Ten Things Every Expat Needs – According to a Brit

I was going to write a totally different post today.  There’s a topic that’s timely and just at the tip of my tongue (or fingers I suppose).  But I ran across this post from a new follower on Twitter (and if you’re not already following me on Twitter please do @Minerva420).  The title, of course, drew me in.  Reading through the proposed 10 things, I found personal discrepancy with almost every one.  Maybe it’s the second week of preschool leaning me towards a rather snarky attitude today.  But I certainly don’t wish to disparage my fellow blogger and new tweeting friend.  As I’ve said before, we all experience this great expat adventure in our personal ways.  Yes there are commonalities, and that’s why we all write about it.  As The Expat Hub describes itself on the banner, “The Expat Hub aims to be the most comprehensive information, support, and advice resource for expatriates on the internet.”  It has an impressive roster of interesting posts, but most certainly all from the British expat perspective.

So, if you’re going to call yourself  “the most comprehensive…resource” please allow me to elaborate and perhaps add to your comprehensiveness.  Let’s break down these ten expat needful things point by point:

1.  Teabags.  Hm, what was it that first tipped me off that this is a British expat site?  I do not understand the near drug-addictive obsession the Brits have with their tea.  I had a lovely English creative writing professor in college who would once a month invite our small class to his home where his wife would lay out a proper British tea for us.  We spent almost all of the first classtime there receiving precise instruction as to how a proper cup of tea is prepared.  It sounded nice, if not a tad fussy.  As an American, I am more a coffee fan.  While I can’t abide the vending machine stuff, I’m fairly accepting of most types of coffee (currently I have instant at home, but perked up with a sprinkle of cinnamon).

tourists-map2.  Street Directory / City Guide.  Well slap me in the face with the obvious.  I can’t imagine travelling to a new country, on holiday but especially if moving there, without a proper map.  Smart phones have GPS systems, so this may eventually make paper maps obsolete.  I tend to study google maps on my computer before leaving the house to somewhere new (not currently using smart phone).  For my first few months in Prague, I habitually carried a street map with me.  However, in the effort to not seem like a perpetual clueless tourist, I would duck into a doorway to covertly consult then strut confidently around the corner.  As far as City Guide, I suppose it could be a good move to learn some of the city sights, but I wouldn’t be caught dead following some overly cheerful umbrella waving guide leading a herd of tourists.

3.  That Thing that makes you feel at home.  I find that unpacking my belongings makes me feel at home.  I see what they teddy-bearmean here.  Memories of former familiar places can be summoned by a fragrance (that won’t stand much of the test of time) or texture or of course visual.  I brought 3 small framed pictures of funny past times and a small Buddha and 3 ceramic dolphins I bought from a small crippled boy on the beach in Mexico.  I also sleep with a teddy bear, which I couldn’t bring due to luggage space restriction, but which was kindly replaced by my friend D upon arrival.  (There.  Now you have something to tease me about as well.)

4. Adaptors.  Again goes without saying.  A responsible expat will research the wattage of their adaptornew country before arriving and purchase the appropriate adaptors.  I didn’t research appropriately and my very first night here promptly burned out my beloved white noise machine with a loud pop.  In retrospect, I’m not sure why I appropriated that much luggage space to a machine that I had become addicted to while living with my parents before I left the US rather than a teddy bear.  Any local electronics store will provide you with the appropriate adaptors.

5.  A Skype Account.  I can’t imagine anyone I currently know without a skype account.  I was using mine in the US before I left to talk to anyone outside my area code.  Since all computers now come equipped with webcams, it’s a no brainer.

green cross

yes, I’m being ironic

6.  Medical Insurance.  Yes this is a very responsible idea.  I mentioned my perspective on health insurance previously. I have more a maverick attitude, supported by a rather robust system.  And – knock wood or hold thumbs as the Czechs do – I have been fortunate in my endeavors without health insurance.  I certainly would insist upon insurance if travelling with or responsible for a child or minor.

7.  A Pay-as-You-Go-Phone.  I can’t believe I still see pay phones around.  I think it would be more complicated to use than simply walking into the nearest Vodafone and purchasing their cheapest phone (which I did).  Most small corner shops sell the equivalent of a $10 phone card with a scratch off code and instructions in English.  Over 4 years later I still use this system rather than paying an expensive contract.

8.  Local Currency.  Nothing will piss off a vendor outside the city’s tourist district than trying to use foreign currency.  There are exchanges throughout the tourist areas happy to charge inflated fees to change your money.  I’ve found when traveling to other countries that an ATM machine will also happily give me local currency for a lesser fee.  And it is nice to alight in a new country with the local currency in pocket, should one desire a coffee, drink, or… cup of tea.

9.  The Right Attitude.  I’m pretty speechless about this.  Why on earth would one choose to move to a new country with a bad attitude?  Unless you’re under indentured servitude, if you’re going to be cranky stay home!

bathroom wall10.  Business Cards.  Yes, again this is probably a tidy idea.  It also sort of smacks of an over-inflated sense of importance.  Of course if you do have cards issued from your business that relocated you here with the new address already, that is appropriate.  But I’ve always thought it rather odd when someone hands me a card with their stats but no business or company.  Isn’t it just quicker to take down info on one’s mobile phone?  Cards have a way of getting lost or ending up posted in the loo.

Please do continue on to the link below and peruse the original article that started me on all this.  You may have ideas of your own.  What was the one thing you felt was most important to either bring or get upon arrival?


(gonna sing this at karaoke tonite)