Sort out the basics
On the top of your to-do list should be to take care of practicalities such as:
- Driving license
- Bank account
- Phone /sim card
The sooner you can get these sorted out, the better. Most of them you’ll be able to arrange before moving to the United Kingdom, so once there you can focus on starting your expat experience. In the UK guide you can find useful advice.
Learn the language
Being able to communicate fluently is essential for your everyday life, whether running an errand, making new friends or dealing with paperwork. If you speak English on a basic or intermediate level but need to improve to get fluent: enrol in a language school or get a private teacher if you can afford it; your progress will be much faster. The best way to learn is to immerse yourself as much as you can in the language: listen to the radio and watch the ‘telly' in English, even if you don’t understand everything. The same goes for movies and books. There are plenty of apps and websites that will help you learn the language. Finally, try to start conversations whenever you have the chance: with your neighbour, at a shop, in the pub or at the bus stop - even if the locals might not expect it.
Meeting new people when you are still learning the language can be intimidating. Start by making friends with your classmates, if you are in a language school, or joining expat events (they are easy to locate through social media). However, it’s important to burst the expat bubble and make local friends as well. Be open to new friends and opportunities for socializing, join social or sport clubs, even if you wouldn’t back home. Building your network of friends and social relations will make your new life more enjoyable, and can help you feel connected and at home in your new surroundings.
Find ‘your place’
A part of getting comfortable in a new environment is finding a place where you feel comfortable. It can be that cozy cafeteria, your local library, a traditional pub or the park down the road; that depends on your personality. Sometimes it can be a good idea to look for places and activities away from where tourists go - making conversation and connections is likely easier and you can relax with the feeling of fitting in.
Home sweet home
When your world has changed, it helps to have things that stay the same. Especially when homesickness kicks in. To give a sense of familiarity to your new home, start by finding a place for some special objects, like your favourite mug or the teddy bear that you have kept since you were a three-year-old. Decoration can play a huge role in making you feel at home, so proudly display a piece of art, furniture or find a set of tiles that match your home country’s style. Or, if a distinctive fragrance reminds you of home, pick a scented candle or an essential oil that can bring you back for that extra comfort. Finally, hang up photos of your friends and family. At some point, they will bring back some of the good times and put a smile on your face. And they will remind you of one of the most important things for an expat: take the time to stay connected with them.