A to Z of Expat Life

A-Z of expat life

A to Z advice for expats

Let’s end this year with a bumper-sized article with a full 26 pieces of advice for making the most of your move abroad. It’s a whole A to Z of expat life 🙂

A huge decision!

OK, so that’s cheating a little bit, it’s not really an ‘A’ – but we wanted to start by acknowledging that this is one of the biggest decisions you and your family will ever make. We can’t stress enough that if you are considering life as an expat then you’ll need lots of support, information and guidance. Luckily, that’s what we’re here for! In this A-Z guide you’ll find lots of links to useful resources and articles talking through many of the different considerations/decisions you’ll need to make. We really hope you’ll find it helpful. And don’t forget – planning and preparation is the key to success!

Boarding School

This can be one of the hardest decisions of all – is it best to take your children with you to your new location, or allow them to finish their education in a boarding school so they can remain in their home country? There’s no right or wrong answer. For many of us boarding school seems like a terrifying prospect and we feel like we’d be separating ourselves from our children emotionally as well as physically. The good news is that with modern technology, keeping in touch really isn’t difficult and we can still play a full part in our children’s lives even if we’re not there every day in person…

Culture shock

Is real! It doesn’t matter that you’ve researched your new home from every angle and you’re excited about the move – being immersed in a new culture is an exhausting and sometimes confusing experience. Culture shock happens when the honeymoon period is over and it can affect any family member from the parent driving the move to the youngest child. The key is to spot the signs and learn how to mitigate the symptoms before they become a more serious aversion to your new home…


So, the big day has finally arrived and you’re off! Exciting… and stressful. Have you got everything you need? Have you packed your hand luggage properly? Have you got enough to keep the children entertained on the flight? Have you remembered to lock up the house, leave a key with your neighbour, re-home the goldfish… it’s endless last minute details that can ruin the overall buzz of finally achieving your dreams.  What you need is a decent moving house checklist


Hopefully you’ll never need the plan for emergencies but you must make sure you have one. On arrival in your new home, set packing aside (just for a moment) and write down everything you need to know about emergency services. What are the numbers to call for emergency assistance? Where is the nearest hospital? What are your escape routes if there’s a fire? Does everyone in the family – including children – know what to do in an emergency?…

Family / Friends

For many expats this is a touchy subject; no matter how confident you are that the move is a good thing, you’ll always feel a bit sensitive about those you’re forced to leave behind – and so will they. We’ve found that the best way to minimise the wrench is to have a good solid plan in place for keeping in touch. Having the first visit booked gives everyone something to look forward to and setting aside regular time for correspondence or face-time makes everyone feel a bit more positive. A ‘keeping in touch plan’ might sound ridiculous when you’re in the early stages of planning your move but eventually it will help everyone to see this as a new beginning rather than as the end…


Expats have their own unique blend of guilt! Guilt about relocating children; about leaving people behind; about failure to keep planned visits. Guilt when you feel homesick and it’s not the easy, happy transition you hoped for. Guilt…you can’t avoid it but you can learn to deal with it…


Quite often, it’s the surprising little things that can leave us feeling homesick and a bit miserable. Like not being able to buy our favourite brands in the supermarket, not being able to watch a favourite TV programme or even not being able to light the fire at Christmas because it’s sunny and hot! Occasional homesickness is an inevitable part of a big move and for most of us it’s readily overcome by the advantages of our new lifestyle. So again, there’s no way to avoid the occasional pang – but there are ways to minimise them…


Most adults, and many older children, value nothing more than their independence. When you’re relocating to a new country with a different culture, this can be difficult to maintain. If you’ve already secured a new job/school/university then it’s likely that you will quickly make new bonds, making it easier to form a social circle and be independent. However, if you’re the trailing spouse / expat partner, or a post exam teenager and you have nowhere to go every day it can be difficult to integrate yourself into your new town/city life and you may feel that your independence is jeopardised…

Jet lag

Just awful! If you’ve travelled between time zones before then you’ll know just how dreadful jetlag makes you feel. Luckily, there are some simple tricks and strategies to beat it…

Keeping in touch

We’ve touched on this briefly already – keeping in touch is an essential part of making sure the move doesn’t seem too monumental; too final. However, there’s a balance to be found. It’s lovely to be able to FaceTime the people that you miss – but at the same time you must go about the business of building your new life and making new connections. You need to make sure that keeping in touch with ‘home’ doesn’t prevent you from moving on…


We have so much for you to read on language! It’s exciting! Should you learn the new language? Should you teach your children a new language? Should you retain your mother tongue so that your children are bilingual? Should you learn the new language gradually or through total immersion? What works and what doesn’t… SO many decisions! We hope these links will help. You can search ‘language’ on this site too for lots of other advice and resources.


Some say it makes the world go around – but whatever your philosophy on money you’re stuck if you haven’t planned for transfers etc. and you can’t access your cash in your new home. Make sure you’ve done your research, contacted your Bank and understand how everything works…

Nursery / Kindergarten

Entrusting your child to a nursery or school in a new country is always going to be a big deal. The keys to success are research, time, trust and acceptance…


Some people love a plan (or a list! Oh, how we love lists!) more than others. Whether you’re scrupulously well organised or a bit of a scatter brain you can’t afford to leave the organisation of your new life to chance. I have a load of lists ready for you in my resource centre here…

Pets & Planes

Can be a tricky combination! If you can’t bear to leave your furry or feathery friends behind, then make sure you start planning well in advance. Don’t leave it too late to find out about vaccinations, passports and quarantine laws – some countries have time frames that must be adhered to….


Just for a bit of light relief from the serious business of planning we thought you might enjoy some quotes from poetry and literature about the nature of expatriates. We thought Ernest Hemingway’s was particularly delicious (if not particularly accurate)! Scroll down to the bottom of the linked page for more quotes on resilience and change. Sometimes they can be helpful, sometimes annoying and sometimes they can fuel your determination to succeed against all the stacked-up and preconceived odds!


Is just as difficult as expatriation – but for some reason we never expect it to be. For many expats, going home is the end game; returning to their old life with the expectation that they’ll slip right back in from whence they came. It’s not always that easy though. Things at ‘home’ may have changed, people may have moved on, jobs may not be as easy to come by, schools may not have the same standards as those your children have been used to and the culture will be different from how you’ve been living. Repatriation and reverse culture shock should not be taken too lightly…


The aim is a happy, healthy well balanced child with a good attitude to learning; just as it would be anywhere in the world. There are lots of things to consider in choosing the right school. For example, if your move is permanent you might want to consider a local school where your child can be immersed fully in language and culture to fit in as quickly as possible – but if you are returning to your home country after a year or two an International school might be the answer. You will find lots of great resources and advice on our site and we suggest that being well prepared for this huge decision is a good way forward…

Time management

This is where we plug our journal…again! Managing your time is a vital part of making sure the stress of moving doesn’t overshadow the excitement you want to feel. Get a good journal, download a great checklist and make sure you write absolutely everything down. Plan for at least 3-6 months in advance and then as much as possible stick to the plans you have made. There’s a great satisfaction and sense of achievement in ticking off jobs that are done and dusted!


Maybe the reason for becoming an expat is because you want to study abroad, or maybe you’ve been educated as an expat child and now you’re ready to move on to university. The world is your oyster – don’t let fear hold you back…


Don’t overlook it and don’t leave it too late; this could be the thing that completely takes the wind out of your sails if you don’t get it right…


Whether you’re hoping to secure a job before you move, or move first and then look, you need to be well prepared. Research the job market in advance. Find out as much as you can about the recruitment processes in the country of your choice and talk to other expats to learn from their experiences. Make sure you have a great CV/Resume that makes the most of your transferable skills (our advice is to get it done professionally to give yourself a competitive advantage) and learn about the employer before you submit your application. Always assume the competition is fierce and approach every application as if it is your only hope; sloppy applications lead to disappointment.

eXpat life

Join my Facebook Expat Chat Group and like my Facebook Page for an insight into expat life and to connect with other people who have been there, done that and got the proverbial t-shirt. It’s a source of great advice, inspirational encouragement and global wisdom. There’s always someone who can come to your rescue with the right words at the right time and we hope you’ll enjoy being a part of our thriving online community…

Yell for help!

There are lots of resources, groups, articles and chat rooms out there for people just like you. We know that you’re feeling a huge mix of emotions and that sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. Don’t keep your worries to yourself, yell for help and I’m confident that you’ll feel a lot better. For one-to-one advice and tips, give me a shout.


Be kind to yourself! Moving home is exhausting and stressful; moving to a new country is exhausting and stressful x 10! It sounds obvious but we know all too well how easy it is to overlook the basics; set aside some ‘me-time’, relax, take time out for a cup of tea or a chat with friends and most importantly, make sure you get enough rest!


Need to talk 1-1 about your move and life overseas with someone who 'gets it'? Consider me your own, personal expat expert! I'm here for you.

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