Expat Life: How to Make a Home Abroad Feel Like Home

Updated June 22, 2016
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how to make a new home feel like home living abroad expat

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving abroad, and you definitely should! You’ve made the decision to move abroad, you’ve packed up your belongings, taken the leap and arrived at your new home away. You should be patting yourself on the back for taking a chance on one of the best things that you can do. Now you’re an expat!

If you’ve been an expat before though, or read anything about the things you might learn while living abroad, you know that this amazing adventure can play with your emotions too.

After moving abroad and finding somewhere to live, which can be both stressful and exciting, there’s a bit of a lull. What to do next? Some of that excitement can start to wear off when you realise you’re sitting in a bare room twiddling your thumbs. You might even feel like you made a mistake moving abroad. So what next?

These are the things that helped me make each new place I lived in feel more like a home.

Decorate your home

Don’t be afraid to splash out on some things to decorate your new house or room abroad. If you leave everything bare then it might never really feel like a home to you. The sooner you can feel comfortable in your new space the better. I always like to buy a new duvet set and something for my wall, and I always take pictures from home to string up.

how to make a new home feel like home living abroad expat

Get a sim card

Some people get new sim cards even if they’re just travelling in a country for a few weeks, so you should definitely get on to it when you move abroad. Having a local number means when you start making those friends you can be contacted! Plus now with apps like WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger you can still be in contact with friends from home.

Find a favourite cafe or bar

When you arrive in a new place and you have no clue where to go to get a coffee that you like or have a drink then it can make it that much more overwhelming. I love to find a cafe in my new home that can become my local, one where I’ll feel comfortable and at home. It’s also good to look out for bars you might like, although I find it much easier to go into a cafe for a coffee (or even a beer in Spain) than to go into a bar by myself.

When I first arrived in Spain I despaired that I would never find a cafe in the style that I love, until I stumbled across what is now one of my favourite places to eat in Almería, Cafe Cyrano. Being able to pop in there for a coffee or cake and have the staff recognise me made me feel more at home.

how to make a new home feel like home living abroad expat

Sort the admin stuff

Moving to a different country for work means you’ll need to get a tax number and a bank account sorted. These should be on your to-do list straight away so that you can move on to more enjoyable things, like finding your favourite cafe and bar! Check into whether you might need to get a local driving licence or ID card as well. If you plan on buying a car abroad, you may find you need to have a local licence, or that it’ll help you to get a better deal on insurance as well.

It’s better to start all of those processes straight away, especially if the bureaucracy is anything like Spain and it might take awhile.

Start making some friends

Moving to a place where you know nobody is a freeing feeling, but it can also be a lonely one. Don’t waste your first few weeks sitting around waiting for people to come to you because chances are they won’t. Get out there and start networking for yourself.

If you have moved to a country that speaks another language then joining a language class is a great way to meet people, plus learning a language probably won’t just happen on its own!

Finding other expats can be a good place to start because it is usually easier to make friends with them, but really try and meet some locals and make friends that way too.

Need some more tips on making friends abroad? Try 5 ways to make friends when you move abroad.

how to make a new home feel like home living abroad expat

The best thing you can do is put yourself in a situation to be able to deal with whatever comes your way once you’ve moved abroad, and hopefully these little tips will help!

Have you moved abroad? What do you do to make a new place feel like home? Let me know!

Sonja x

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Expat Living Abroad Home Abroad Feel Like Home

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  • Reply JerseyGirl June 22, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    You are so right. No matter where we have lived getting your own touches on your new place makes all the difference. Waiting for our shipping to arrive is tough and I didn’t feel settled till I had my “stuff” around me. Pictures of friends and family as good reminders make me feel settled, making new friends and finding your favourite haunts in your new surroundings makes it feel less abnormal and slowly it’s home.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 22, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      I love decorating a new place! And it’s fun to try and find cheaper things too in case I have to get rid of them. I shipped a lot of stuff once, but since then I’ve been a bit more transient so had to make do with just a few things. Hopefully your things arrive soon! Finding new cafes and restaurants is always fun too. I stick out like a sore thumb in my city in Spain since my Spanish is terrible, but it means I’m memorable in cafes at least!

  • Reply VagabondElmer June 24, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Sounds simple but it really is! And it is magical how quickly you become a local once you implement this strategies when traveling to a new place. Thanks for sharing Sonja.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Thanks! It really helps to find things to make it feel like home I think, that’s when things really start to come together 🙂

  • Reply Tara June 25, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    So important not to let this slide! There is always a moment after the excitement wears off where you go- shit! What have I done!!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Haha definitely. I’ve had it everywhere I’ve moved! And it’s totally ok, but it’s nice to have some things to distract you and help you find a way to get out of it too!

  • Reply Emily June 27, 2016 at 10:01 am

    For me, the most important thing is having people around you for support. The people and community you find in a new place (or don’t!) make all the difference, whether they are also expats (who understand how you feel) or locals (who can give you some pointers and help you get accustomed).

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2016 at 11:17 pm

      Definitely! A new place can be amazing but get lonely very quickly if you don’t have people to share it with!

  • Reply andrew September 29, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Its so true that as an expats in a new country you really need to make some new friends! i recently found this app called meetup and they have lots of interesting groups where i can join, you can really make some new friends there and get to know more people in your area

    • Reply Migrating Miss September 30, 2016 at 10:48 am

      I love meetup! I didn’t know they have an app now but I’ve used the website before. That’s how I met some of my friends in Edinburgh, which led to me meeting my fiance!

  • Reply Sana September 30, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    I’ve been hitting the end of that sweet spot where it just suffices for me and my husband to have each other and not other people. Needed this! Thank you!

    • Reply Migrating Miss September 30, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      You’re welcome! I know what you mean. It’s easy at first to stick together and enjoy it, but it can’t last forever!

  • Reply Jewel Jones February 26, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    My husband and I are taking the leap and moving to Europe in about 6 months. We were just talking about what light weight items we could bring with us that will make it feel like home! We’ve got on the list so far: our flickering led candle that we use every evening, a wall tapestry from Mum and some photos with small twinkle lights. Great post, will be following you! X x Jewel

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 26, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Sounds great! I love candles and I think they’re a great way to make a place feel like home! The others are great options too. Exciting times! Good luck with the move x

  • Reply Miss Footloose August 11, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Crucial of course is to find some like-minded people and make friends and create a social life. All your suggestions are good. It takes an effort to go out there and do what you have to do. I’ve lived in a number of foreign countries and starting over every time is always a challenge but it’s interesting. Living in furnished rented housing makes it harder to make home feel like home. One of the little things I do to ‘bond’ with my new kitchen (crappy as it may be) is to figure out the oven and bake banana bread or spice bread and make the house smell nice. It’s not a big thing, but it helps. Oh, and bringing an oven thermometer where ever in the world you may go is a good idea ;). In one country my oven didn’t have a thermostat at all, so that really was a challenge! 😉

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 17, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      That’s such a great idea! I love baking and never thought to incorporate it into my time living abroad. I’m not sure I ever baked the entire time I lived in Spain! Although to be fair we didn’t have an actual oven haha. I found that crazy!!

  • Reply Lucy Ferguson August 20, 2018 at 7:48 am

    Thank you so much for your tips! I’m still finding my feet in my first few months in Switzerland but certainly agree with your advice, especially the importance of reaching out and finding friends in your new home.

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 20, 2018 at 8:09 am

      You’re welcome!! Hope it’s all working out for you! 😀

  • Reply Sara March 20, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Thanks Sonja, this is great! I just moved back to Barcelona and I found myself thinking whether I had made a mistake but all the things you mention here are what are making me feel more settled again. At the end of the day it is about feeling comfortable in a new routine 🙂 xxx

    • Reply Sonja - Migrating Miss March 27, 2019 at 12:00 pm

      You’re welcome! It can take awhile to adjust for sure but finding a routine definitely helps! Good luck with the move!

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