5 things to do in your first week as an expat
The dust on the suitcase under my bed has settled. There’s presently more in my cupboard than the 280-bag box of PG Tips that I shoved in my luggage as an afterthought. I can now walk down the street and know whether I need to turn left or right (or back) to get to the supermarket. My first week in Germany is now firmly behind me and it has been just as I expected; a mess of new people, old buildings, language barriers, unsmiling men behind desks and more trains than I can count.
It’s an overwhelming time for any new expat, and it can be difficult to force yourself to do more than just flounder in your room in a Mrs Havisham-esque way, not really sure what to do or where to go. If you find yourself in this sort of situation, follow my guidelines below to absolutely smash your first week of living abroad.
Become a yes man
Whatever type of person you are, extro-,intro- or ambivert, the most important thing for you to do during your first couple of weeks is say yes to any and all plans that come your way. Think of it as an investment in your own time here: the more you put into your burgeoning relationships with those you meet now, the better off you’ll be in the long run. The reality is that as a non-native, you might have to work a little harder to make those around you want to invest in you as a friend. Don’t be put off by this; think of it as a challenge, enjoy yourself, go for that beer and revel in the opportunity to make connections with and find out about an entirely new set of people.
For some tips on how to start making friends abroad, check out this post!
Face your bureaucratic demons
The sooner you get it over with, the better. Trust me on that one. Think of your bureaucratic demons as a slimy gremlin that sits on your back; it weighs you down, stresses you out and frankly freaks you out in a big way. Wouldn’t you much rather put the gremlin down quickly and walk away, a couple of kilograms lighter and actualized, ready to integrate into your new society? That’s what I thought. Register as a citizen, open that bank account, buy that phone SIM, sort out that rental contract. Sod off, gremlin.
Go to the supermarket
Bit of a weird one, granted, but I find that going to the supermarket actually changes my frame of mind. It’s a very quiet, underestimated challenge: navigating the cheese aisle in a different language, fretting about checkout divider etiquette, hunting ever-desperately for the nail polish remover. All mini-battles that I myself have fought and conquered. You finish your shop and emerge victorious, Warrior Queen of the Food Shop. Your prize? Getting to go home and fill your cupboard with items that scream “wow, you bought lentils, you really live here now, huh?” You go, Warrior.
Limit time spent in contact with those back home
This one is a tricky one. It’s in our nature to search for comfort in those who care about us and invariably, these people remain in the place we’ve just left. Whilst it is most definitely fine to rely on those back home to support you during your low moments, don’t make an unconscious crack at a Guinness World Record for ‘Longest Skype Call To Have Ever Happened, Ever’. It will prevent you from acclimatising properly, making new friends and will make you feel worse in the long run.
Fall in love with your new home
Wherever you’ve decided to hang your hat, presumably you chose it for a reason. Whether that reason be for education, work, the weather, the wine (no judgement here), take this opportunity to really fall in love with your new home. Start by finding your favourite bar, your favourite monument, the best place to watch the sunset. Build up a repertoire of place that make you feel good about yourself and your decision to go there, and soon enough you’ll be walking around like you were born there (promise).
Anyone got any other tips for new expats? Leave a comment below, if so!