part of the expat lifestyle, but it is something you should try to work on. 

Try to get familiar with locals through social gatherings or through fellow expats. If you know some words, try to be friendly with service people you see multiple times per week. Smile, and be approachable. You are surrounded by experts in whatever region you are in, and the only barrier is making a couple of friends. Once you have some local colleagues, they can help you navigate the social and business world of your new home. 

Seek Long-Term Residency

Life can sneak up on you, and so can your visa. Remember that your time in another country is directly reliant on the visa that you hold. Some are good for ten years, while others for only three months. Every time you renew your visa, there is a chance (through no fault of your own) that the renewal will fail, and with it, your future plans. 

If you like what you see after living in your new home for the first visa period, it’s best to seek permanent or at least long-term residency. This will allow you some breathing room without having to worry about deportation. It may also go without saying that renewal processes can take a long time, so start earlier than later to guarantee that paperwork hiccups are not the cause of your forced departure. 

It’s OK to Move Back

Life as an expat is not for everyone, plain and simple. You may not hit the mark with your new business. Maybe the food doesn’t agree with you, or the rent isn’t what you expected. Maybe you just miss home. 

Life is about experimentation, and that goes double for the expat lifestyle. If you’re not feeling good in your new home or you suddenly realize what you left behind, calling it quits and heading back to your native country is perfectly acceptable. Home is where the heart is, and you will never feel that more than after living away from your friends and family for an extended period

Just remember that problems will happen in your new life abroad, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it as an expat. 

Home Will Not Feel Like Home

After spending some time abroad, you will start to notice that home visits begin to feel weird. Life as an expat forces you into new mentalities and new expectations, and your home may start to feel odd or uncanny as a result. This is your definition of home changing to fit your new place of residence. When you go home, it feels like nothing has changed, but then you start to realize that you’re the thing that changed. 


The expat lifestyle is not so straightforward, but it is incredibly rewarding. Starting a new business abroad could be your ticket to a comfortable life, and if you never explore it, you will always wonder what could have been. With the expat lifestyle more popular than ever and the walls of COVID restrictions finally crumbling, now is the time to decide if you want to try life as an expat. Happy travels!