Four Practical Tips For Expats From An Expat Herself

Tips for ExpatsAs I was looking over my daily emails for press pitches needed for the day, one really caught my attention earlier this week.  The theme requested was tips for for expats.

As I was sending my pitch I knew that I could make a blog post out of that. Now, why didn’t I think about this before?  I don’t know, but this sure unlocked a few ideas and there you go, this post was born.

Two Types of Expats

Some expats will move to a foreign country only for a limited time, either for studying, for business or other related reasons that require a limited stay in a foreign country.

Few weeks ago I met a French couple here in Raleigh NC that was from the same region I am.  I approach them because as they were speaking I KNEW they were French.  They told me that they were hear for 4 years for business.

Other expats will hop on a plane with a vision of adventure and the desire of not coming back home. Usually those people are not the kind to look back and become home sick.  On the contrary, they will do whatever it takes to become legal citizens of the country they are moving to.

I belong to the second group.  I’ve read somewhere a long time ago that children and grand children of expats have a higher percentage of chance to expatriate themselves. Well, there you go. My father was an expat.

For those of you who don’t know my story yet, this is a very short version of it.

Some 20 years ago I was living in Paris and was involved in acting.  I had studied Drama in various popular drama schools in Lyon and Paris.  I even ended up working with two famous French actors.  I was in various plays where I had a few leading roles.  Acting probably brought me the greatest joy of my life to this day.

However, there was a part of me that wanted to leave far away.  At the time I had a huge feeling of “not fitting” and wanted to see other skies.  So, on a winter day of 1993 I hoped into a plane and flew to New York City with a student visa in my luggage, and became an expat.

When you become an expat, there are few things that you need to know in order to be well prepared and have as few bad surprises as possible.

Best tips for expatsTip # 1 –Learn the Language

If you move to a country which language is different from your own, you must learn the language well enough, so that you’ll have all the basics covered without the language being a major problem.

There are many ways to learn any language well this days right at your kitchen table.  That’s  where I learned all the English I needed to know in order not to be lost in New York.  It worked well for me. I was never lost in translation.

I could understand basic conversations, and be understood. Learning the language is the first thing you need to do in order to be well prepared as an expat.

Tip #2 – Learn about the Culture

Believe it or not, language is not the only communication barrier that you will run into when going to a foreign country. Cultural language can be as tough to learn as the literal language.

Recently I was watching an interview of a French show host who told about an experience when he received Bruce Willis as a guest on his TV show. This show host had the habit of giving his guest “une bise” (which is the common French kiss on the cheek) at the end of the show.  He was explaining to the interviewer how Bruce Willis asked someone sitting next to him if the show host was gay.

Maybe if Bruce Willis had taken the time to learn a bit more about the French culture he would have known that “la bise” is as common as hot bread in France and has NO sexual underlining what-so-ever (just like the American hug). Women kiss women, men kiss men and women kiss men (and the same goes for kids).  It’s a sign of affection for friends, family and in some cases such as in that TV show, even people who are neither a friend nor a family member, but as a kind gesture of appreciation.

When you are going to expatriate yourself, learn about culture facts of the country you are moving to. No matter where you go, you will have a culture shock, so why not be prepared as much as possible. There are many blogs today that will give you very informative facts about the culture of foreign countries.

At first, there will still be some culture facts that will evade you, because there is even more parts of a culture that’s hidden, and can only be experienced with time, but you will get there.

Tip #3 – Get Involved with the Locals

Get involved with local people as soon as you can.

When I landed in New York City, and got settled in that foreign student hotel, there were many French students who wanted to hang out with me, but I quickly saw the danger of this seemingly innocent act.

I wouldn’t be able to improve my English as fast as I wanted to by hanging with French students like me, and I wouldn’t be able to insert myself with the natives either.

Another huge motivator is that my mother didn’t pay that trip for me to hang out with French folks.  If she ever discovered that, I would have been be in big trouble. So, after a short while of doing this, I say good bye and didn’t associated with them anymore.

Groups of ExpatsTip #4 – Join Groups

Try to look for groups that want to learn your language.  Just a few weeks after I’ve arrived in New York I joined a “learning French” group where I met a bunch of Americans.  That’s where I met my first American boyfriend from Italian decent. Return to the source.

Jokes aside, this group helped me greatly with my English.  I made a deal with them; we spoke 50% of the time in French and 50% of the time in English, so everyone was happy. They practice their French with me and I practiced my English with them.

Tip #4 – Watch TV and Go to the Movies

I’ve learned a lot about the English language and about the American culture just by watching TV and going to the movies.  When you expatriate yourself in a foreign country you need to spend some time doing that. This is the one time watching TV won’t be a waste of your time, and you won’t be mad for having given your money for a bad movie.

You will learn common expressions, lots of vocabulary, jargon, slang and all many other things that will be very useful to become a well inserted expat.

If you are a new expat or thinking about moving abroad, I hope you enjoyed those tips. But even if you are not an expat, please, leave a comment below to share your thoughts.


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10 thoughts on “Four Practical Tips For Expats From An Expat Herself”

  1. I so admire you Sylviane for being able to just pack up, move and not look back. Not that you haven’t visited home or anything but to be happy living so darn far away from your family.

    As you know my story as well, I’m very close to my family. I’ve had friends try to entice me to move away but because my Dad has had cancer my entire life I just didn’t want to be far. He’s had so many different surgeries throughout my life and there were about four different times we were told he wouldn’t make it.

    I’m the one they call when they needed something so I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if something happened and I couldn’t get home in time. As you now know, my Mom lives next door to me and I intend for her to live a long time as well.

    I do admire those travelers though and I just wish I was one of them. I think it’s very brave to just pick up and move but exciting too. I think that’s so cool but we’re all glad you did or I probably would have never had the chance to meet you because you would have been having a totally different life now.

    Thanks for sharing this and you’re right, learn the culture and the language for goodness sakes. I wish more who come to America would learn English ya know!

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    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I think that what makes someone move for the long haul is GREAT pain. I love my family, always have and always will, and the pain didn’t come from them, but I was in a great deal of pain, and wanted to leave it behind once an for all. Most people going into acting are in pain, ya know 🙂

      Then in 2001 I almost went back home when my brother told me that I should stay. I was ready to get back then. My kitties were just a year old and I was going to fly them with me and all, but upon hearing my discouraging brother on the phone it changed everything.

      I will talk about all that more in details in my personal development book 🙂

      Another reason I was able to do this is the extreme doze of independence that I have. I am the most independent person I know. I wasn’t born this way, I became this way when I was running away from the bullies that pretty much followed my for a life time. It was a defense mechanism. I learn to be happy alone, or with my cats I should say 🙂

      Thank you so much for coming by, Adrienne.
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  2. Hi Sylviane,

    Lovely tips for anyone who is an expat or thinking about moving abroad 🙂

    Wow! You were into acting! That’s unbelievable…and to imagine that we have a celebrity among us makes us feel great. I DO wish you’d carried on and we might just have seen you in the movies instead of the Blogosphere 🙂

    I can understand how life can get and how you at times just feel like dropping it all and look for better venues and greener pastures. You gave some nice tips and I think have used all of them yourself, thus making it easier to settle in your new place without feeling left out.

    I think you can learn the culture and language very well through the television as you mentioned, and even through the online courses and classes that are available. I remember a friend of mine doing the same and what they hear and see, they can never forget. Yes, joining groups and talking or mixing with the locals is another great way. I guess if you are really interested in learning something and becoming a part – nothing can stop you, isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend 🙂
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    1. Hi Harleena,

      I actually carried on with the acting biz for the first 2 years I was in the US. I was in what we call a Off-Off Broadway theater, but it’s tough to make it in that world, Harleena. Just got tired of struggling. I wasn’t in personal development back then you know 🙂

      No doubt that TV helps a great deal to learn a language. I’ve learned so much with it and movies too.

      Thank you so much for coming here, Harleena. Really appreciate it.
      Sylviane Nuccio invites you to read..Four Practical Tips For Expats From An Expat HerselfMy Profile

  3. Really informative blog again this time. If expats keep in mind these useful tips while travel it will really help them. Get Involved with the Locals is really a good option I like the most 🙂

  4. Sylviane,

    What great advice. I have been an expat on several different occasions.

    I think the most important things anyone who want to be an expat can do is learn the language, the culture and become involved with the people.

    The language part is important if you speak English and are going to another English speaking country. I will never forget the first day we were in New Zealand when we went to buy ice cream and ended up using sign language because they could not understand USA and we could not understand them. That was the point we realized that knowing English in another English speaking country did not mean that we could communicate with anyone.

    I also remember learning from my father how to live as an expat. I never saw my father be a stranger in any land. He always acted like he had lived there forever.

    Dee Ann
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