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Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy While Abroad

Starting a new life in a new country is an incredible adventure, but it comes with a lot of baggage. You need to find housing, create new routines or a support network in your new environment, and deal with a bureaucracy that you’re not familiar with. It’s normal to stress out if you’re dealing with lots of things in a short amount of time — and with that your health can sometimes take a backseat as you may not prioritize it at that moment. So here are some practical and essential tips for staying healthy as an expat.

From staying fit, making smart food choices, and caring for mental well-being to the importance of understanding local healthcare — these actionable tips aim to enhance your health abroad, ensuring a smoother transition and a more enriching experience in your new home.

1. Opt for Local, Nutritious Foods over Fast Foods

Avoid the temptation of fast foods and unhealthy snacks that not only drain your energy but also hinder your feeling of psychological comfort. Instead, explore the local markets and grocery stores to discover fresh and healthier food options rich in fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Embracing these not only nourishes your body but also helps you to adjust to the new culture by creating new comfort foods. You can try new spices, seasonal and regional fruits or vegetables to experiment with in the kitchen, which will create new memories and remind you to look on the bright side.

2. Explore Outside, Limit Couch Time

Choose an active lifestyle rather than sitting still for long periods. Find enjoyable ways to move more during the day, whether it’s walking, stretching, or engaging in activities like dancing or sports. Being physically active helps maintain your health and energy levels while living abroad — and it can be a great way to also connect with others!

3. Manage Stress & Prioritize Mental Well-Being

Practice mindfulness, engage in stress-relieving hobbies, and seek local support groups — or your local InterNations communities — to manage stress levels and promote mental wellness. Taking care of your mind is as important as caring for your physical health. Having a more peaceful mind will help your adjustment process and general happiness.

4. Establish a Healthy Sleep Routine

Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to support your overall health. Quality sleep is crucial for adjustment and well-being. Establish a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, even on weekends.

5. Understand & Navigate the Local Healthcare System

Familiarize yourself with how to access medical care, obtain health insurance if necessary, and understand emergency procedures in your new country of residence for seamless healthcare support.  When seeking to find a family doctor or a GP (general practitioner), you can check with other expats for recommendations or information (e.g. in the InterNations Forum).

6. Learn Basic Health-Related Local Phrases for Effective Communication

Know essential health-related phrases in the local language to ensure effective communication in medical situations or while seeking assistance. If you don’t speak the local language, having a specific vocabulary helps a lot in stressful situations. And if you have a specific illness or condition (e.g. diabetes, allergies), you can keep a little piece of paper in your wallet with key information in the local language to explain your situation easily.

7. Stay Updated with Necessary Vaccinations & Follow Health Precautions

Ensure you’re up to date with the necessary vaccinations and understand any specific health risks in your new location. Even before your move, you should research and, once arrive, follow local health advisories. This is especially important in regard to food, water, and environmental concerns.

8. Prioritize Hydration

Ensure you drink enough water to stay hydrated, as it will support your overall well-being. While drinking water is important, make sure you consume safe drinking water. Depending on the region, it might be necessary to rely on bottled water or to install a water filtration system to avoid potential health issues.

9. Don’t Overthink It

Don’t forget that building a life in a new country can be challenging — and that’s normal! While it’s important to consider your health and monitor your well-being, including your mental health, you also shouldn’t stress out about it either. Free yourself from overthinking and give yourself some time to adjust.

10. Build a Social Support Network

Seek connections within the expat community or among locals, by building relationships with others who share similar experiences. This social support can provide encouragement and valuable information. You can use InterNations to connect with other expats and global minds.

Prioritizing your health and well-being while embracing cultural experiences will contribute to a fulfilling life abroad. You can use this list as guidance — but don’t forget to always remind yourself that adapting to a new environment takes time.

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