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How to make a new country feel like home

Posted by on August 1st, 2023.

Home is where the heart is, or so the saying goes: for those moving abroad however, it can be easy to get stuck in the head. So much organisation goes into planning an overseas relocation that emotions are often put on the back burner, only to resurface once expats are far from familiarity and those they love.

A great way to counter feelings of culture shock and homesickness is to create a space that feels comforting and establish behavioural patterns that will become familiar and reassuring. Below is a selection of tips from existing expats and professionals.

Don’t neglect your support network

While it may feel as if all your friends are a million miles away, the reality is that most of them can still be reached quite easily at the end of a telephone. Being someplace new doesn’t mean that former relationships need to fall by the wayside!

For pick-me-ups, pep talks or just to hear a friendly voice – make use of modern technology to reach out. And on that note, make it a priority to get a local SIM card. It’ll cost the same to call abroad with web-based platforms like WhatsApp, while making it easier to contact local services.

Make new friends

While it’s important to maintain existing friendships and connections, it’s also a good idea to make some local acquaintances.

Reach out to neighbours, community groups and organisations that cater to your hobbies and interests – such places are good for meeting likeminded folk. On the other hand, be open to conversations in unexpected places. New friends could be found at a local coffee shop, supermarket or swimming pool.

Integrating with the local community can go a long way towards making your adoptive country feel more like home.

Get the boring stuff out the way

It’s laborious, but getting paperwork sorted is necessary for accessing essential services like medical support and pensions. Once it’s all in order, receiving post and notifications may also help to inspire a sense of belonging.

Start nesting

It’s normal to see a new home as a blank canvas to experiment upon. But while creativity should certainly be exercised, it may be worth keeping hold of a few familiar items.

Seasoned expats advise newbies overseas to bring a few home comforts with them to help decorate – such as blankets, cushions or scented candles. Having items associated with fond memories can help create a space of calmness and sanctuary, which is likely to be welcome among the hubbub of settling in.

Celebrate your nationality

Integration is an important part of settling in, but as mentioned above, retaining a few familiar things can help ease the transition.

One of the most important things to keep hold of is your nationality, or geographical identity. Being in a new place doesn’t have to mean a total rejection of your old one – in fact, living in a different country often allows expats to keep the things they loved about their former home while escaping the bits they disliked.

Things to keep may include national holidays, favourite foods or television shows. Any of these can provide a great excuse to invite some new friends around and share your culture. In terms of food, international supermarkets often stock well-known foreign brands, while bigger supermarkets may have ‘world food’ aisles.

Learn the lingo

It’s a mark of respect for any foreign newcomer to make a go of learning their new country’s native language. Brits and British-speaking people in particular have an unfortunate reputation of expecting everyone to speak English and cater to their difference rather than trying to fit in themselves.

Not only is it respectful to try speaking the country’s native tongue, but it will also open the door to a far more authentic experience of life abroad. The culture of a country and its people is tied up with their expressions, mannerisms and the social life of the townsfolk. All of this will be far more accessible to those who have learnt the lingo.


There’s little else more daunting than rows of unfamiliar streets and shopfronts with unrecognisable names. The first few weeks of living in a new area can be overwhelming and intimidating, but with regular tours of the neighbourhood, strange buildings will soon have positive new associations.

To get used to the area, take regular strolls – even bring a camera to take pictures of places you’d like to come back to or save them to a virtual map. Be interactive with exploring, too – don’t just look at the sights you pass, but breathe in the smells, touch the different textures of grass and brick.

For the full sensory experience, try out some local cafes or bars – compare cappuccinos, soak in live music and mull over which spots might become favourite haunts. Not only will this help ease the settling-in jitters, it will also give you an idea of where to meet new friends.

Home means something different to everyone

No matter how much work you put in, your new home will never be exactly the same as your old one. Rather than seeing this as a drawback, though, consider it an opportunity to create a space that is unique and wonderful in different ways.

Feeling at ease in a new environment is a challenge to be enjoyed and savoured. As explored here, it requires a balance of retaining small familiarities while embracing the novel aspects of the place you find yourself in. It shouldn’t be a chore; and the suggestions listed above are intended as guidelines rather than rules.

Furthermore, what you seek in a home may be different to what others look for: some prefer excitement and adventure, while others crave quiet and comfort. All such notions of ‘home’ are valid: resist the urge to compare your reality to the highlight reels of others.

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