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Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Expats

With the holiday season now in full swing, and the new year fast approaching, thoughts of fresh starts, positive life choices, and self-improvement start running through our minds: New Year’s resolutions. As cliché as it sounds, a new year means new beginnings, and we often find ourselves compelled to resolve our bad habits and better ourselves.

Stay fit and healthy, spend less money, drink less alcohol — all valid, and particularly popular, resolutions. Yet while so many of us decide to make these resolutions in the run up to the new year, research has shown that around 80% of us fail to stick to ours by mid-February.

As an expat, life can be unpredictable, often making resolutions difficult to keep. Below are ten feasible New Year’s resolutions for expats to help them get the most out of life abroad.

1. Learn the Local Language

Knowing the local language is a fundamental part of life abroad — without it, life can be a lonely struggle. But for many of us, it’s something we find difficult and often put off, particularly if many of the locals speak English. If you’ve been an expat for a while, then you may well have tried sticking to this resolution before, but why not make it a reality this time! Download an app and make a habit of practicing a little each day, join a weekly language class, or perhaps find a local tandem-partner to practice speaking with. By making it a fun and regular part of your routine, you’ll be more likely to stick to it. Added bonus: speaking becomes easier with practice, which will eventually mean less time miming and feeling foolish, and more time engaging in real conversations!

2. Make Friends with the Locals

It’s very easy to become comfortable as an expat, living in an expat bubble and not fully experiencing your adoptive country for what it really is. The new year is your time to burst that bubble and get to know the locals. The only way to meet new people is to put yourself out there, and to be persistent. Become a regular at your local restaurant, or join a local community event, and talk to people (read above for how to overcome that dreaded language hurdle). You might just find that people are equally curious about you too, and an unexpected friendship could well blossom.

3. See More of Your Host Country

As an expat you often try to avoid the tourist spots, opting to act more like a local than a visitor. The truth is though, you are technically a visitor, so try to embrace that a little more in the new year. Visit the landmarks, take a walking tour and go to see the museums — by doing so, you will get to know your host country a whole lot better, and it might even help you to feel more at home. You don’t want to end up missing out on things, particularly as the fickle expat lifestyle means you could be moving elsewhere at a moment’s notice!

4. Make a Bucket List

If you know you’re staying in your current location for a while, then it can be a good idea to make a bucket list of everything you want to see and do before you leave (or even if you plan on staying forever). Whether it’s eating at that Chinese restaurant that everyone keeps raving about, or going on a weekend trip to a nearby town, add it to the list. The next time you’re stuck for something to do, take out your list and pick something new to tick off!

5. Join a New Activity or Group

People always seem to say a move overseas is a great time to start a new hobby or activity, and what better time to do so than at the beginning of a new year. As one of the best ways to meet people — be they locals or other expats like yourself — joining a club or group can be a fulfilling chance to try out something new and take a break from your usual daily routine. If you haven’t done so already, why not resolve to join one of our InterNations Groups in your local community and meet a bunch of like-minded expats in the new year.

6. Learn to Cook a Local Recipe

Experiencing the culture of your adoptive country doesn’t simply mean visiting the tourist sites — what about the cuisine? While eating out in traditional restaurants is a must-do, why not make the most of the easy access to fresh ingredients that you have never used before, and try cooking some of the local cuisine yourself. Whether that means buying a recipe book of traditional dishes, learning from a friend, or, if you want to go all-out, enrolling on a cookery course, learning to cook a local dish can be a fun and satisfying skill to have — and one to impress dinner guests with!

7. Get Better at Keeping in Touch

Although one of the hardest parts about living abroad is being away from your loved ones and the consequent feeling of missing out, it can be easy to get caught up in expat life and forget how long it has been since you last spoke to some of those nearest and dearest to you. If you haven’t already established a routine, the new year is a good excuse to change that and schedule a set time to Skype or call your family or friends — this helps avoid the constant hassle of finding a time to suit the both of you.

8. Write Things Down

Expat life can be hectic and brimming with new experiences, which can make for some interesting stories. But as time passes, we often forget the little quirks of everyday life. Whether you carry a notebook to keep track of funny little anecdotes, keep a detailed journal, or decide to start a blog to tell the world about your experiences, putting pen to paper can be a fun and relaxing way to remember things for years to come. Start this in the new year and make it one to remember!

9. Do Some Volunteering

For the expats among us who don’t work, or even if you do and want to do something rewarding with your free time, why not volunteer for a good cause in the new year. Wherever you are in the world, there will be charities and organizations in need of support, so why not try and find a cause you are passionate about, and give something back to your community

10. Stop Comparing Life to Back Home

It can be easy to get into the habit of comparing your life abroad to back home. To a certain extent, we all compare things: prices, weather, customs, and traditions. But the new year is time to turn over a new leaf and quit the comparisons. Although it may be unintentional, constant comparisons can have negative undertones and may even make it harder to feel at home abroad. Accept the ways of your new destination and you might just find that you like them better than those back home!

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Michelle Guillemont

"Iceland is not the expat country number one. But I met truly global minds with InterNations. It really works."

Fjodor Andersen

"Finding other expats interested in playing squash in Reykjavik seemed difficult. But with InterNations I found them easily."

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