My suitcase bulged as I stuffed the last rigid corner of my beret into it. My year living in Paris had been great. For ten croissant-filled months, I had darted about on a silver Vélib bicycle, daintily circling local bakeries and doing wheelies inside the Louvre. Alright, that’s not entirely true. I did enjoy my year, though! What’s more, I came across some great cheats to make moving abroad successful. I call them the “Don’t Get Caught Without That Practical Vocab” chronicles. Here they are...
1. Learn that banking vocab!
It is really not until you meet your first cashier that you understand the headache that is setting up a bank account in a foreign country. Mainly because there is so much vocabulary to learn! By making a list of words that might come in handy in this setting and looking up their translations in the dictionary, you can avoid getting caught out. Here are some words that are invaluable in this situation. Make sure you look up them up in the language of the country you’re going to before you set off!
Proof of address
Certificate of deposit
2. Get to grips with local customs
When in Rome…eat pastries. One of the most essential things to do when you move abroad is to observe local customs. When you pick up the lingo and observe the habits of the people around you, you’ll find that you blend in better in social situations. This can even be by doing something as simple as trying out the most popular pastries at your local bakery and making a mental note of the names of the ones you’ve tried. Things like this pop up more often than you’d think and it feels great to be able to participate in conversations that are so natural to locals. A good example for Paris is the Galette des Rois, which is both a Christmas cake and a game containing a small figurine. Go and get stuck in!
3. Make friends
One of the best parts of moving abroad is all the people you meet along the way. This may seem daunting at first and can sometimes take a couple of months, but it can completely change your experience. I tried out many different things with the aim of meeting people and experiencing a new culture, but the ones I found the most enjoyable were going to classes and just sitting in cafes. Things like reading a book in a cafe or joining a painting class for an afternoon have a simple privacy to them, but can also leave you open to bumping into future friends. The odd glass of wine doesn’t hurt, either!
Walk to your destination whenever possible. The first few times you do it, you might feel a bit lost, but stick with it. There is nothing better than knowing your way around an area. It makes you feel at home and gives you a sense of familiarity and belonging that is important when you find yourself in a new country.
Cycling is another good way of doing this. Big cities often have bicycle systems dotted around them, like Vélib in Paris or Bicing in Barcelona, and a subscription to one of these is not expensive (just €19 a year in Paris). If you’re a little tight for time, then I encourage you to grab a bike, hop on and ride, ride, ride…
5. Find your favourite spots
Discover a place that you can call your own. I don’t mean a house or a flat, but an area that you enjoy being in. This can be a park or by a river, or even a small patch of concrete that somehow brings you joy. For me, this was the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris. Lazing on the grass and watching people stroll past was relaxing to me and its peaceful rhythm reminded me of home, so different to the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Well, I’ve only scratched the surface here - there are so many more things you can do to make your transition abroad as smooth as possible. But by following these five very basic principles, you’ll be off to a pretty good start!
Mazzy-Mae is one of the English Language Experts at busuu. She spent last year living in Paris. Her favourite thing about living abroad was the people she met along the way!