How to Live in Another Country – 4 Simple Rules

This post deals with the question of how to live in another country. I’m not talking about short holidays, but actually moving long-term.

How to live in another country – introduction

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Whether as a teacher or a student, you might find yourself moving to another country as a result of language learning.

This is a wonderful opportunity to discover new people, places and cultures. But be careful – there are a few pitfalls that you should avoid.

The topics below are based on personal experience. As an immigrant in Germany, these are things that I apply on a daily basis. They are based on pragmatism and realism, not idealism. Personally, I think that people should be allowed to live where they want, as long as they respect these four ‘rules’.

I should point out that I’m not referring to refugees. They have enough to deal with and need all the help they can get.


This is possibly the most important aspect of how to live in another country. It is described first for a good reason.

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Don’t form ghettos – learn the language, embrace the culture and immerse yourself in it.

Not only are ghettos bad for society in general, they are bad for you specifically.

Take the time to learn about the culture and customs in the new country. This is really important.

You won’t be able to make the new environment bend to your preferences – you have to change to fit in with your new way of life. After all, if you wanted everything to be like your home country, why did you leave? There is already a place just like your home country, namely your home country.

As a somewhat silly example, when I moved from England to Germany, I didn’t try to get everyone else to drive on the left – I had to get used to driving on the right.

This doesn’t mean that you have to throw away your sense of identity. Be proud of your roots, talk with other people and learn from each other. If someone is interested in knowing about your culture, help them to appreciate it. I find that cooking new and interesting meals is a very good way to do this, as well as making friends generally.

Accept that different doesn’t have to mean right or wrong, better or worse – it can just mean different.

Financial independence

Don’t turn up at the border and hold your hand out for welfare. This will make you very unpopular. Some countries might not have a welfare system and you run the risk of being homeless and hungry.

Make sure that you know the cost of living and are suitably prepared.

If you intend to work in the new country, it’s a good idea to have a job lined up before you move. If you don’t like that job, getting a new job is much easier when you’re already there. You will know people and be more familiar with the area. Local papers will have job opportunities.

You will need somewhere to live, so add that to your list of things to sort out before you move. Your new employer might be able to help, or at least make suggestions. With modern communication, finding accommodation is easier than ever before. For example, there is almost certainly a Facebook group specifically for people looking for accommodation (or tenants) in your new location. Google is also your friend.

Religion and the law

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Don’t break the law and then claim religious intolerance when you’re caught. Your religion will not trump the law of the land and your invisible friend will not help you.

The new country might be a lot more restrictive than your home country. Make sure that you are aware of the differences.

You don’t want to walk around in shorts and no shirt in a warm country and then find that you’ve broken their decency laws.

Alternatively, you might be offended and shocked by the sheer amount of skin that is on public display.

There might be unexpected laws that you will have to respect and it is your obligation to find out. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

For example, in some countries, it is illegal to be part of a Christian gathering. Others countries have the death penalty for drug dealers. Curfews might be in place. Homosexuality could be an imprisonable offence. The list goes on …

Don’t underestimate the problems that different religions can cause. It is a valid reason to question your decision and even avoid certain countries.

I hope that the time will come when this is no longer a problem, but I’m not holding my breath.

Leave your problems behind

If you leave a country to escape problems, leave the problems there.

It might sound harsh, but your new neighbours probably won’t care and will already have enough problems of their own.

You won’t make friends by making a lot of noise about issues that don’t concern anyone else. Be happy that you no longer have those problems and start enjoying the new ones.

If you prefer a positive spin on this, your life will be better if you look forward instead of looking back (and you’re less likely to tread in dog shit !!).

Also, don’t spend all your time complaining about how everything is so much better back home. The locals will not appreciate it.

How to live in another country – summary

So, those are my thoughts on how to live in another country, based on my own experience.

Do you agree with the statements above? Did I miss anything important?

If you live in another country and would like to tell us about your interesting experiences, please use the comments section below.

12 thoughts on “How to Live in Another Country – 4 Simple Rules”

  1. Hi Derek.
    As an European living most of the year in Asia, I will say your article is perfect, useful and informative.
    I know many people should have been reading this article before they left their country so they would know the pros and cons.

  2. Thank you for your post! As a person that is looking to immigrate to UK, I really appreciate your advice. I would like to ask you what are some popular websites where people look for a job in UK? I searched on a few, but I have the feeling that the recruitment doesn’t pass my CV to the employer or it passes it with a delay. Thank you for your post and I am looking forward for your answer!

    1. Hi Andrei, thanks for your comments.
      I’m not sure about a job website, as I moved from the UK (to Germany).
      For professional positions, the agency will not pass on your CV directly, but in an anonymous form, as they don’t want you to contacted directly (they want their commission). Depending on the kind of work you’re looking for, you could make use of things like LinkedIn and make sure that your profile clearly shows that you’re looking for work.

  3. Hi Derek,
    I found your information very interesting. I had wondered about a tree change and the pros and cons of doing this.
    I’m not sure I would have a strong enough pioneering spirit at my age to tackle the challenge and to be able to adjust and be happy.
    Thank you again for causing me to rethink the idea!

    1. Hi Carol, thanks for commenting.
      It’s true, a move like this isn’t to be treated lightly, but on the other hand, a lot of people do this when they retire. Age is just a number, isn’t it?

  4. Derek, what a great bit of information. I do agree about when making the choice to move anywhere that is different than what you are leaving, don’t try changing the new! What would be the point? Yet, many people seem to do this! They move to another country and complain about the rules of that country. I say in my mind, “then GO HOME!” haha. I would only think that if one was moving to a completely other country it is because they WANT to embrace new change. That is what EXPERIENCING culture is about. I think it would be marvelous to live other places only to see how it is. :o) There’s an old saying, “there are only two places in the world a person wants to be…the place they are going to, and the place they just left”. Thanks for the article.

  5. Great information Derek. I think many struggle with the integration in a new society and new country.
    For many migrants, they need to let go of what they left to immerse themselves into a new culture and open themselves up to absorb it.
    Many put up a protective personality which doesn’t give them the opportunity to learn and integrate.

    1. Hi Vince, Thanks for commenting.
      Letting go is hard, but they only need to let go ‘enough’ – I think letting go completely is often not required, or even healthy.
      Good point about the protective personality.

  6. Hi Derek, your article is 100% spot on. Thank you for this. As an expat here in the Middle East, all the things you said are also my guiding principles on how to fully embrace and immerse in the new culture I am in. I had to integrate and learn the new local customs, I had to follow the limitations of the laws and religion of the country, I had to be financially independent (my main reason why I had to be abroad), and definitely, starting a new life here by not bringing any “excess baggage” from back in my native land. It was a big challenge when I was new, but barely 6 years since then, I’ve managed to adjust and lived a happy life with my second home =) Let me add too, because of this “assimilation” in my second home, I’ve also slowly managed to learn their language, which is quite amazing =) Again, great article and great website =) Thank you =)

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