Expat lessons 101

By: Anna Claessen - Also see author's expat blog listing

Here´s what I learned: Read as much as you can about the country and its traditions beforehand. It helps being prepared, both in language skills as well as what to expect when you´re there.

Learn the language and respect the culture you´re in. Be open and understanding.
There are gonna be things that you don´t understand or find stupid.

It helps having someone you know there, whether a friend or spouse or family member in the same country but don´t hang out with them all the time, go out and explore and meet new people. The more people you know from that country, the more you´ll get settled in.

Each country is different but a couple of things stay the same, it´s always better to have something going on, whether a class or work, to meet people.

Networking is essential. Look up expats and expats meeting, they have several ones as well as internations.com. Also check out your embassy. There are plenty of people like you, looking for someone to hang out with. You can also find them at international places, like english theaters, bookstores, etc.

Depending on nationality people tend to be distance at first until they get to know you. It´s best to be introduced through someone else who they know. Knowing someone from that country helps a lot, in understanding the culture and learning more about the country/culture you´re in.

Listen to their radio stations, read their newspapers and check out their television stations, it helps with the language and what´s going on.

It´s natural to feel homesick and feel indifferent towards the country you´re in. Skype and Facebook are great tools to keep up with people and whats going on back home.

Going to a grocery store is a nightmare at first, so much selection and often you don´t know which products to buy. I normally take my time the first time around and get to know the products. It helps asking friends or people who live there what they buy, especially when it comes to milk, since its different in each country.

Do touristy things, meaning explore the country and area where you are living in, because once you get settled you won´t have time to do so. Look out for events and special things happening, it´s fun to get to know the country by its traditions and celebrations.

Hang out with people you normally would´t hang out with, get to know people from different countries with different traditions. Widen your comfort zone. Your mind will expand and a whole new world will open up.

Vienna (Austria)
-make sure you register and get a Meldezettel, otherwise you can´t get housing, telephone etc.
-watch out for contracts (especially telephone they´re normally around 2 years)
-always carry cash on you, they don´t take credit cards at most places.
-on Sundays most stores and restaurants are closed, except Turkish ones (highly recommend them)
-very formal, so address people accordingly, Frau/Herr, as well as "Sie" (Können Sie mir helfen)
-education is very important as you can see on their doorbells, their education title is there (DR)
-rules, they take them seriously, be sure to learn about them!
-transportation system is great, metro, train, bus, one ticket for everything
-the U bahn (metro) chart is a good way to get to know how Vienna Bezirks (neighborhoods) are.
-you can drink from the sink (clean and delicious water)
-Vegetarians, watch out, they put meat in everything
-women, watch out to not make eyes with the guys, who hang out at the U-bahn stations.
-for those looking for jobs, check out the international companies or organizations, since it´s your best chance. It is easiest to go through work agencies like Manpower, powerserv, etc.
-summers are hot and winters are cold, 4 seasons but sometimes unpredictable weather
-highly recommend going to the Rathaus, city hall, theres always something going on there, my favorite was the christkindlmarkt (christmas market) and film festival in the summer time, food booths from all over the world and operas shown on screen. Another favorite was Die Lange Nacht der Museen, where you pay around 12 Euros and get access to most museums that night.
-make use of being in the middle of Europe and travel around, Bratislava is only an hour and Prague is also not that far.

Hollywood, Los Angeles (USA)
-half the battle is visa issues, so those who wanna live in the states, read up on that.
-the price shown is without tax and tips
-tips is not in the price, foreigners normally double the tax
-filter your tap water or buy it from the store
-be sure to bring a jacket/scarve (the hotter outside, the colder inside)
-air condition or a fan is a must in the summertime
-don´t touch the stars on Hollywood Blvd, you don´t know whats on it. i´ve seen homeless people shit on it, so trust me when I say stay away
-there are a lot of homeless people, don´t give them money, rather food.
-networking is everything, everyone knows someone
-for fellow europeans, it´s illegal to drink in the streets (except Vegas on the strip)
-the bus system is not like Europe, plan to drive everywhere
-avoid the 405 and watch traffic, if jammed it may take up to an hour driving
-make sure you get California license and license plate for your car
-parking is from 8-20 dollars
-you have to watch out what´s in your food. Normal European food is what organic is to Americans, recommend shopping at Whole Foods, FreshNEasy or Trader Joe´s.
-recommend Urth Caffe and Togo´s for food.
-if you think you saw a celebrity, chances are you did, celebrity hotspot includes The Ity, Chateau Marmont as well as 101 Cafe.
-L.A. is huge, so there´s something for everybody, it´s just spread out. Mountains, beaches, downtown area, touristy Hollywood area, shopping area Rodeo Drive or Melrose, suburbs and everything in between.

It´s a wonderful things exploring the world and living in another country. Make sure you be open and get to know other people and respect where they are from. Your worldview will open and you´ll have experiences that can´t be taken away from you. Enjoy!

About the author:

My name is Anna Claessen and I´m an expat. I´ve lived twice abroad, first in Vienna, Austria for 5 years and now in Hollywood, CA, USA. I originally come from Iceland, I moved by myself but ended up living in both countries for love.
Blog address: http://annaclaessen.blogspot.co.uk/ Twitter: @aclaessen
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Contest Comments » There are 9 comments

Ligia wrote 11 years ago:

Great post my dear, it makes a perfect sunday read in Vienna:). It is seems like only yesterday we were in our freshmen seminar class talking about culture and worldview!

Alexandra Verena Ruths wrote 11 years ago:

Being Viennese, i loved the tips Anna gave for how to make life as an expat easier in Vienna. They are so true and practical but I could have never thought of them, having lived there all my life. Made me realise that is so valuable to receive advice from someone who "has already been there and done that" before! really great!

Patricia wrote 11 years ago:

Love it! Goes perfectly with my morning coffee! Brings back fond memories :). Thank you so much for the LA pointers....I need to consider that when I move my ass to the States :))

Sean wrote 11 years ago:

Great info Anna. I can't emphasize enough the points about feeling home sick, doing touristy things, and meetings loads of people. I've lived abroad in three different places and I always feel incredibly home sick for the first week or two. Maybe home sick isn't the right term, but there is an adjustment period I always go through. Doing the touristy stuff helps you learn the city. It's how I figured out a lot of Vienna's layout. Expat communities are great gateways into getting to know locals. Just don't trap yourself into only hanging out with other expats, especially ones who natively speak your language. It's sometimes nice, but it isn't getting to know the locals.

Eggert wrote 11 years ago:

Great blog. So good to able to follow up on what you are doing in the States. Time difference alone makes it difficult to stay in touch but the blog is always there to read. Keep up the good work !!!

Asta J. Claessen wrote 11 years ago:

Anna, it makes me happy to see how you enjoy life by being openminded and appreciative of different cultures you have been so fortunate to experience.

Birgitta wrote 11 years ago:

Love the blog:) I am so happy that you are chasing your dreams!! Good pointers I will keep them in mind if I ever go to Vienna or LA.

Tinna Ingibergsdottir wrote 11 years ago:

I think it is so great what you are doing Anna, exploring the world and trying new things.. doing what you Love the most :) Hugs and kisses :*

Marina wrote 11 years ago:

Your text gave me such a good feeling! Lots of luck and enjoy every single step!

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