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expat life

5 useful New Year's resolutions for expats

As expats I think we’re in a pretty unique position. On the one hand, we have the amazing opportunity to live in a foreign country and experience a life that’s totally different than the one we grew up with. On the other hand, it’s easy to get comfortable and forget that it’s a massive priviledge. At any point, our host country could probably decide to kick us out and there isn’t much we can do about it. We really are like guests and hopefully, we’re the good kind and not the nightmare kind!

Here are a few resolutions I think most of us expats can relate to, and a few ways I think we can have a positive impact in the year coming up!

Street sign in Berlin

Actually learn the local language

Of course, it depends on where you live, but how many expats never get past basic numbers and ordering off a menu? While it’s cute at the beginning, I think we really owe it to our host countries to put some energy into getting conversational! Some places, I know, it’s really hard (hello China?) or the locals speak such good English it feels pointless (hello every Scandinavian country?). I can at least say that becoming comfortable in German completely changed not just how comfortable I feel living in Germany, but the way locals interact with me. It’s clear they appreciate the effort!

Tips for learning a foreign language

  • Watch movies you already know in English, in the foreign language. I find it easiest if I have the foreign language subtitles on (e.g. watch a moving dubbed into German with German subtitles). This way it’s easier to pause the movie, look up the words you don’t know, and continue.
  • Read a children’s book in a foreign language. There’s nothing like reading for getting the grammar and word order down. Pick a simple book (I did Harry Potter and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and spend the time to understand it!
  • Use tools like Memrise to drill vocabulary Sometimes it comes down to pure memorization, and the easiest way to do that is through a spaced repetition tool.

Read a historical book about the countries you visit

It’s so easy for me to go to a country and focus mostly on what photos I’ll take or what food I’ll try. But honestly, it doesn’t make sense without having at least some historical context about the country’s history that made it what it is today. My favorite way to do this is to bring a short historical book with me on holiday, and read it when traveling on trains or relaxing.

Cape Peninsula in South Africa

Visit off beat towns or cities

Overtourism is a worldwide phenomenon, with cities like Venice dropping residents annually, or protests in places like Barcelona. It’s hard sometimes not to feel like part of the problem. Because let’s be honest – maybe we are? But there is something we can do to travel and contribute, which is visiting smaller towns and cities. Often times, off beat cities will appreciate your tourist dollars a lot more, and you can actually make a difference by supporting their communities.

Spend more of your money in local businesses

Speaking of making a difference, one of my resolutions is definitely to spend more money supporting local businesses and less money on Amazon! It’s hard. I need a strategy. But in reality, if we want to have lovely towns with thriving local businesses we can explore and support, the best place is to start at home.

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    Travel with sustainability in mind

    What does it mean to travel sustainably? Does it mean we shouldn’t take flights anymore, or eat at places that use straws? That can be tricky, though I don’t think you need to give up all worldly pleasures to contribute to a more sustainable type of travel. Here are a few ways I’m hoping to be a more sustainable traveler this coming year:

    • Bring a refillable water bottle with me. Goodbye plastic bottles!
    • Support local businesses instead of large chains.
    • Use trains or public transportation instead of driving when possible.
    • Opt for locally made souveniers instead of mass-produced ones.
    • Instead of buying travel-sized toiletries, use small reusable containers.

    Both at home and abroad, every piece of plastic we can avoid is one less that needs to go in a landfill!

    Iceland travel guide

    Call your parents more often!

    I am so bad at this! We text often, but it’s easy to forget that your parents are probably looking forward to every chance to talk, especially when we only see them once a year (and sometimes less). My goal this year is to set up a regular time to call them so we can talk more often.

    What are your new years resolutions? Will you adopt any of my ideas?

    Let me know in the comments section, I would love to get some inspiration to improve my own resolutions for 2019!


    About the author

    Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for over six years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

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