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22 pieces of advice from the expats and former expats of the AFAR community

We’ve got life abroad on the mind these days—from the pages of our March/April 2017 issue to our new Guide to Expat Life. We also hosted a Twitter chat earlier this week to dig a little deeper with our wonderful community of expat, former expat, and one-day expat readers and writers—some of whom even contributed to The Expat Files.

Besides learning that most of us share a dream of living abroad in a Scandinavian country and plan to retire either to the open road or the open ocean, we received some fantastic real-life advice on many different facets of life abroad. While we already shared six great pieces of advice from people who had made the leap in the new March/April issue of AFAR, we just couldn’t keep these fresh tidbits to ourselves. Read on and expand your arsenal of knowledge so that when you’re finally ready to make the move, you’ll be more than prepared.

On settling in:
“Prepare never to be comfortable. Low expectations mean that every achievement is an exciting one.”—Bryan Pirolli (@WhereIsBryanP)

“Learning a new language teaches you so much about a place and its people. So does grocery shopping.”—Jennifer Flowers (@JennFlowers)

“I’ll feel at home at any café, so whenever I travel I always seek them out.”—Sarah Purkrabek (@spurkrabek)

“I’ll admit, I got lost in downtown Shanghai looking for an American coffee shop to feel rooted to my hometown. But getting lost was a great way to learn the neighborhood!”—Vy Spear (@ThatsVy)

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“I’m not the most regular church-goer at home, but I always go when I’m overseas. It’s always an interesting way to meet locals.”—John Newton (@JohnCNewton)

“When I first moved to Paris, every evening I’d go on a 30-minute walk around my new neighborhood to help familiarize myself with the area.”—Emma Bentley (@emmabentley87)

On learning the language:

“Push yourself to speak the language. Even if everyone just responds in English, make sure to practice theirs.”—Lola A. Åkerström (@LolaAkinmade)

“Immersion language classes really help with learning the language and fitting in—especially since you almost always become friends with your language teachers.”—Amy Paulsen (@amybarcelona)

“Learn the language’s untranslatable words to unlock a world that had not been open to you.”—David Farley (@davidfarley)

On how to deal with all of your stuff:
“I used to have stuff stored in the U.S. but ultimately purged most of it, and now everything I own is here in my apartment in Rome.”—Gillian McGuire (@gmcguireinrome)

“Australia has these great Taxi boxes but they're only 5x7x8 feet! Just put all my stuff in one to go to Ireland!”—Serena Renner (@serena_renner)

“Reduce stuff and live light. It makes moving elevator-less flats easier (especially in Europe).”—Bryan Pirolli (@WhereIsBryanP)

On raising kids abroad:
“I don’t have children, but living in Mexico as a kid changed my life. I learned fluency in a second language and openness to world. Parents: Do it!”—John Newton (@JohnCNewton)

“I’ve strongly considered moving abroad to HAVE kids—it means dual citizenship for them and the birth process is often cheaper abroad than it is in the U.S.”—Christine Amorose (@cestchristine)

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On putting down roots:
“Mingle in cafés, go to events at local libraries, bookstores, and galleries, and chat with locals. Don’t stay in a bubble.”—Lindsey Tramuta (@LostNCheeseland)

“Join expat groups online and never say ‘no’ to an invitation.”—Ashley Rossi (@ashley_stravel)

“Create routines! That barista will know your order someday, and on that day, you’ll feel like the queen of that city.”—Mary Zakheim (@MaryZakheim)

“Living in the same neighborhood for a long period of time is helpful for getting more rooted and finding the best local café, etc.”—Serena Renner (@serena_renner)

“Sign up for a class! While living in France, I took swim and yoga classes. I met people and expanded my vocabulary in funny ways.”—Aislyn Greene (@aislyngreene)

“Do the everyday stuff, but don’t forget about doing the fun, touristy stuff. Make sure you’re enjoying your new home!”—Christine Amorose (@cestchristine)

“Remember and respect your own culture as you learn the new one.”—Joshua Berman (@tranquilotravel)

“Keep your traditions. I still make Thanksgiving dinner each year, but now as a half-Frenchie living in London, I bake French king cake in January, too.”—Bryan Pirolli (@WhereIsBryanP)

Now that you know how to live abroad, take our quiz to find out where you should go: Which Country Should Be Your Second Home?