Making that jump to live in another country is a huge risk and you are stepping into the unknown, but it’s also exciting and full of twists and turns which you never would have anticipated. You will make friends with the most unlikely people, and you will find yourself in situations which may feel stressful in the moment but can be shaken off easily, over a beer with a friend. Once you have secured a decent place to live and your first batch of work hours, entertain some of the tips in this article to help you on your way as an expat.
1. Meet new people, and trust your instincts
Depending on your hobbies there are tonnes of meetup events listed on meetup.com and every major city has a pretty decent couchsurfing scene. Check out what events interest you and give them a go. You just have to turn up and be yourself, the majority of the people who attend these events are in your shoes so don’t be shy. Don’t sell yourself short either, dust of that 1 sentence of Japanese you learnt from a movie and test it at a language exchange. It’s all good banter, and it’s all about making connections. All your knowledge and experience is an asset and it’s unique. Trust your instincts too, if you get a good vibe from people roll with it see where it takes you, if not don’t. Remember the golden rule, like repeat, dislike dispose.
2. Get to know your way around
I love feeling lost in a new place, it’s like a wonderland every time. A game I like to play in Barcelona is to always take an unknown street wherever possible. I tend to turn up late from time to time but nonetheless it certainly adds a sense of adventure to the day even if it’s for a fleeting moment, it’s worth it.
Bikes are a great way to get around a city and build a mental map with less time and effort. The city bikes in Barcelona aka “biccing” are a powerful tool to get around without having to worry about the well fare of your bike. Mentally map out where main landmarks are in relation to each other, a good way to do this is to get way up high to the top of a mountain overlooking the entire city like el Bunkers del carmel or Tibidabo or a swanky hotel roof terrace. Have a good look around to build a sense of where everything is but don’t be too effective, it’s good to leave some parts a mystery.
3. Learn a bit about the local culture and history
Barcelona is a city full of history which still makes it’s mark on the culture in the city today. Walking tours are a great way to spend an afternoon and learn about history and architecture of Barcelona. Looking around it’s impossible not to be curious about where everything came from and why it is the way it is and learning about it will give you a better sense of where you are. Also there are tonnes of festivals throughout the year in Barcelona and many of them are an age long tradition, so do a little research to bring yourself up to date. At least that way you can look clever in front of your new mates.
4. Feed your curiosity and take the odd risk
Heard about a party? Go. heard about good day trip? Go check it out. Sometimes it might be a total dive but you never know what you will find and it’s all part of the joy of living in another city. Take the odd risk and pull yourself out of your own comfort zone and you will open yourself up to a world of discovery. I scored a job working in a school for 6 months because I dragged myself out of bed to go see Spain vs Japan play rugby (I don’t remember the score but Spain got smashed). When I started working at the school, I forged life long friendships which led to countless parties and awesome trips. So you never know! Go do stuff.
5. Be patient and good to yourself
Barcelona has tonnes of things going on in a relatively small space which makes it a very palpable city. I’m an action junkie, I can’t sit still and I hate sitting at home I always need to be doing something. This is just unrealistic, you need to give yourself time to process everything that’s going on so remember to take time out and collect your thoughts. Take walks in the mountains, commune with nature and just chill. You will be surprised how much you can achieve doing very little. You will be tempted to go out drinking 3 nights on the trot but your body and mind will pay for it later on. It’s easy to fall into the downward spiral of missing home and feeling out of place and the booze will only make that worse if you don’t counteract it with some self love. There is plenty of time, and an endless party you can dip in and out of whenever you want, just remember balance is key to feeling good.