I’m almost 18 years old and more than half my life I’ve lived abroad. I have loved every single moment of being an expat even if it’s hard and exhausting.
Today I bring to you guys my top 5 tips about being an expat and living abroad that I have used in the last few years of living outside of my beautiful Costa Rica. If you are a first time expat or an experienced one, I hope you find this useful!
1. Learn the basics of the language:
I’m not the best example of this tip because honestly, I’ve lived in Kenya for a year and a half now and I can’t hold a solid conversation in Swahili (sorry Kenya). However, when you know how to say the basics like hello, goodbye, how are you?, I don’t speak Swahili, and stuff like that, life does become easier.
Here is a story: my sister has to learn Swahili songs for church since she is in the worship team and when she went to the Masai Market
look it up to buy souvenirs she started singing to the sellers in Swahili while my mom was trying to bargain for a few necklaces that she wanted and the guys gave her the discount! JUST FOR SINGING IN THEIR LANGUAGE #PRO
2. Immerse yourself with the locals:
I’m a strong believer that if you want to experience another culture, you have to know the people.
This might be pretty hard for a lot of expats here in Kenya, but I know it’s easy in other countries. Just by walking downtown and seeing how people act can help you understand the culture better, however, in Kenya (if you are a white person) it’s recommended NOT to go to town. It’s dangerous.
Thankfully I’ve gotten the chance to be in an all Kenyans church and even if I might feel like an outsider sometimes… I LOVE IT. Here is another story. I’m Costa Rican and we learn to drink coffee since the day we are born figuratively and tea is not that big over there. I drank tea from time to time but just plain ol’ green tea without sugar or anything
I’m weird like that but one day (at church) I was introduced to the amazingness that is Kenyan tea, with milk and sugar. I would have never tasted that unless I was immersed with the locals. And now, I have been blessed for life with the greatness of Kenyan Tea. #Blessed
I’ve even gotten to be part of African dance presentations with my dance team, isn’t that awesome!!
3. Find a community of your own
Now, immersing yourself into the local community is a really good idea BUT as an expat you will need help from people of your own culture to adapt to this new country. ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS look for a community of where you come from.
In my case it’s Latin America, and thankfully all Latin American countries have a lot in common so we mix with a lot of the Latinos here in Kenya. There is a huge Latino community here and they always have different events where you can go meet people from your same culture. I bet that happens all around the world as well.
I totally advice you to look for people of your own because they will understand what you are going through on A WHOLE DIFFERENT LEVEL. For example (another story) in Latin America we love our maize flour and we use it practically every day. Here in Kenya, you can’t get it in any supermarket and the Latino people in Kenya told us that they had looked everywhere and didn’t find it and the nearest place to get it was… DUBAI. So every so often when my mom’s friends go to Dubai or back to Costa Rica, they bring us a packet of Maseca. THEY UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH WE ALL LOVE MASECA something that a European probably wouldn’t understand.
4. Be ready to get homesick
Ahhh, Homesickness… You think you will be immune to it but in reality, it will always haunt you. I’m not kidding!! HANDS UP IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN HOMESICK! (I raise both)
When I moved to Kenya I thought I was mentally prepared to leave my family, friends and amazing life that I had there. I thought I wasn’t going to care AS much since I had already moved before.
HAAAAAA JOKES ON ME. I spend a whole year being homesick AND I STILL AM. I haven’t gone back to Costa Rica since I got here and I really want to go back, it’s the only thing I really want right now.
Every time is different and every experience is different. Even if you ARE DYING to leave your country and want to experience something totally new, homesickness will always happen to you. You like it or not. Even if you are extremely happy in your new place, there will always be a part of you that misses your old life (if anyone hasn’t gone through homesickness, please show me your ways)
5. Minimize your stuff
I think the biggest mistake a lot of first time expats do (we sure did it) is to take EVERYTHING YOU OWN to a new country.
When we moved to Cyprus, we spend MONTHS ON END packing all our stuff, and we did the same thing when we moved back to CR. But we TOTALLY saw the difference of taking everything you own and taking what you truly need to a new country.
When we came to Kenya, we arrived with only our clothes in our luggage and on a boat came only the necessary. well “necessary”. I only send things like big winter coats
that I never use because I live in freaking Kenya, my book collection this is one of the most important things for me okay bed sheets for no reason apparently since we had to buy new ones here and a few other things. The rest of our stuff we started buying here. Yes, it’s costly to fill a whole house with new things, but you don’t have to do it all at once. I just recently got a book stand for my collection because there were things like sofas and beds that were the most important.
The point is… travel light. You don’t need the birthday card your mom gave you for your 3rd birthday okay? Just take a picture of it and save it in your laptop!
Well everyone, those were my top 5 tips for living abroad! I hope you enjoyed them (and that you enjoyed my stories). Comment down below if you have more tips that we all should know!