African american man in checkered shirt, with suitcase and backpack.

Get Settled: Navigate Your New Expat Life with These 4 Essential Tips

As you pack your suitcase, manage your emotions of leaving, and say your goodbyes, you also need to think practically about your new location.  Whether you are a new expat or a long-term nomad, there are four crucial activities you should complete as part of your move-abroad preparation.  These should be among your top priorities early in your journey.

Legalize Your Stay

The first thing you need to do is ensure that all requirements for your visa are complete. If you are a new employee, confirm with your Human Resources/Immigration unit that all parts of your employment/residency visa are final. If there are outstanding matters, make this your first priority. If you have a digital nomad or other long-term, non-tourist visa, you should verify upon arrival at the point of entry or with the local immigration office that no further actions are needed. This is the first step towards other bureaucratic stuff you will need to execute such as renting/buying a house, renting/buying a car, opening a bank account, setting up utilities, and registering children for school, etc.


Once you are official – meaning you have a residency permit, digital nomad visa, or another form of long-term, non-tourist visa- you will need a local bank account. Some employers will not remit salary or contractor/consultant payments to international accounts.  Thus, a local account is handy for your income, also for your daily expenses. Using a local account is also a way to minimize fees, transfers, and trips to an ATM. Yes, you can certainly access your home country account (in my case the US) in your new country, but many local payments like rent, utilities, and such that need to be made by electronic transfer are often only possible with a local bank account.

Health Care & Insurance Options

Get acquainted with the local healthcare system, public and private. If you have health insurance, know where you can use it. Establish medical practitioners based on your or your family’s needs. Make sure you have the best insurance coverage design for your circumstances- Expat Insurance vs Travel Insurance: Which do you need?. Ask the right questions and determine where you can use local, national, or global insurance policies in the local/national health care system. 


Black family unpacking boxes in new house while looking at picture
Image: iStock

Be a Local and a Tourist

With the above activities started, in progress, or completed, explore your new location. Yes, sometimes all the bureaucratic paperwork and process can take time and cause a bit of stress but release your tension by being a local and a tourist.  Be a local – find the shopping, grocery store, bakery, produce market, and more in your neighborhood. Take the opportunity to connect with neighbors, use local transportation, and learn or practice using the local language. Become a tourist by learning the best hiking/walking paths, local attractions, and sightseeing spots. Along the way, and in the upcoming weeks and months, make a friend or two in the process.


In the excitement of the move, remember to prioritize a few things that will make the overall process of settling in a bit easier even if it means lots of paperwork and trips around the local town/city to various offices. In the long run, these four actions will grant you some peace of mind as you adjust, adapt, and enjoy your new home.

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