Expatn Moving Abroad is like walking into the Unknown.

Published on July 31st, 2017


7 Tips for (successfully) Moving to a Foreign Country

I’ve been at this expat thing now continuously for more than 6 years, and I’ve watched many expats come and go.  Some move on to other foreign lands, but more often (especially here in Cuenca) it seems they move straight back to their native land (mainly the U.S.)

We expats have widely different reasons for roaming afar from our birth country, of course.  Some move to developing countries like Ecuador for economic reasons, while others (like me) move primarily for the adventure, the challenge of living in a foreign land with a new language to learn, new customs, new foods.

And though I don’t presume to be a guru on what-all it takes to settle happily into each and every country on the Planet, I HAVE been around the expat-block for a good while now, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

(Thus far!) I’ve lived in 5 different foreign lands:

7 Tips for Successfully Moving Abroad

Yep, that would have been me back in the 30’s – skipping off on some new adventure.

  • My initial jump out of my native land was a study-abroad in Avignon, France.  And to make matters even more interesting – I dragged my two young (then ages 8 and 11) daughters along with me.
  • Following my studies in France (and loving the life of an expat), I was determined to explore more of Europe so I signed on for a similar study abroad in Perugia, Italy.  I studied both French and Italian, learned how to negotiate with a surly landlord for my electric bill, shopped for groceries in both francs and lira (yes, this was before the Euro), and (daintily) elbowed my way through the French bureaucracy to enroll my daughters in French schools (they lapped up “la langue française” like it was chocolate milk!)
  • Fast forward a few decades to 6 years ago when I sold everything (3 BR house, car, younameit), permanently waved bye-bye to my native land, and moved half way ’round the globe – to Vietnam.
  • Following 2+ blissful years in Ho Chi Minh City and Dalat, Vietnam (teaching English part-time and traveling my brains out – to most every corner of Southeast Asia, including a month in Mongolia), I decided I needed a change of expat scenery, so…  (like most every other backpacker/digital nomad on the Planet) I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand.
  • And most recently – my whiz down here beneath the Equator 3 years ago to my beloved adopted home amid the cobbled lanes of Cuenca, Ecuador.

All this, but a prelude to what I REALLY came here to share with you today.  You see, I’ve lately become enchanted with the (presently, free) online Lumen5 video creation platform (so easy, such fun – this my *6th* L5 video).  And based on my personal experience of watching expats come and go over the years, I thought I’d offer a few tips for those here that might be thinking of following in my footsteps – and giving it a go as an expat.

Though 7 is surely not an exhaustive list, I sincerely believe that – if you’re thinking about moving to some far-off land – these tips will save you loads of expat adjustment grief.

What’s YOUR favorite tip?  Any tips you think I should add?

7 Tips for (successfully) Moving to a Foreign Country


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About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

16 Responses to 7 Tips for (successfully) Moving to a Foreign Country

  1. Your video is so professional and it’s easy to see that you’re having a great time pursuing this new interest. Don’t you wish there’d been videos like this and expat blogs to answer some of your questions (and bring up other things you’d never thought of) when you started out, Dyanne? All of your tips were great but I especially liked your first tip – know thyself! Travel and living in another country takes flexibility, curiosity, creativity and, most of all patience. And you’re a great example of showing that the rewards are clearly worth the effort!
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go kindly contributed to world literature by posting…A Rant-A-Thon From a US and a Canadian Expat: Bureaucratic ContortionsMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes Anita, know thyself is paramount, and with two – even more important that both are all-in. And yes too, one does have to wonder how we managed to travel at all back before this wondrous digital age.

      Then again, while I did tightly clutch my “Let’s Go Europe” paperback when I ventured forth to France w/ my two daughters back in the 80’s, I must say – not having a clue proved to be its own reward. Everything seemed even more romantic and amazing – all super shiny and new. I guess back then, my m.o. was heavy on the “curiosity” and “creativity” side. 😉

  2. Patty says:

    Dyanne, I found your website about a month ago, navigated to your earliest post, and read my way through all of your many adventures! So much fun, and so inspiring too. I also found more expat blogs to read and follow from your commenters — ha! I hope to be an expat myself in the not too distant future. Thank you for helping to keep my dream alive!!

    • Dyanne says:

      Gosh Patty – huge ***WELCOME***! Welcome aboard my zany solo traveln/expatn train. You are pree-cisely the kind of folk that I hope to inspire here. If I can c̶o̶r̶r̶u̶p̶t̶ errr… nudge you into following your dreams of exploring the globe – nothing makes me happier. 🙂

      So… where are you thinking of expatting to? If I can be of further help (in calming your nerves and/or more practical tips) do shoot me an email.

      And meanwhile… I can only add: Go for it, girlfriend. N.O.W. After all, this here “ain’t no dress rehearsal” yes?

      • Patty says:

        You certainly make Cuenca look lovely, but right now, Spain is my first choice. It’s centrally located for the rest of Europe that I so want to explore, and it looks like there are some affordable cities, like Valencia and Granada. I’d also love to learn Spanish, and feel like it’s a language I could actually make some headway with 🙂

        • Dyanne says:

          Yes Patty, I thought of Portugal or Slovenia or Croatia myself due to the proximity to all of Europe (not to mention a hop over to Africa), but…

          At least for now, Cuenca holds the keys to my heart. It’s also lots easier to get a permanent residence visa here – the numero uno factor in choosing a corner of the globe to settle down in.

  3. Jackie Smith says:

    What an excellent post for would-be ex pats. We are currently packing up our three-bedroom house (most going to charity, sales, and storage) and heading out on our first full-time ex pat adventure in Greece. We’ve done things differently, first buying our home and then realizing that 90 days and doing the Schengen Shuffle were not enough. We’ve had the part-time life for 2.5 years and it is time to make the plunge.

    • Dyanne says:

      Greece, eh? Sound divine! And yes, I believe you will find that by dumping every.thing you will feel ever so F.R.E.E. I think it makes a big difference when you fully break free from all that “stuff”.

      btw, I see you’re a fellow Seattleite – leaving my beloved Emerald City was the toughest part of my own “Great Leap” 6 years ago. I enjoyed reading your latest post “A Year in Greece…maybe, just maybe”. And you said it yourself – no “maybe” about it: “First step in opening a new door is to shut another.”

      So I bid you too “Buena suerte” and “καλή τύχη” on your great adventure!

      And do take a good look around my other blog posts (400+ over the past 6 years of expatting) for tips on – yes, you need a virtual mailbox for your snail mail for example – check out my post: “Desperately Seeking a Mail Forwarding Service”:


  4. fourletternerd says:

    Language was the main reason for returning to one’s home country? They couldn’t find an expat ghetto, or a country where the most common second language was their native language? Maybe they were the sort that knew, just knew, knew without ever trying, it was impossible for them to learn a second language – but never considered that before leaving their home country. My tip is get out of the tourist district(s), and, unless you intend to live in one, out of the expat ghetto(s) and do some day-to-day sort of interacting with the locals. See how you can communicate with your language(s).

    • Dyanne says:

      Now, now Bill – easy on the “expat ghetto”, yes? But yes, I agree that many of the tips in the video best be considered BEFORE you leave your comfy home country.

      Indeed, that’s precisely why I made the video – to help folks decide if the life of an expat is for them or not. Hunkering down and learning the language is important of course, but so is “Know Thyself”. As you and I well know, the key to *happily* living abroad – perhaps even more so than learning the language and interacting with the locals – is the ability to ADAPT, and “go with the flow”.

  5. Valerie Proctor says:

    Good tips, but please spare me the video. It took too long to get thru the tips, and the “music” was annoying.

    • Dyanne says:

      Good feedback on the video music Valerie – thanks! It’s tough to choose a tune that appeals to everyone.

  6. Monte says:

    Very nicely done, and all good ideas!

    • Dyanne says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Monte – hopefully it will help folks better decide if the expat life is for them or not. It’s definitely got pros and cons, but for me – it’s among the very best decisions I ever made!

  7. Diane Kulpinski says:

    Nice video with good tips. My favorite – learn the language as best you can. It will make a huge difference in how you interact and move through the country. I’m currently working on some Manderin – it’s a tough one but will be well worth it.

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes indeed Diane – learning the language is key. And though it surely ain’t easy, I don’t buy the argument that it’s somehow tougher as we grow older.

      Sure, if you’re a toddler, you can soak up new languages easily. But for a 20 yr. old or a 60 yr. old – it’s equally tough – just a matter of how diligently you work at it.

      I also think that while you can memorize verb conjugations and rack up ingots on Duolingo til the cows-come-home, but eventually, the only way to improve is by… getting out there and *speaking* with the locals and making mistakes.

      Buena suerte (祝你好運) with the Mandarin! 😉

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