Outside the Big Expat Hubs: Taking the Road Less Traveled
When thinking about moving abroad, many expats-to-be consider the big, well-known destinations, such as Dubai, Tokyo, London, or New York. But what if you don’t like the hustle and bustle of the big city, or if your employer sends you to a more remote area? Believe it or not, taking the road less traveled can have its merits.
Become a Pioneer
If you are about to move to one of the big expat hubs, you will already know about the most exciting sights. Maybe you will already have found out about some of the favorite expat hangouts in your future neighborhood or the best place to have lunch with your future colleagues. But moving to a place that is mostly occupied by locals can be the much more intriguing choice.
You will be one of the first expats to explore these new surroundings, share your experience, and introduce your new home to the world. Friends and family members who come for a visit will not know what to expect from your home abroad. Carving out your own space in a small town or village can be tough, but it can also offer more excitement than moving to a place where many expats have gone before.
Enjoy the Peace and Quiet
Small town life is perfect for expats who don’t like the hectic, busy expat hubs. It is calmer, quieter, and a lot less stressful.
Unlike many cities, small towns also offer more space. Instead of a tiny, crammed apartment, you could rent a house with a small back yard to relax in after a long day of work. Your commute will most likely be more scenic and shorter, and it’ll be easy to reach green, open spaces perfect for any kind of outdoor activity.
Meet the Locals…
Getting stuck in an expat bubble can be easy when you have just moved abroad. After all, other expats know what it’s like to feel a little bit lost in the beginning. Although making expat friends can be a great way to get settled in, it can also become a problem when it keeps you from getting to know the locals.
However, if the expat community in your town is small (or non-existent), getting to know the locals is not just easier, it is inevitable. This is a great opportunity because you’ll get to know your host country in a way that is often not accessible from an expat bubble. Looking for the best view that is not crowded by tourists? Ask the locals. Looking for the best restaurant or best place to buy fresh produce? Ask the locals. Before you know it, you will feel right at home.
… and Learn their Language
Another positive side effect of making friends with locals is that you will have many opportunities to practice your language skills. The salesperson at the bakery around the corner or the waitress at your new favorite café may not speak your language. It might be a bit more challenging to communicate with everyone in the beginning but before you know it, you will be fluent and getting around won’t be a big issue anymore.
Live an Affordable Expat Life
Unlike the big expat hubs, places that are off the well-trodden path usually offer a much more affordable cost of living. Rents can be significantly lower than in the big cities and the same usually applies to dining, shopping, and sometimes even transportation costs. This means that, depending on your income, you may be able to enjoy a much more comfortable lifestyle there.
It Takes Resilience
Although there are many upsides to choosing a small expat community over the big expat hubs, it can also be a lot more difficult to adjust. The language barrier may make settling in quite difficult in the beginning, and the fact that small town demographics can be relatively homogenous means that you might be immediately perceived as an outsider. In some cases, you may have to grow a thick skin to deal with some inappropriate questions and reactions.
Being relatively alone with your experience, navigating the bureaucracy and language barrier, and understanding the local customs will likely require more resilience from expats than it would in the big cities.
That being said, moving to a small town can be very exciting and rewarding, and it is up to you to decide if this way of life is the right fit for you.