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Expat Tips: Making a House into a Home

Whether you’ve moved abroad to an empty apartment with only paper plates to eat off, or you’ve packed everything, including your neighbor’s cat, moving to a new home can often feel foreign and overwhelming. But don’t worry, it won’t always be this way! With a sprinkling of personal touches here and there, and the power of time, your new abode will be feeling like a familiar hub sooner than you think. Here are five tips for turning your new house into a home.


Bring the Important Things with You

Now I’m not talking about packing everything other than your house itself, but if you’re planning to stay abroad for an extended period of time, you should consider bringing some of your most essential items with you.

One good way to gauge what you might want to take with you, is to think about items you use on a daily basis. Is it your coffee machine? Is it your bedside lamp? These small familiarities will give your new apartment that personal touch, providing you with a stable base of things you already recognize.

That being said, practicality doesn’t always correlate with importance, and you might find that you want to bring items such as your favorite artwork or beloved coffee table with you. Whatever you treasure, consider taking it along, you might be surprised to find that it’s cheaper than purchasing things anew too!

Photos Will Make the World of Difference

Photos are another way to make you feel comfortable in your new environment and they don’t take up much space in your luggage.

Over the past few years the camera has, for the most part, been replaced by the smartphone, so you might find that you haven’t printed any of your favorite photos for a good long while. Why not take some time to sort through your camera roll, to find memories that put a smile on your face? This will certainly help to transform your new house or apartment into a warm welcoming home.

Of course, moving abroad is in itself a mammoth task so don’t worry too much about getting all your best photos framed before you leave. That’s the beauty of technology and the internet — you can just get them printed after you arrive!

However, before you pack up and start your life abroad, it might be a nice idea to ask your friends, family, and even colleagues to give you their favorite picture (or pictures) you have together. Once you’ve received enough you can put together a photo album for days when you’re feeling most home sick.

Relax, You’ll Get It All Done Eventually

Moving is an enormous task, so make sure you give yourself enough time to relax and get things done properly. Don’t rush, it’s perfectly fine to live out of boxes for a while. Go explore your new city and get comfortable in your local surroundings first.

When it does come around to the weekend, or a spare evening, combat your tasks bit by bit. Making a list of all the things you need to do might sound daunting, but prioritizing the most important tasks really helps — that way you’ll find that you’re not shopping for cushions, before you even have built your bed!

Get Cooking!

This tip is for all the foodies out there! When I moved abroad for the first time, something which made me really feel at home was traditional home cuisine. It was not only the excitement of finding myself baked beans in the supermarket (haricot beans in tomato sauce — it’s traditional, don’t question it!), but also the anticipation of looking forward to making myself a traditional English fry up. When the weekend came around (a fry-up is a weekend ritual in my family) the food tasted amazing, and the smells made me feel like I was back at home.

Whatever your favorite home cuisine is, and your ability in the kitchen, get cooking! Better yet, host a dinner party for your new colleagues and friends, and introduce them to your culture. You could also bake for your neighbors and use it as a way to introduce yourself to your new community — it will be a treat!

It’s All Just a Matter of Time

Your new place will almost always feel impersonal and foreign at first. There might even be some features in your new house or apartment that you’re not used to, or that you don’t particularly like. However, sooner or later, perfect or not, your house is going to start feeling like a home.

Whether you moved for love, to further your career, or to explore, you did it because you thought it would be an amazing opportunity and experience. Your new place might never quite feel like the place where you grew up, but there’s something exciting in that, and soon different cultures and cuisines will be part of your life experience.

To see the rest of this ongoing video series with our resident expat expert Lauren, visit our Facebook page. There you can share your feedback with us or even ask for advice — we may just use your question as the starting point for the next video!

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