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Living in Amsterdam as an expat

What it’s like to live in Amsterdam as an expat?
In this Expat Interview, Bruna will share her expat life in Amsterdam, from the cost of living in Amsterdam, overcoming difficulties and culture shock, to how to prepare for moving to this beautiful city.

 

1. About Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the famous city in the Netherlands and one of the most open-minded in the world, if not the most. The city has the highest number of national heritage buildings, thriving cultural attractions and gorgeous canals that enchant both tourists and locals.

living in amsterdam

The famous narrow and crooked houses of Amsterdam.


Furthermore, Amsterdam is famous for good museums and interesting areas, such as the Red-Light District. Also, Amsterdam is also close to many stunning cities in the Netherlands, offering many day-trips possibilities.
Needless to say that it is an expat-friendly city, right? The local language is Dutch, but 99% of the people speak English very well.

2. How did you move to the Netherlands?

I moved from Brazil to the Netherlands in 2014 to be an au pair in Amsterdam. That was a great and cheap way to travel around Europe and I’ll forever be grateful that I took that decision! I would go somewhere new every single weekend (in the country or in Europe) and one of those trips was to Maastricht, a city in the south of the country.
On that occasion, I had a Tinder match with my (today) fiancé. Crazy, right? Yes, I know! But we’re not the only couple I know who met via Tinder. Anyway, one year after, we moved in together. Then I started to learn Dutch and eventually found a job in my study area.

3. Why did you choose to live in Amsterdam?

Well, before I decided to which country I’d go to, I’d look for posts on other travel bloggers’ websites and I found this post about the best things to do in Amsterdam. I was instantly in love with this place!
The houses have such a sweet Dutch Renaissance style and the canals were amazing in the photos, but when I saw them with my own eyes…I say that I didn’t choose Amsterdam, but I was chosen. Amsterdam is an open-minded city full of foreigners. It has a great atmosphere!

visiting Amsterdam canal

Amsterdam’s canals are the best attraction in summer months.

4. How to prepare for moving to Amsterdam?

The process was actually pretty simple. I had to gather all my documents and translate them to Dutch to apply for the visa. Then I bought some winter clothes because the ones I had were supposed to handle an 18 Celsius/ 64 Fahrenheit winter… In addition, I started studying Dutch on my own to make my life a little bit easier there.

 

5. Did you experience any difficulties when moving to Amsterdam?

Yes, mainly because of the weather. In Brazil, most of the days have a clear sky and are warm, but in the Netherlands…it was so cold and gray! It still is cold and gray but I’m more used to the cold now. Only the gray and dull days bother me. It feels like I need the sun to keep my energy up, that’s my fuel. To deal with that we travel to southern Europe to find the sun and get a little break of the winter here.

6. What is the cost of living in Amsterdam?

a) Accommodation in Amsterdam

Like I said above, the Netherlands is pricey in general, so this isn’t different with accommodation in the most popular cities. The rent average is around 1.350 euro for a 70m2 apartment.

b) Groceries

We spend around 200/250 euro/month on groceries. I don’t think this is a lot for two people, but we shop different items in different supermarkets, just because it’s cheaper.

c) Transportation

The public transport system in the Netherlands is very good, but it’s pricey too. A return train ticket to Rotterdam would cost me 30 euro. Ouch! Luckily, many stores offer day-tickets for the train for 15-20 euro every month.
Buses and trams are charged per kilometer, so it can be advantageous, but it’s still expensive if you use it on daily basis. That is one of the reasons why plenty of people ride a bike instead of taking a bus because it’s much cheaper.

7. Did you experience any discrimination in Amsterdam?

A little bit. It’s luckily not a common thing, but it takes only one person to ruin your day, right? In the beginning, I had someone asking me if I was in a relationship with my fiancé to be “able” to live in Europe. I mean, seriously? That sounds so repulsive that I chose to ignore that person from that day on. It’s so sad that many people judge you based on the country’s name on your passport. Many of those have never even been to Brazil…but that’s okay. My fiancé says “if they think like that, it’s not worth to explain it”, and I totally agree with him.
But today, I no longer experience any discriminations, maybe because I’ve been in the country for quite a while and speak their language pretty well.

8. How did you overcome culture shock in Amsterdam?

I only realized it after a month or so that we have very different cultures. For example, most Dutch people plan appointments (to drink a coffee, etc) a week in advance at least, Brazilians plan something for tonight or tomorrow night. Also, if you knock on their door at dinner time, they will ask you to come back later, when they’re done eating. If you would do the same in Brazil, you’d probably be invited to have dinner with them.
These are just a few examples of a long list! Those things seemed weird to me when I moved here, but not anymore. I come from a much warmer culture where people like to be together and make new friends. But now I see it as simple differences in both countries’ history and culture. It’s a process that takes time to get used to.
That’s what I love about traveling. It opens your mind to see the differences as they are. Rather than creating discriminatory opinions.

 

9. What do you like about Amsterdam?

I adore the old architecture and charming canals the city has. Amsterdam is so enchanting all yearlong and, thankfully, has a lot to offer in all seasons. Also, the cafes are just fantastic! Hipster crowd and cool atmosphere make the cafes in the city very cozy.

biking in Amsterdam

View from one of the many bridges of Amsterdam.


For travel-lovers like me, it’s a perfect location because you can easily reach other cities in the country or take a train to Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and London.

10. Are there any bad things about Amsterdam?

Hmm, I don’t like…that it is expensive and full of tourists. The Netherlands is a pretty expensive country, but Amsterdam is the cherry’s cake. Rent costs way too much in my opinion. And yeah, thousands of tourists come here every day, so when you want to reach somewhere on foot or bike, it can take a while because the streets are full. Besides that, Amsterdam is a stunning place. I don’t have anything to complain about.

11. What are your favorite things to do in Amsterdam?

I love wandering around the city center, visiting museums, having a beer in some cozy bars or taking pictures of the streets. The city center is very photogenic, especially the Seven Bridges – a place from where you can see 7 bridges one after the other along a canal. It’s so beautiful!

living in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is full of flowers during spring.


Also, the city park, Vondelpark, is usually my favorite place to enjoy summer days drinking a beer while laying on the grass.

12. How can you make new friends in Amsterdam?

I met many foreigners in my Dutch courses. People from all continents and ages! I didn’t have the same luck with locals though. Nevertheless, Dutch people are always very friendly, so it’s pretty easy to engage with them.

13. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

After the last question, this is an easy one. I hang out mostly with foreigners. The only locals I hang out with are my fiancé’s group of friends. I also interact with expat communities in Amsterdam, mostly with students and travelers.

14. Where is your favorite place in Amsterdam to meet friends?

We don’t have a standard place to hang out, but it’s usually a bar or a café (coffee shop in the Netherlands is the place where people use soft drugs). There are plenty of good options for bars/ cafes in the Jordaan neighborhood. Oh, we also go often to a very cozy and hipster bar/ restaurant next to NDSM in North Amsterdam.

 

15. A memorable experience in Amsterdam

When I had just arrived in Amsterdam, a friend invited me to go ice skating in front of the Rijksmuseum and I said yes right away. However, I had no idea of what I could expect from the winter…
And since Dutch people ride a bike to go everywhere, we wanted to go there by bike as well. Just so we could feel a little more like locals, you know. But I was totally unprepared for the striking cold wind and the only bike I had was a kids-size one. So I was riding a tiny bike on an icy evening for around 10km. When we arrived there, I couldn’t feel my face and hands for a long, long time! On the next day, I had back pain and my cheeks were burned! It wasn’t nice back then, but today I laugh when I think about it.

16. Did you change your perspective about Amsterdam after living here?

Yes, it’s almost impossible not to do it. When you move to a city, you have no idea how that place really is. I had a totally different perspective of the whole country actually, but it’s a slow process to learn how life goes in another culture and wonderful to fully experience it.

17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Amsterdam?

First of all, learn the local language! Most parts of the locals speak English very well, but that’s not their native language. It’s not the government language, or television, etc. No, it’s all in Dutch. So, in order to make you feel a part of society and also to make more local friends, I highly recommend studying it. There are many excellent websites that I used to learn it. So, it’s possible to do it online and for free.
Secondly, forget a car, buy a bike! The city center is full of bikes, people, everything. I don’t find it car-friendly, what I think that it is amazing, actually. Plenty of people go to the bar, to the school, to work, and supermarket by bike. So, get used to doing it too.

18. Would you recommend others to live in Amsterdam?

Certainly! The city has everything to offer to its population. Really everything that you think! It has a gorgeous city center full of nice stores and cozy bars/ cafes. A central station easily reached by bike, bus or tram. Pleasant parks and good markets to stroll around. Amsterdam also has a jovial and open-minded atmosphere. I’m totally in love with it, you noticed it, right? Lol.

19. What have you learned from living abroad?

I’m much more independent. I have to do way more things on my own because my family isn’t here to help me like they used to do, so I’ve grown up a lot.
I have also learned that I love museums and other cultures! I’ve been to more museums in Amsterdam than I’ve been in my whole life until I moved there.
I just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to do this interview! I hope it will inspire many people to come visit the charming Amsterdam and, who knows, to move here as well.

20. More about Bruna

Bruna-maps-n-bags

Bruna is the voice behind the travel blog Maps ‘N Bags. Her blog focus on providing travel tips to help other travelers to travel the world as well. She has been to many countries and city across the globe and has plenty travel hacks to share! Apart from her blog, she is also passionate about beer, coffee, laughing, animals, photography…the list is long! If you want to know more about her, check out Maps ‘N Bags.

Don’t forget to follow her adventures on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Living in Mexico as an expat

Have you ever thought of living in Mexico as an expat? Is it safe to live in Mexico?

In this Expat Interview, Natalie will share about her expat life in Mexico and provide tips on the cost of living in Mexico, the procedure of moving to Mexico and all the related matters that you should concern before living in Mexico.

 

About Mexico

living in Mexico

Puerta Vallarta boasts a wonderful walkway called the Malecon. There are shops on one side, the Pacific on the other, and artwork and trees in between.

Mexico is a diverse country that is more than just pristine beaches and wild spring break parties. It’s also more than tequila and guacamole. Mexico boasts Mayan Ruins, incredible architecture, mouth-watering food that differs from region to region, and different climates. There are jaguars in the jungles, Las Siete Luminarias craters in Guanajuato, and thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Riviera Maya is home to the Northern Hemisphere’s largest coral reef. That’s just a tiny bit of the biodiversity and variety of this large and wonderful country.

About Natalie and her expat life in Mexico

I’m an American living in central Mexico with my husband and our two children. We moved to Mexico on May 1, 2017.
I’ve never lived outside of Ohio and I agreed to move to Mexico for my husband’s job before I ever visited the country. While moving with my husband’s company had some downsides (there was a lot of disorganization in the third party they hired to assist with moving), it has many more upsides. They paid for the move, provided assistance both in the US and Mexico, provide the visas and temporary residence cards, and offer a cultural liaison/concierge type of person for the duration of our stay. We can ask her for help with anything we need, including making requests to our landlord, for instance.

 

Why did you choose to live in Mexico?

Originally, my husband convinced me to move the family to Japan. I was excited and I started working on learning a little Japanese. I even joined an Expats in Japan group online. However, a job opened up first for Mexico that was perfect for my husband and we decided Mexico was the place for us. It takes much less time to fly to Ohio from Mexico than from Japan, so it made sense as we both have aging parents. Thankfully, my husband got the job!

 

How to prepare for moving to Mexico?

Initially, I started using Duolingo to start learning Spanish. I quickly gave up because it was a struggle to start from scratch with that particular app. I’ve picked it up again now that I know some basic grammar. It’s a huge help for learning vocabulary and practicing pronunciation.
I also ended up getting the names and emails of several expat wives already in Mexico with the same company. They each had a unique perspective and useful insight. I asked all of the two questions in my first email: “What do you wish you knew before moving to Mexico?” and “What is something I should know that I wouldn’t think or know to ask about?” It got the conversational ball rolling.

 

The cost of living in Mexico

a) Accommodation in Mexico

Our rent here is around $1,250 USD, which is fairly high for our little town. We were able to renegotiate to a lower price which is more in line with the normal rent price in our neighborhood. We are in a gated community with some of the best security measures in place.
Our house is also big, it’s over twice the size of where we lived in Ohio. I don’t have to drive far to get groceries, school, and gym, so I spend less than $25 per two weeks on gas.

b) Groceries

Due to my celiac disease and higher prices for gluten-free items, we spend more on groceries than an average family would. We spend around $400-$500 per month on groceries and that includes non-food items and dog food.

c) Other expenses

The Internet is $20.85 per month. Utilities run around $100 per month (gas and electric – but electric can vary a lot. One family I know pays approximately $150 per month for their electricity).
One thing to be aware of is if you have a really high or really low electric bill, you may need to do some digging. It’s been common here for people to be paying for someone else’s electricity along with their own due to illegal hookups. If it’s low, you can be on the receiving end of such action and it can cause you future problems.

 

Where are the safest places to live in Mexico?

living in sanmiguel

One of the beautiful churches in San Miguel’s centre (downtown).

If you’re considering becoming an expat in Mexico and want to know the safest areas, currently rumor has it that Merida, Cancun, Tulum, and San Miguel are good choices. Larger cities, like Guadalajara and Queretaro, also have good reputations thus far. Remember, changes in safety status can happen quickly.

After my experiences with having the company help us by hiring a local relocation firm, I’d suggest doing that or finding a trusted local to help you out. Even with help, the process of renting was a little convoluted. We have a wonderful landlord, but other expats we know have had to move because their landlords were unresponsive.
So far, I love living in Mexico. We have good days and bad days, just like we’ve always had. Overall, my kids, husband, and I are very happy.

 

How to deal with difficulties while moving to Mexico?

We moved with 4 people and 7 bags on moving day.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, our shipment was packed less than a week before our move. The best case scenario was that it would arrive a week after we arrived. It was much longer.

Being in a nearly empty house with two little kids in a country where you don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone is pretty much hell.

Luckily, our neighborhood has two awesome playgrounds and heading to one on our second day, I ran into one of the expats, who is now my friend. We’d met so briefly on our house hunting visit, I didn’t know her name or where she lived. Additionally, our town has a small expat community and most of the Americans/English speakers know each other.

 

Did you experience any discrimination in Mexico?

We found out after moving here that we are paying higher rental prices than a Mexican would be paying, but other than that, I haven’t noticed any discrimination.

We are advised to stay out of certain areas, especially at night, because as foreigners, it’s assumed we have money.
One of the reactions I didn’t expect was people touching my children’s hair. My kids have blonde hair and my daughter’s one is particularly bright. Once, while visiting San Miguel de Allende, a woman with the most beautiful, glossy, black hair I’ve ever seen, surreptitiously touched my daughter’s hair. I guess it is a case of exotic being the thing you don’t see every day.

 

How did you overcome culture shock in Mexico?

I did have culture shock. Initially, I thought it was a one-and-done thing, but my research and experience show that it comes in waves. Occasionally, I’ll have a strong feeling that I want to go home. I don’t want to learn any more Spanish. I don’t want to be driving with the crazy drivers in my town.

During my first home visit to the USA, I also had a strong feeling that I just wanted to go home, back to Mexico. One of the best things that helped us with culture shock was bringing our dogs. They had quite the adventure – going on a 3-day road trip from Ohio into central Mexico. I also have an incredible friend who drove them from Ohio and across the border. We hired a service to take them from the border to our town.

 

What do you like about Mexico?

I love the food here. It’s especially great here for me because I have celiac disease and corn is more widely used than wheat (which I cannot eat). I love the spicy candy. There are many varieties of tamarind mixed with chilis and sugar and I can’t get enough. In the USA, I didn’t really eat candy, just some chocolate every so often.

Here, I constantly talk about the spicy candy and the amazing tacos. Obviously, the food is more than just tacos and I love everything I’ve tried (except for the intestine filled Gorditas). Speaking of Gorditas, it’s worth trying them in Mexico because they are not what Americans usually envision and they are so much better.
I also love the people I’ve met here. Even the ones with whom I struggle to communicate because my Spanish is still pretty poor. Many people are so patient with my struggling language skills.

 

Bad things about Mexico

There are sad looking stray dogs everywhere. It breaks my heart to see them. There are a few local rescue organizations and they do spay or neuter animals before they place them for adoption. Even so, the stray dogs run rampant. I have seen them in all the small towns I’ve visited so far.
Driving here can be really crazy. People will turn 1 lane into 2, 2 lanes into 3, and so forth. You really have to be aware of everything that’s going on around you and this isn’t even during rush hour! There are also families on mopeds, bicycles, and people pushing or biking with carts to watch out for on the roads. I’ve been noticing more bicycles on the wrong side of the street lately, too. Cars and busses also run red lights frequently. My close friend is from the northern part of Mexico and she assures me that people don’t drive like that up there.
Additionally, you have to worry about people’s brake lights not working. We almost smashed into a pick-up truck who slammed on his brakes without working brake lights while traveling on a highway. Luckily, we had space to avoid a collision.

 

What are your favorite things to do in Mexico?

I love traveling around visiting lesser known spots. We visited this little town called Xilitla. It’s in the Sierra Gorda mountains and it’s crazy awesome.

visiting mexico

Some of the steps in Las Pozas, the surreal “garden” in Xilitla.

living in mexico

Part of the strange structures in the jungle, within the surreal garden called Las Pozas in Xilitla.

An artist chose the town as the place to create his surreal art garden, Las Pozas. In the middle of the jungle, on a mountain, you can climb up and down cement steps and platforms and concrete art. Describing it doesn’t do it justice. It feels like you are in the middle of old ruins, but the work began in 1945, so it’s fairly modern.

 

Where do you recommend to visit in Mexico?

So far, my favorite places are San Miguel de Allende, Xilitla (he-leet-la), las Siete Luminarias, and Pena de Bernal.
San Miguel has a lot of tourists and expats, so you’ll hear a lot of English spoken there. Pena de Bernal is a popular spot with Mexicans, but it seems like there aren’t as many tourists from other parts of the world. Consequently, goods and services are quite a bit cheaper there than San Miguel and Guadalajara.

Xilitla is somewhere in the middle. It is in the Sierra Gorda mountains, which seem like several towns do receive a fair amount of tourists from all over the world. Xilitla is one of those places that is a challenge to get to and the reward is huge.

Las Siete Luminarias are seven craters and the most famous is called El Rincón del Parangueo. However, the signs that led us to it did say “Las Siete Luminarias.” You can climb down into the crater, which is covered in white ash and white mud. It’s like being on another planet and I’m really surprised it hasn’t been used in any sci-fi movies or tv shows.

living in Mexico

Looking down on the Las Siete Luminarias crater is deceptive. When you realize those are people in the background, you realize just how big it is.

So far, I haven’t been disappointed in anywhere I’ve visited. We will soon be visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, which looks like it will also be awesome, too.

 

The cost of living in Mexico

a) Accommodation in Mexico

Our rent here is around $1,250 USD, which is fairly high for our little town. We were able to renegotiate to a lower price which is more in line with the normal rent price in our neighborhood. We are in a gated community with some of the best security measures in place.
Our house is also big, it’s over twice the size of where we lived in Ohio. I don’t have to drive far to get groceries, school, and gym, so I spend less than $25 per two weeks on gas.

b) Groceries

Due to my celiac disease and higher prices for gluten-free items, we spend more on groceries than an average family would. We spend around $400-$500 per month on groceries and that includes non-food items and dog food.

c) Other expenses

The Internet is $20.85 per month. Utilities run around $100 per month (gas and electric – but electric can vary a lot. One family I know pays approximately $150 per month for their electricity).
One thing to be aware of is if you have a really high or really low electric bill, you may need to do some digging. It’s been common here for people to be paying for someone else’s electricity along with their own due to illegally hooking up the electricity. If it’s low, you can be on the receiving end of such an action and it can cause you future problems.

 

How to meet new people in Mexico?

I have not found it easy to make new friends with locals in my town.
Coming into a small, but established expat community, I was able to make friends with them right away, but it took awhile to meet people outside of that community. My children started school here, even though I’d prefer to homeschool, only because we were struggling to meet people (well, that and there is next to nothing to do in our town).
Some of these problems are unique to my town. It was a small town that experienced a lot of growth very quickly. Because it was small, people have grown up together and have their families here and don’t have a lot of need for outsiders. Everyone is still nice, they just don’t need another friend.
Of course, not everyone is like that and I’ve started to meet a lot more people through school, friends of friends, and on my own. There is a language barrier and I feel that has contributed, as well.

 

Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Currently, I have a lot more expat friends, but all of them will be leaving in 4-5 months. The dynamic will change. Plus, as my Spanish improves, I will be able to communicate better with the people I feel are really friendly but I can’t understand!
I interact with any expat communities in Mexico. They’re mostly the people who are with the same company as my husband. My town is small!

 

Where to hang out with friends in Mexico?

One of my acquaintances invited me to work out with her.

One of the rules I adopted after having kids was to say yes to invitations whenever possible. I said yes and I ended up meeting my closest Mexican friend. We are both recent arrivals, our kids are close in age, and she had been an expat in the US twice!

Mostly, we hang out at the gym, our neighborhood parks, or our houses. Sometimes, the school moms will do something outside of school and we always choose a restaurant with a playground. That is one of my favorite things about Mexico, actually. We can go out for a nice dinner and the kids can play on the playground in restaurants.

 

Did you change your perspective after living in Mexico?

I’m still a work in progress. Currently, I don’t feel that I can make any sort of judgment on the culture because I haven’t experienced that much. One thing I have noticed is that the people without money, like the maids, for instance, are very resourceful and creative.

 

Advice and tips for moving/ living in Mexico?

I recommend starting to learn Spanish before arriving, if possible. It’s taking me a lot longer than I anticipated to even be conversational.

One thing I’ve noticed is that apps like Duolingo are a lot more helpful after learning some grammar. I also recommend diving right in and speaking as much as possible right away.

One of my friends knew a lot of Spanish words but struggled because people couldn’t understand her accent. She never quite became conversational.

I know not everyone can move with a company. If you are on your own, be prepared to wade through a lot of red tapes. You will need to find a bilingual lawyer to help you.

If you can find a local expat community online, they will have a wealth of information. One question I should’ve asked people before I arrived is what they paid in rent. We ended up paying $4500 more pesos than everyone else because we didn’t know better (this is a couple hundred dollars).

 

Would you recommend others to live in Mexico?

The short answer is yes. However, if I had a choice on where to live, I’d pick a larger city or somewhere in the Yucatan. Small cities like ours are experiencing growing pains (like not enough police officers, so the military has moved in to help).

 

What have you learned from living abroad?

First, I’ve learned immersion language learning isn’t as easy as it is made out to be. One still needs to study and work hard. Second, I have discovered I can live with a lot more compromise than before. Third, the world is less dangerous than the news would have you believe. I say that even with the violence I mentioned above and will discuss in further detail below.

 

Criminals in Mexico

Crime is up all over Mexico and my town isn’t immune to this.
While the crime is mostly focused violence (between cartels), there are also crazy things like actual highway robberies. We missed being caught up in one by mere hours on our drive back home from Ixtapa (another employee at my husband’s company was not so lucky, which is why we know about it). We have decided we won’t drive there again, as the state Ixtapa is in is getting more dangerous. If there is decent priced airfare, we will fly. Ixtapa itself still seems to be okay.

We also lived in a gated community and we don’t often go out at night. I’m not exactly scared of it, but it does increase your risks of becoming a victim of crime. My husband’s laptop was stolen from the trunk of his car in less than 90 seconds, while he stepped into a local convenience store around 6:30 in the evening. You can’t leave electronics in the car here.

Outside of our neighborhood walls, I have to vigilant and aware of my surroundings. Even in the parking lot of the grocery store, as my friend was robbed there. All the schools are behind walls and gates, too, with guards.

 

How to take a road trip around Mexico?

Additionally, if you are taking a road trip around Mexico, pay attention to state department warnings, such as only travel during daylight hours and stay on the Cuotas. Cuotas, or toll roads, are typically safer than Libres (freeways).

We’ve driven all over central Mexico, we’ve had friends take the night bus to and from Ixtapa, without any problems. We’ve also driven in some sketchy areas of our town without encountering problems (though I did see a guy getting beat up mid-day which was really distressing).

 

How to drive in Mexico?

There are a couple of things to know before driving around Mexico

1. Police officers drive with their lights on

The police officers drive around with their lights on. You don’t need to pull over unless they are also using their siren. If they are driving down the middle of a street and straddling two lanes, stay behind them.

2. Police riding in the backs with huge rifles

Second, police and military trucks generally have police riding in the backs with huge rifles on the back. It’s really disconcerting at first. Now that I think about it, there are also guards with large rifles at the large malls. The first time I saw a guard like that, I was pretty freaked out!

3. Bring toilet paper!

The third thing is that bathrooms usually cost 5 pesos to use. Some will have a person who will give you toilet paper but most will have the toilet paper outside of the stalls. Get it before you go into a stall or you’ll be out of luck. I carry toilet paper with me. Additionally, the toilet paper goes into the trash can next to the toilet and not in the toilets.
All this being said about the violence, I don’t feel unsafe. I am living a normal life, quite happily. I live just a bit more vigilantly than before. I’m really only worried about pickpockets and theft, and less about violent crime.

 

A memorable experience in Mexico

On my first full day here, the kids and I woke early and watched the sunrise. A bit later, as I was working on getting breakfast together with my limited utensils and dishes, I looked outside and saw a man mowing the street. He kept going back and forth.

I wondered if he was using the lawn tractor to blow the dust off the street or what? My friends told me he was mowing the street because there are grass or weeds growing in the cracks. However, it’s been over 10 months and I’ve never seen anyone mow the streets since. Nor have I seen any grass or weeds growing in the streets.

 

More about Natalie

Natalie wants to live in a world where everyone travels and raises kids with gentle respect.When she’s not trying to be present with her kids, traveling, or writing, you can find her indulging in Harry Potter, Doctor Who, or Star Trek with her husband. Discover more about family travel and expat life at Blissmersion.com. Don’t forget to follow her PinterestTwitter, and Instagram

living in mexico

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Living in Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane, Australia’s third most populous city and the capital of Queensland, has a sub-tropical climate with good average temperatures all year round. Is Brisbane a good place to live as an expat? Let’s discover it in this Expat interview! Tracy will answer all the questions from the cost of living in Brisbane to all the related information for moving to Australia.

 

1. Could you please tell us your moving story?

We decided to move to Australia about 6 years ago but it took nearly 5 years after we were granted our visas to actually make the move. We first moved to Mackay in Northern Queensland but after 3 months my husband got a job in Brisbane so we moved.

 

2. Why did you choose to live in Brisbane?

There is so much to do and see in Brisbane that it seemed a natural place for us to move to. I also have friends who live here and they had told me what a fantastic place it is. The weather is excellent all year round and that is an important factor for us. We were sick of the gloomy weather in the UK!
living in Australia kangaroo

3. How to prepare for moving to Brisbane?

Firstly we had to obtain a visa to be able to live in Australia. This was a difficult process and involved a lot of money and a lot of paperwork. I also had to register to be able to teach in Queensland. That took about 12 weeks. We also had to validate our visas in Australia once they were issued – as we were not ready to move permanently at that time it was a costly requirement.

 

4. The cost of living in Australia

Australia is not cheap and you need to be earning dollars as soon as possible really as you will soon see your savings disappear.

a) Accommodation in Australia

We rent a furnished 2 bedroom apartment and that costs $400 a week. You need to pay a month’s rent as a deposit and the first 2 week’s rent upfront.
living in Brisbane

b) Food

We eat out a lot and I would say a meal for 2 with a drink cost between $60-100 but again that depends on the type of restaurant!

 

c) Groceries

Again not cheap. It is best to buy seasonal produce as its more affordable. We spend about $250 a week on groceries for 2. There aren’t many supermarkets to choose from but finding a local market for fruit and vegetables may save some money.

 

d) Transportation

living in Australia

Colorful lights across the coastline of city skyscrapers in Brisbane.

I would recommend buying a Go Card which you can use on all public transport in Brisbane. You load it up then just tap at the beginning and end of your journey. Catch the CityCat along the river – it’s a great way to see the city! The city gets very congested so I would always recommend taking public transport rather than driving!

5. Did you experience any difficulties when you moved to Brisbane?

Not really – I have moved around the world a number of times so I know what is involved. I do miss my family and my dog back in the UK (hopefully she is joining us soon) and adapting to a new job was not easy to start with but the best thing to do is to try to not compare. It will be different and you need to go with that however strange those differences feel.

 

6. Did you experience any discrimination from the locals?

Not at all. I have found everyone I have met to be so friendly and welcoming. Australians are used to people wanting to live here and seem happy to welcome us!

 

7. What do you like about Brisbane?

It’s a lovely city with so much to see and do. The weather is amazing and it is close to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast for weekends away.

 

8. Are there any bad things about Brisbane?

Not really! At the moment we are loving it all (OK maybe the amount of traffic and the toll roads are a bit of a stress!)

 

9. What are your favorite things to do in Brisbane?

It would be heading to South Bank at a weekend. There are a beach and a lagoon-style pool (all free) as well as lots of activities to do and galleries to visit.Take a blanket and a picnic and enjoy the atmosphere. You can also buy the best milkshakes in the world there!

 

10. Is it easy to make new friends in Brisbane?

So far we haven’t made too many friends here though I did in Mackay. I am joining some photography courses soon so hopefully will meet new people that way! I am also meeting people at work.
living in Brisbane Australia

11. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I would say a mixture really as I already have some expat friends who live in Brisbane.

 

12. Where is your favorite place in Brisbane to hang out with friends?

South Bank is the place to go – it has a great vibe. There are places to eat and sit with a picnic or you can take a swim in the pool or relax on the beach. There were loads to do at South Bank before Christmas with films and concerts too so it is worth checking to see what is on.

 

13. A memorable experience in Brisbane

My husband and I decided to catch the train to South Bank just before Christmas and we had a wonderful afternoon just sitting in the shade with a picnic watching the world go by! It was so relaxing but didn’t feel like Christmas as it was so hot!
train in Brisbane

14. Did you change your perspective about Brisbane after living here?

No. Brisbane is exactly what I expected – it is a great city to live in!

 

15. Advice and tips for moving/ living in Brisbane

Think carefully about where you live – the traffic can get very congested and it can take longer to get to places that you may expect. I wouldn’t recommend living too far from where you work as you may spend a lot of your time commuting. Some areas are better than others so I would do a suburb check before committing!

 

16. Would you recommend to live in Brisbane?

We live in the northern suburbs but there are lovely areas all around Brisbane! I think Brisbane offers so much to everyone with its great climate and access to some of the best beaches in Australia on the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast. Both are just an hour’s drive away.

 

17. What have you learned from living abroad?

I have lived abroad for a lot of my life and I have learned that you never stop learning! I have learned another language, to appreciate food, and developed better social skills through living abroad. It makes you more adaptable and I think tougher!
Moving abroad is not easy and expect highs and lows – give yourself time to settle. All that is strange today will soon become familiar. Even though I have done this 6 times in my life it is always the same process but is worth it in the end!

 

More about Tracy

Tracy blogs at Tracy’s travels in time. She has been an expat 6 times and so far has lived and worked in France, Switzerland, Canada, South Africa and Botswana. She moved to Australia in 2017. Besides teaching, she loves history, train journeys, nature and meeting new people. She also has a passion for milkshakes! Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

living in brisbane

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Living in Tokyo as an expat

Tokyo, the capital and the heart of Japan, is ranked as the 11th most expensive city for expatriates. Is Tokyo a good place to live as an expat? What it’s like to live in Tokyo? In this Expat Interview, Lena, an expat who is living in Tokyo, will let you know more about Tokyo life from an expat’s point of view. All the answers about life in Tokyo from the cost of living in Tokyo, moving to Tokyo, being foreigners in Japan, and more! This article is not only useful for people who are interested in Japan and living in Japan in general but also a great read for whom who plan to visit Japan.
living in tokyo

Tokyo – The heart of Japan

Tokyo is located on the main island Honshu and has more than 13 million people living in the greater Tokyo area. It is the center of business, the seat of government and the Emperor of Japan. Tokyo was ranked as the “Best overall experience” on TripAdvisor World City Survey. In Tokyo, you can find everything your heart desires.
living in tokyo
Let’s start our interview to know more about expat life in Tokyo!

1. Why did you move to Tokyo?

I studied Japanese at university and really wanted to use Japanese for my first job, so I was really happy and excited when I found a job at a Japanese company in Germany. The best part was that I would be sent to Japan right away for one year to undergo training at the headquarters. That was in March 2015. Like most big companies, the headquarters of my IT consulting company was in Tokyo, so Tokyo is where I have been living since.

 

2. How to prepare for moving to Tokyo?

This time was not my first move to Japan so there wasn’t much for me to prepare mentally any-more, as I already knew what I was getting myself into. I also had the support of my company which prepared my apartment and visa so it was all really easy for me to make the move from Germany to Japan. I only had to pack my bags and hop on a flight. Upon arrival in Tokyo, I got the key to a fully furnished apartment. I started working there the next day.

 

3. Cost of living in Tokyo, Japan

a) Accommodation

Accommodation is the most expensive part of life in Tokyo. I live in a 40 square meter apartment together with my boyfriend and we pay 180.000 Yen per month. The apartment is conveniently located in the city center 1-minute walk from the closest station. This is what makes it so expensive. But really even if you want to live in a 20 square meter one-room apartment with a walking distance of about 10 minutes to the station you will pay roughly 80.000 Yen.

 

b) Food

Food can be cheap or expensive depending on your preferences. If you want to cook yourself and love cooking with a lot of fresh vegetables than it can be quite expensive. If you are okay with eating convenience store Bento (Japanese home-packed meal) then a meal will cost you roughly 500 Yen. There are also many Japanese fast food restaurants or small shops selling set meals at around 800 to 1000 Yen.

 

c) Transportation in Tokyo

Transportation to and from the company is covered in full by the company. This is really a big plus. It doesn’t make sense to own a car in Tokyo if you aren’t super rich and so most people use trains and the metro to get around. This is very convenient and also not too expensive. The price depends on the distance but you roughly pay 200 Yen wherever you want to go within Tokyo.
living in tokyo transportation

d) Japanese tax

Taxes are way cheaper than in Europe. This goes for the consumption tax (8%) but also for social security and income tax (20-30%).

 

4. How to deal with difficulties when living in Japan?

As I mentioned above, this was not the first time that I moved to Japan. I had been living in Japan before as a student when I was 20 years old. I attended the Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka for 10 months. Surprisingly, I didn’t really have any difficulties moving to Japan both times. Of course, there is some paperwork that is needed to be done such as registration at the city office. However, it is not a huge challenge even without being able to speak Japanese.

Culture shock is something else I didn’t experience. This probably has to do with the expectations that one has before coming to live in a new country. I had visited Japan before for a short period of time, living with a host family. I also heard a lot of stories from other people who had studied in Japan before me.

 

5. Discrimination in Japan: Being a foreigner in Japan

No matter how long you live in Japan you will never be Japanese. Japanese people will never see you as Japanese. This is something a foreigner should know and understand before coming to Japan to avoid disappointment. This means Japanese treat you differently. They will comment on how good your Japanese is, or your skills with chopsticks and other such superficial comments. This can get annoying after a while but you should better get used to it fast, say thank you and smile.
Sometimes when I am out with my Japanese boyfriend people will talk to him even when I ask a question in Japanese they will give the answer to him. I find this weird and sometimes a little offensive but it is not something I get worked up about. The same goes for people answering me in English even though I am clearly talking to them in Japanese.

 

6. What do you like about Tokyo?

Tokyo is a city that has really every comfort you could ever wish for. Not only the Japanese food is delicious, but you will be able to find food from all over the world here which will help with occasional homesickness and food cravings.
As far as amusement goes, Tokyo has something to offer for everyone. There are Karaoke and bars, world-class cinemas and game center where you can play darts or practice your bowling skills. Then, of course, there are amusement parks and other attractions like the Tokyo Tower, Sky Tree and of course all the famous tourist areas that are really worth exploring. If you like shopping you can do that in the many shopping centers, department stores and brand shops everywhere around Tokyo. It is really a gigantic city with something for every taste.

 

7. Are there any bad things about Tokyo?

There are multiple things that one can complain about. For one living there is really expensive, and if you don’t have a well-paying job you might not be able to afford a nice place in the city center and have to commute to work for an hour or more.
The commute can be really stressful in itself because the trains are packed with people, especially in the morning before 9 a.m. when everyone is on their way to work.
Not only the trains are crowded but also many areas around Tokyo that you might be interested in visiting during the weekends are always busy with tourists and locals alike. If you don’t like crowds living in Tokyo can be quite stressful.

 

8.Where do you recommend to visit in the Tokyo?

I would visit Shibuya to see the scramble crossing at night. The best place to see it is at Shibuya Starbucks across the street from the station. Some people prefer wandering Yoyogi Park and Harajuku areas. Otherwise, you can do window-shopping in Omotesando where all the world famous brands have their shops. A visit to Asakusa with its souvenir stalls leading to the Sensoji Temple is a great idea for spending time in Tokyo too!
festival in tokyo

9.How to make friends in Japan?

I made friends with some of my colleagues which was quite easy and I imagine depending on where you work and how open you are it should be possible for anyone to do that. Making friends with Japanese outside of work can be trickier. I suggest joining some activities where you can meet Japanese people like sports circles. If you are looking to meet foreigners or Japanese interested in meeting foreigners you could also take advantage of Couchsurfing events that are held once a week.

 

10.Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly in Tokyo?

I mostly spend time with my Japanese boyfriend Taka whom I met at work. I have view other friends. I see some colleagues for Karaoke on some weekends and other friends for some shopping. They are all Japanese. My German friends in Japan are people I have already known before coming to Japan. I haven’t really made new close foreign friends since coming here, but I guess this all depends on how open you are and how much you go out.

 

11. Where to hang out with friends in Tokyo?

I love going to Karaoke with my friends. Other than that I love to meet my friends at different places to see different new things each time. There is not really one place as Tokyo has so many interesting places.

 

12. A memorable experience in Tokyo

For the first year around Christmas, my boyfriend and I went to visit the Tokyo Dome illumination, which is one of the nicer ones around Tokyo (there are many nice ones). We walked around and also took a ride on the Ferris wheel to have a spectacular view of the city at night time. It was super romantic and also beautiful to see the city in this different way. It makes one realize how small we all are and how big the city is. It stretches out in all directions without end in sight.
living in tokyo at night

13.Did you change your perspective after living in Tokyo?

I always knew it was a hectic and crowded city. This hasn’t changed. But I think I have changed with the city. I got used to the crowds, although I still avoid them as much as I can. I am relaxed in overcrowded trains and even though I don’t like it at all, I will occasionally stand in line to eat at a restaurant.

 

14.What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Tokyo?

The biggest challenge to living in Japan is gaining a work visa. When you manage to get one through a company you are basically good to go. I imagine it is very hard living in Tokyo without being able to speak the language to a certain degree, so I would recommend to learn Japanese in advance or to attend a language school while you are in Tokyo. Moving to Tokyo can be really expensive because you have to pay a lot of money when renting a place, so make sure you have enough savings. Something like 5 times the monthly rent + money for buying furniture.

 

15. Would you recommend others to live in Tokyo?

I would recommend it to people who like living in a big metropolis with many people. I wouldn’t recommend it if you like quiet and nature. These people won’t be happy here. I also have to say that it isn’t easy for vegetarians to live here. Almost all Japanese food is made with some kind of animal ingredient and vegetarian restaurants are view and expensive. Cooking for yourself is, of course, an option but can be quite expensive as well.

 

16. What have you learned from living abroad?

I’ve learned that people who only live in one city or one country really miss out so many things the world has to offer. Living in another country teaches perspective about other people’s lives and culture. Also, I’ve learned that people have different styles of thinking and of working. So, my way is not necessarily the only way, and definitely not always the right way. It taught me to be open to other ideas and to be more curious about food.

Many people who want to live in Japan and especially Tokyo have this image of a dream country that they have learned from the media and especially anime and manga. Japan is not like that. Japan has its bad sides like any other country in the world, they might do a better job at hiding these sides from the eyes of the outside world but Japan also has problems and it is not some dreamland. I would like for everyone who is thinking about moving here to keep this in mind so they won’t be disappointed.

 

More about Lena

expat life in Tokyo

Lena is a passionate traveler and has been in love with the Japanese culture and food for a long time. She has made Tokyo her home where she has been living and working for almost 3 years now. Even though she is planning a trip around the world this year to see more of this beautiful planet, Japan Is still one of her favorite places in the world and she is looking forward to coming back here when her trip is over. You can find her travel adventures of Japan and other countries on her blog The Social Travel Experiment and her social channels: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
Thank you for reading living in tokyo

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Living in London as an expat

Are you thinking of living in London, or just wonder what it’s like to live in London as an expat? In this Expat Interview, Claire will answer all the questions regarding expat life in London. You can understand the city better from an expat’s viewpoint, and get to know important information such as the cost of living in London, how to prepare for moving to London, overcoming difficulties, best things to do in London, etc.

 

About London

London is the capital of the United Kingdom. With more than 8 million people, it is the biggest city in Europe and its surface area is twice as big as New York. From the romantic neighborhood of Notting Hill to the super trendy Shoreditch, London offers something for every taste and everyone. It is also home to some of the most famous museums (and most are free to visit!), theatre shows, and touristic sights. Each corner of the city transports you to a very different world where different cultures and languages mix to create one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Is London a great place to live as an expat? Read this interview and Claire will let you know!

living in London

 

1. A bit about Claire – Our Interviewee today

My name is Claire, I was born and raised in the North East of France. I moved to the UK in 2011 after spending 18 months in the US, so this wasn’t the first time I moved abroad. I am a Communications Manager for a healthcare technology company.

After studying and working in the US for 18 months, I knew I wanted to live closer to my family. I had enjoyed my time in the US and developed a strong taste for the expat life, so I decided to look for a job in London. I knew I loved the city as I had visited several times before, and it was much closer to France. It took me a while to find a job. I was temporarily based in France while looking for a job in the UK. After a few months, I finally got a graduate position in London and moved!

 

2. Why did you choose to live in London?

I had always loved London and I was already speaking fluently English so it was an obvious destination for me. London is huge, very cosmopolitan and there are so many things to do, you can never get bored of it. What is there not to like? The weather, I guess you definitely don’t move to London for the weather!

expat living in London

Rainy day in West London

3. How to prepare for moving to London?

Being European it was pretty straightforward as I didn’t need a visa. I just packed and moved. The only thing I would recommend planning for if you don’t need a visa, is a deposit for a rental accommodation. London is expensive so deposits can be fairly high. Also, don’t bother with summer clothes, winter last 10 months here.

 

4. Cost of living in London

Living in London is VERY expensive!

  • Rental accommodation can go anywhere from £700 for a small double bedroom in a shared flat, to £1800 for a spacious 2-bedroom apartment in Zone 2.
  • Groceries are average and similar to places like Paris. London also offers a great variety of eateries so you can eat out on pretty much any budget.
  • Transport is VERY expensive with a monthly Oyster Card Zone 1-2 costing a whopping £131.
  • Your salary is taxed directly at the source so there is not much to worry after that other than the council tax and your electricity, gas and water bills.

If you decide to move to London just expect to have no money by the end of the month is the short of it. You can and probably will spend it all.

 

5. How to overcome difficulties while living in London?

I have some difficulties with people’s accents! Everybody speaks differently in the UK which at first was overwhelming even if I was already speaking fluently. I eventually got used to it, but it still takes a fair amount of ‘Pardon?’ every now and then.
Making new friends can be a challenge too, mostly with British people as most already have their network of friends. It took me a long time, and even now I don’t have a million friends but the ones I have are very dear to me! Quality over quantity!

 

6. Did you experience any discrimination in London?

No, being French, when I meet someone new, I usually just get compliments about French food or some mention of a vacation they took in France. Sometimes I get a funny look when I first talk because people do not expect me to have an accent, but that is pretty much it. French bashing is a thing though and the constant jokes about French people can be tiring.

 

7. Did you have culture shock in London?

Not really, being European and having lived abroad before, I knew how to deal with cultural shock, plus I had visited London before and I was aware of the main differences with France. Most differences made for funny stories and I talked a lot about it on my blog. I am also very lucky to have never been homesick!

 

8. What do you like about London?

It is so big that there is always something new to discover! Museum, eateries, bars, neighborhoods, I think it would take a lifetime to visit every corner of London. There are also so many parks, which is amazing to have access to in such a big city. I have never lived more than 5 minutes’ walk away from a green space in my seven years in London.

living in London going picnick

Londoners picnicking in Blackheath

9. Is there anything that you don’t like about London?

The trains! They are always delayed, slow and so dated.

 

10. What are your favorite things to do in London?

On weekends, I love to take a walk in a new neighborhood with my husband. I can easily get claustrophobic in small cities so I embrace the fact that there is always a new street to discover in London. I am also on a constant quest for the best food and I love to try a new restaurant or cafe.

things to do in London

Having a cup of coffee at Café of Good Hope in South East London

11. Where would you recommend to visit in London?

It is a tough question! If it is your first time in London and you have limited time, visit all the touristic sights because they are actually worth it! The South Bank, Buckingham Palace, St Paul, etc., many places to go!
If it is your second or third time, start to walk further away and visit Notting Hill, Shoreditch, Columbia Road, Greenwich. Visit a couple of museums too, my favorites are the Natural History Museum (because of dinosaurs!)  and the Victoria & Albert Museum (just beautiful). During any visit after that, take the time to watch a show in the West End, have lunch or dinner in one of the many food markets (Mercato Metropolitano is fantastic) and go explore neighborhoods further away like Hampstead, Brixton, and Richmond.

things to do in London

St James Park with Buckingham Palace in the background

12. Is it easy to make friends in London?

As I mentioned above, it can be challenging to make friends in London. Foreigners are usually easier to reach out to as, like any expatriate, they are away from home. British people can be a bit coyer and more reserved so it can be difficult to connect with them at the beginning. In both cases, it takes time.

 

13. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I mainly hang out with locals, but this is mainly because my husband is British and his friends became mine (at least that’s what I think ☺). I also made a lot of friends through work which helped a lot!

 

14. Where is your favorite place in London to hang out with friends?

This is a difficult question to answer as I have so many: Chiswick, East Dulwich, and Marylebone, to name a few. What is important to know is that ‘real’ Londoners do not live in the central neighborhoods, so if you want to meet some you will have to go at least in Zone 2 or 3. If you decide to move to London and live in the very central and/or popular area chances are all your neighbors will be foreigners.

 

15. A memorable experience in London

living in London

People camping in the street for Kate Middleton and Prince William wedding

I have been in London for seven years so it is hard to choose one! I got my first grown-up job here, I met my husband here, I got a cat, I bought a house, Will and Kate got married, I went to the London Olympic Games, I went to numerous shows and concerts, I ate all the food the world has to offer… So far, I would say that the London life is my favorite memory! But ask me again in five years!

16. Did you change your perspective about London after living here?

living in London

Street art in the streets of London

Yes, London is not a giant Notting Hill! It has rough bits, ugly bits, and non-terraced houses bits.

17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in London?

Just do it! I have moved abroad twice now and the main lesson I have is that moving abroad just requires planning and organization, but it is really not rocket science. You can make it as complicated or simple as you want it to be. In regards to London, only move there if you like to live in big cities if you are a countryside person you may find it too overwhelming.

 

18. Would you recommend to live in London?

If you can afford it? Absolutely! If it is too expensive for you, but you still want to move to the UK, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bath, and Brighton can be fantastic alternatives. There is so much more to the UK than London!

 

19. What have you learned from living abroad?

living in London

Cherry Blossom in Notting Hill

To be more attentive and respectful of different cultures. Things can very easily get lost in translation so don’t jump to conclusions straight away. Be patient, listen and be observant, body language can mean everything!
I find that living abroad is so much more interesting than living at home. If you are curious about it, just do it! Trust me, you will have ZERO regrets!

20. More about Claire

Claire is a French living in London. Communications professional by day and blogger at Claire Imaginarium by night, she loves food, traveling, London, her husband – Andrew and her cat Buffer. She can spend a ridiculous amount of time in a furniture shop and love to get lost in the aisles of drugstores looking for the best face cream. Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.

thank you for reading living in london

Living in Fremont, California

Fremont is a cool city in California’s famous tri-city area in the San Francisco Bay. Central Park, Lake Elizabeth, Niles Park and many more open spaces along with friendly people create a refreshing feel to this city. The school district is amazing here and the roads are great. In short, Fremont has all you need for a great stay in this city although it is a bit expensive. Is Fremont a great place to live as an expat? What’s it like to live in the United States? Read this article and discover a story of Priya – an expat in Fremont, California. She discusses the moving procedures to Fremont, how to deal with difficulties and culture shock, cost of living in Fremont, California and more.

living in California hiking

Mission Peak Regional Preserve is a public park east of Fremont, California.

1. Moving to Fremont, California

We moved to Fremont about a year ago for my husband’s work. Before that, we were in Milpitas, California. My husband’s job as a software engineer needs him to be on the site for a project. So, we got our H1 and H4 visas to relocate from India and come to live in the United States of America.

2. Reasons to live in Fremont, California

We first moved to Milpitas, but as we felt that we needed more open spaces around us as well as a good school for the kids, we moved to Fremont. This city is amazing in terms of schools as well as family-friendly events. The Fremont main library and Central Park are simply incredible. When the kids need to run about, the parks are abundant to help.

3. Preparing for moving to Fremont, California

I just looked up the weather in Fremont, parks, access to library and schools before moving here. If I was not married, I would have just looked for access to hiking trails alone. Now that we have kids, we consider so many things before moving. Apart from that, we also looked for family-friendly neighborhoods and Fremont has many such good localities.
moving to california

4. Dealing with difficulties while living in Fremont

It was all good for us right from the beginning as we had a park close by to enjoy fresh air with the kids. We also have good neighbors to go to for any advice. Maybe a slight difficulty is what you could say about transportation. You need a car to move about freely as public transport is a bit restricted.

5. Discrimination in Fremont: Yes or No?

I found Fremont to be pleasantly refreshing as most people are genuinely welcoming. There are pockets of the city where people from one country would dominate, at some places all are mixed. But generally, everyone is decent to others.

6. Culture shock in the United States

Everything here is big. I mean, grocery shopping here in the States for the first time was literally a shock to me. Those onions, beans, fruits, everything was supersized to the version we were used to at back home. Even milk is available in gallon cans. We were used to one-liter packs and half liter packs and this was a huge difference to us.

7. Things we like about Fremont

We like Fremont as it has similar weather to what we had back home in India. Only thing I wanted to enjoy here and missed was snow. But never mind that, the serene parks and cool restaurants that are abundant in this city, more than make up for it.

8. Limitations of expat life in Fremont

Not much, except that the transportation options are limited. If you don’t own a car, it is quite difficult to get around. Otherwise, all is well.

9. Favorite things to do in Fremont

I love the parks here. Hiking around Mission Peaks is awesome in all seasons. Spending time at the library is one of my favorite things to do and Fremont main library is extraordinary. My next favorite thing is taking the kids for a stroll in the park and the nearby Central Park with the gorgeous Lake Elizabeth is simply awesome.

10. Best places to visit in the Fremont

Visiting Central Park, Lake Elizabeth, Ardenwood Historic Farm or hiking up the Mission Peak are best things to do in Fremont. Fremont is close to Pacific Highway 101 and there are many stunning beaches and hiking trails along the way. We love going to Montara State Beach, Pescadero State Beach and a hidden beach at Davenport. Everything is within an hour from the city.

living in california

Montara State Beach

11. Cost of living in Fremont

Fremont is considered to be a pretty expensive city in the Bay Area as it has good schools but limited accommodation. A single BHK would cost you around $2500 and a double bedroom flat would be around $3100. Then transportation is on your own as there are no good bus options. You can use BART for a cheap ride to San Francisco. Food is as expensive as you get anywhere in the Bay Area.
cost of living in california

12. Making new friends in Fremont, California

People are pretty open here and you can easily make friends with them. I love meeting new people at the parks when the kids enjoy their outdoors time. Especially love the way parents mingle with others when they are with their little ones in the park or the library.
We usually hang out with both locals or foreigners. We have a good ratio here. Although it is noticeable that everyone goes well together, certain festive activities depend on our culture and at those times we tend to celebrate with people who understand our culture.

 

13.  Favorite place to hang out with friends in Fremont, California

We love enjoying a meal at Sakoon vegetarian restaurant. Our next favorite place is Peacock. Also, Suju’s Coffee is great for a coffee hangout. There are many other hip restaurants, coffee bars and snack bars here to enjoy with friends in Fremont.

14. Expat communities in Fremont?

No. I am yet to discover any such community. I just started looking for it, to be honest, so maybe I will stumble across one soon.

15. A memorable experience in Fremont

The day I got into a conversation with one of my kid’s teachers who was a Fremont local, is really memorable to me. We started talking about children in general and went on to talk about the latest books we were reading all in one go. We had so many similar interests.

16. Advice and tips for moving/ living in Fremont

If possible, book accommodations around the first or second weeks of November to get discounted rates. You may get good deals at that time that would not be there from January as it can get very pricey later on. Also, if you are moving with kids, look for openings in schools as early as you can to get a seat.
I would definitely recommend others to live in Fremont. I love the outdoors here and can’t recommend it enough to everyone.  Because I did not have many expectations before moving to Fremont, everything was new to me. Now that I got used to it, and I can say that Fremont is one of the best places to live in the Bay Area.

 

17. Lessons learned from living abroad

People are the same everywhere. Human nature is the same in all colors, shapes, and sizes. It is you who need to adjust and go with the flow to enjoy life.

About Priya

Priya

Priya is a travel, food and books blogger at Glorious Sunrise. She is a passionate globetrotter who now travels with her husband and two young children all around the world. Traveling is her passion and writing about it keeps her happy and refreshed. In the same way, she is also a bookworm and a veggie food lover. When her hands are not full with the little ones, you can find her with the laptop or already on a trip! Priya is currently living in Fremont and traveling around California regularly. Follow her on Facebook (), Instagram, and Twitter.
living in california

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Living in Glasgow, Scotland as an expat

Do you know what it’s like to live in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, as an expat? In this interview, Katie will share expat life in Glasgow. She will discuss the cost of living in Glasgow, things to do in Glasgow, how to overcome culture shock and more.

 

About Glasgow, Scotland

Despite not being the capital of Scotland, Glasgow is the country’s largest city. Situated on the River Clyde, Glasgow is an old port city, with shipbuilding being the main industry historically. Glasgow went through a significant period of industrial decline post-war before this began gradually improving in the 1980’s. In recent years, Glasgow’s modern and progressive arts and music scene juxtaposed against its old world architecture and heritage have seen the city grow into a vibrant and alluring place.

living in glasgow scotland

The River Clyde

About Katie

My name is Katie and I’m a physiotherapist from Perth, Australia. Coming from the most isolated capital city in the world I’ve always had a sense of wanting to travel and see different parts of the world, whether it be my own country or somewhere much further away. My first taste of overseas was not until I was 20 years old when a high-school friend and I set off to explore Europe on a working holiday. During this six month visit, I spent a tiny three days in Scotland and decided I loved this place and would one day come back to live here. Fast forward 10 years and I found myself living in the suburbs of Perth with a 9-5 job and a dog wondering what had happened to those lustful travel dreams….
expat living in glasgow

I moved to Glasgow in March 2016. I had been living in Inverness the year prior when I’d made the big move from Australia to Scotland. Inverness was lovely but too small and I craved life in a bigger city.

1. Why did you choose to live in Glasgow?

During my year in Inverness, I’d had a couple of weekend city breaks in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Edinburgh remained pretty and charming but Glasgow to me just felt extremely comfortable and liveable. Visits to Glasgow had included seeing bands, eating at interesting restaurants, visits to quirky bars and lots of fun. I knew with all of this on offer that I’d never get bored in Glasgow.

 

2. Procedure for moving to Glasgow

Moving to Glasgow for me was actually super easy, mainly because I had already made the big overseas move and was now just making a smaller inter-city move. I applied for jobs and searched for flats online so when it came time to make the move, I had the luxury of having a job and a place to live already lined up.

3. Overcoming difficulties and culture shock in Scotland

Whilst there are certainly cultural differences between Scotland and Australia, both are western, English speaking countries, which makes amalgamation into a new city that little bit easier than moving to a country whose language is not your first.

A lot of the cultural differences are minor things like food (the Scottish love their haggis, black pudding and anything deep fried). There are also some words and sayings that are unique to Scotland and it can take a bit of time to understand what people are saying, particularly with the thick Glaswegian accent. A friend from work bought me a mug with Scottish words and the English translations for my first Christmas here, I think partly as a joke but it has come in very handy!

 

4. Is there any discrimination while living in Scotland?

I personally have not experienced any discrimination as a foreigner in my whole time here in Glasgow. I am however a Caucasian female and without speaking to me and hearing my Australian accent, you wouldn’t necessarily know that I was a foreigner. In general, though I have found Scottish people very friendly and accepting of people from all different places and I would expect anyone who came here would be made to feel welcome.  Overall attitudes to immigration in Scotland are less negative than in the rest of Britain, backed up by the fact Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU during the Brexit vote.

 

5. Cost of living in Glasgow Scotland

The cost of living in Glasgow is certainly cheaper than some of the other large cities in the UK like Edinburgh and London. This applies to all the main essentials such as accommodation, food, transport, and spending.

a) Accommodation in Glasgow

Accommodation prices vary depending on what you are looking for. The most desirable areas to live would be either the West End or the Southside. West end is the pricier of the two. You could get a decent sized room to rent in a shared flat in either location for around £350-£500 including bills. The price for a one bedroom flat in the area ranges from around £400-£700 and you would then need to pay council tax (around £100pcm) and bills on top of that. There are cheaper places but you tend to get what you pay for in terms of location and quality of the flat. It is common for flats here to be rented out fully furnished which is great and means you don’t need to worry about buying a ton of stuff.

 

b) Public transportation in Glasgow

Glasgow also has excellent public transport links, meaning it is by no means essential to have a car in this city. Wherever you choose to live I would recommend within a 5-10 minute walk of a train station or the subway would make getting around easy. Both go into the city center at regular intervals. The subway ticket is £3.10 for a return and the train price varies depending on location but is usually around £2.80/£2.00 return peak vs off-peak if you are within about 3 miles of the city center. Both travel options offer slight discounts if you travel regularly and buy a season pass.

 

c) Car club in Glasgow

We are also a member of a car club here in Glasgow which means if we do fancy a drive out in the country, we can walk down the street and jump in a car, hiring it for as little as 30 minutes at a time. The car club we are a member of, Co-Wheels, operates as a social enterprise and works to develop more sustainable car use across the UK.

 

d) Groceries

Groceries are fairly reasonable to buy, particularly if you shop at the lower-cost supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi instead of the bigger stores like Tesco. You could get away with spending around £25 a week on groceries if you shopped wisely.

 

e) Eating out in Glasgow

Eating out in Glasgow is also fairly affordable compared to other cities in the UK like Edinburgh and London. There are quite a few restaurants where you can eat out with a main for around £8-12. A pint of beer is anything from around £3-5 and a glass of wine around £4-7. There are websites such as 5pm.co.uk that offer daily deals for lots of restaurants around Glasgow and can be helpful if you want to enjoy a dinner out without breaking the bank. You can often get dinner for two with wine for around £25-30 using these websites.

 

6. What do you like about Glasgow?

There is so much to like about Glasgow! There’s a saying that you’ll see in colorful graffiti paint in a few locations around the city that says People Make Glasgow. And I have to agree. I think much of what I like about Glasgow is best described by that saying. Glaswegians are friendly people. I know that gets said about a lot of cities but to be honest I’ve not experienced the kind of genuine friendliness that you get in Glasgow anywhere else in the world that I’ve been. Hospitality staffs are friendly, not because they want to get your post-brunch tip, but because they are just generally good people who enjoy their work much more by having a little banter with their customers. Having a city where the general population is like this certainly helped to put me at ease and make me feel comfortable and at home straight away.
Apart from my favorite thing about Glasgow, the people, there is much else to love about this city. Glasgow is full of art and culture accessible to everyone. I also love that within not much more than an hour’s drive of the city you can be on one of the beautiful west coast beaches, the misty, enchanting Glencoe Mountains or the bonnie shores of Loch Lomond.

 

7. Is there anything that you don’t like about Glasgow?

The rain! Glasgow is ranked the third wettest city in the UK behind Cardiff and St Davids based on the volume of rainfall, but it actually has the highest number of days with rain with an average of 170 days per year. I had to look that statistic up and am actually mildly surprised. If I’d had to guess how many days of rain Glasgow receives I think I would have put the figure much higher at around 250-300! It does mean however when we get a day of lovely sunshine here we embrace it like nowhere else. You’ll find people going ‘taps aff’ in all sorts of weird and wonderful places when it happens.

8. What are your favorite things to do in Glasgow?

One of my favorite things to do in Glasgow is visiting one of the many lovely parks. Glasgow is known as the Dear Green Place due to it having the highest percentage area of green spaces in a city in the UK. Whilst I love living in the city and being around things that are happening, I also have a real need to experience the outdoors and nature. Two of my favorite parks within a short walk of where I live in the Southside of Glasgow: Pollok Country Park and Queens Park. Queens Park is smaller and perfect for getting my outdoor fix, whether through a gentle stroll or a game of tennis (there are courts free to hire Glasgow residents). You can also wander through the Glass House at the top of the hill, admiring weird and wonderful animals in the reptile park if you need to escape the weather for a while.  My favorite thing to do in Queens Park though is to be spent on one of those rare sunny Glasgow days: a picnic on the grassy hills looking out at the views over Glasgow city and onto the Campsie hills in the distance. Perfection!

Queens Park living in glasgow

View from the top of the hill in Queens Park

 

9. Where do you recommend to visit in Glasgow?

Glasgow has lots of lovely cafes, some of the best are in the Southside near me and they’re so good I rarely find myself venturing away from here for brunch or coffee. Café Strangebrew and The Glad Café are my main go-to’s. Café Strange brew serves up inventive sweet and savory brunch delights alongside coffee from local roasters Dear Green Coffee. The Glad café is open for brunch or coffee and cake throughout the day and stays open as a bar in the evening, playing host to a variety of events in the side room including bands, comedy, and films. Favorite café’s in the West End include Papercup, a tiny but bustling place where students serve up Papercup’s own coffee beans and a selection of tasty and affordable brunch delights. For Fika Sake, also in the West End, is a lovely spot to pop in for coffee and cake. This artisan café serves coffee downstairs an opens their upstairs space for various workshops and social events in the evenings. There are also some great vegan café in Glasgow. Stereo and Mono in the city center are both interesting places to try some tasty vegan food, grab a drink and catch some live music.

 

10. Nightlife in Glasgow, Scotland

Drinking culture is big in Scotland and there’s a plethora of interesting and cozy bar’s in this city to visit. For a night out with friends, I’ll usually head to Finnieston, just west of the city center where both sides of the street are lined with desirable venues. One bar in this area worth special mention is The Ben Nevis, a tiny whiskey bar where dogs are welcome and on Sunday and Monday evenings a group of musicians takes up residence at one end of the bar, performing traditional Scottish music that serves a the perfect drinking accompaniment.

expat living in scotland

Local Musicians Creating Lovely Music at The Ben Nevis

11. Is it easy to make new friends in Glasgow?

Making friends anywhere new can be challenging, particularly as you get older. When you’re at school or university you’re forced to spend time with people day after day and naturally will tend to form friendships with like-minded people. When you no longer attend these institutions, making friends requires a little more effort.
You don’t make friends sitting at home watching Netflix, so to make new friends in Glasgow you need to get out there and do things. Luckily, Glasgow has a host of extra-curricular activities no matter what your tastes and the friendliness of people make it easy to try new things.
A lot of the friends I have made in Glasgow have been through work, but I have also met people by getting involved in other activities, such as attending All The Young Nudes, a drop in life drawing class run at a couple of locations in the city. The class is very informal and you don’t need to be an artist to go but I found drawing in this type of environment a lovely way to unwind and meet new and interesting people.
I also joined a basketball team not long after moving to Glasgow. That instantly gave me a new group of girlfriends. I no longer play due to other commitments but for anyone new to the city looking for friends I’d definitely recommend getting involved in a team sport as a way to get an instant group of pals.

 

12. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I mainly hang out with locals, which is something I really like about living in Glasgow. Whilst I appreciate that when moving to a new city it can be easier to make friends with other expats as they face the same difficulties as you, part of me feels that to really absorb the grits of the city you need to hang out with the locals, at least some of the time. When I first moved here I did sign up for a meetup group for expats but I never ended going to any events and within a short while I didn’t feel I needed to. Whilst it wasn’t for me, I do think its good that these groups do exist in the city as I think it can be really intimidating moving somewhere new and having a pal in a similar situation may be just what you need.

 

13. Where is your favorite place in Glasgow to meet friends?

I mentioned some of my favorite cafes and bars above, but other great places to hang out with friends in Glasgow would be at one of the many live concert venues dotted around the city. Glasgow is a top touring destination for many local and international bands and has a thriving music scene. You could see a band any night of the week at one of the more intimate venues such as The Art School, The Hug, and Pint or King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. Bigger bands play at the iconic The Barrowlands, an old ballroom in the east end of the city center, whilst the SEC Hydro attracts large international acts with a capacity of up to 13000 people.
Another fun thing to do on one of those dreich Glasgow days is to visit some of the cities galleries. I like The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in the city center and Kelvingrove Gallery in the West End for a taste of art, The Riverside Museum in the West End which houses Glasgow’s Transport Museum and Tramway in the Southside for contemporary art including music, film, and theatre.

Kelvingrove Gallery visting Scotland

The beautiful old Kelvingrove Gallery

 

14. Memorable experience in Glasgow Scotland

One of my favorite memories of Glasgow is attending the Strathbungo Window Wanderland in February 2017. Strathbungo is a tiny area in the Southside of Glasgow and last year for the first time, this event was created to transform the area into an outdoor gallery. Residents were invited to participate by creating their own window display, which ranged from decorative artwork to live music and all sorts of weird and wonderful things in-between. We were living in the area at the time and on a cold wintery night in Glasgow, residents from around the area took to the streets to wander around and enjoy the display. I felt the night just really captured all of the things I love about this city, the artistic culture and the friendliness and community spirit of the people.

 

15. Did you change your perspective about Glasgow after living here?

I don’t think my perception of Glasgow changed hugely in the two years that I have been here. I think with Glasgow you get what you see. What I liked about the city before I moved here – the friendliness of the people, the artistic vibe and the general feel of the city – have remained the same and the reason I continue to enjoy this place. I wasn’t expecting anything other than what I have got from this place.

 

16. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Glasgow?

I’d advise anyone moving to Glasgow to embrace the city for what it is and get involved in activities that you enjoy as a way to meet new people. From a practical point of you in terms of sorting yourself out when you first get here, I would suggest using Airbnb or cheap hostels for accommodation when you first arrive and then use sights like spareroom.co.uk or gumtree.co.uk to find yourself a furnished room in an existing flat quite easily. If you are traveling on your own, moving into a share house would be a good way to make some new pals when you are fresh in the city.
As for finding a job, it depends a lot on the industry that you work in. One thing that I found with my own industry of healthcare and I think extends to a lot of professional industries is that the time between applying for work and starting can be somewhat lengthy – up to three months. This would apply to my experience of both public and private work. For this reason, I would suggest that if you are looking for a professional job that you do quite a bit of homework before moving and maybe even start applying for jobs before you move to minimize the time you are sat waiting around to start work.

 

17. Would you recommend others to live in Glasgow?

Yes! I’m sure Glasgow is not for everyone but it is a vibrant and fun place and if you can get past the grey skies and rain you will learn to love the city.

 

18. What have you learned from living abroad?

Living abroad has taught me how important it is to take chances and step out of your comfort zone. There are many challenges that come with leaving the place you know as home and trying to set up a new life in a foreign place. Overcoming these challenges is what helps you to grow as a person. Things won’t always work out exactly the way you had imagined but as long as you learn from each experience it’s all still valuable. There is a saying here in Scotland that goes ‘what is for you won’t go by you’. I find comfort in this saying when I think things aren’t going the way I had planned.

 

More about Katie

Since moving to Glasgow, Katie met her partner – Ian, who also has a love of travel, having completed a world trip in 2010. They are now in the process of planning their our own adventure together where they hope to travel to places neither of them has yet encountered, including much of Eastern Europe, Russia, and parts of Asia. Follow their adventures on their blog Resfebertravelblog, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Read more interviews in this Expat Interview series:

living in scotland

Living in Korea: An Expat Guide to Daegu, Korea

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in Korea as an expat? There was an interview about living in Gwangju, and today Rocio will share her expat life while teaching in Daegu – the fourth largest city in Korea. She will discuss her moving procedure, good and bad things about living in Daegu, places to visit in Daegu, cost of living in Daegu and more!

 

About Daegu

Daegu is located in the center of the South Korean peninsula. Although the city doesn’t get as much attention as Seoul, it is the 3 largest city in South Korea. Daegu is known for its sweltering summers, delicious apples, and beautiful women. Seriously, Koreans believe gorgeous women hail from this region! Living in Daegu is a wonderful experience because of its perfect size – it’s big enough to have plenty of activities to do yet small enough to not cause overwhelm the way Seoul does – and tight-knit expat community. On top of that, its location is perfect as several day trips can be done and the convenient KTX (Korea’s fast rail trains) easily connects it to Seoul, Busan and everywhere else.

Teaching English in Korea

The Arc in Daegu, Korea

1. About Rocio

I’m Rocio Cadena, a Mexican-American writer, and editor by way of Chicago. I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the cold US Midwest when I was 11 years old. Growing up in Mexico I always dreamed of traveling and living a full life. I’ve realized that a rich existence entails exposing myself to different countries, cultures, and people from diverse backgrounds while pursuing my creative aspirations.

2. Moving to Daegu

I moved to Daegu two years to work as an English teacher. My reasons were to focus on my writing – I was working on a book that I published last year – and to save up money for backpacking Southeast Asia. My time is almost coming to a close and I’m so excited to finally travel like I’ve dreamed of doing for so long!

3. Why did you choose to live in Daegu?

I was initially attracted to the hustle and bustle of Seoul but I needed a smaller place to focus. My problem in Chicago was that I didn’t know how to say no to fun [laughs] and instead work on my writing. In Daegu, I found the perfect sized city – not too big to distract me but also not too tiny to bore me. The fact that Daegu is also more affordable than bigger cities was a huge factor. I also had a couple friends that lived in Daegu and they recommended it.

Living in Daegu

View from Daegu’s Apsan Mountain at night

4. How to prepare to move to Daegu?

Well, I came through Korea’s government English program and they set everything up for their teachers. From our apartments to our bank accounts, to our cell phone contracts, they make sure to help us settle in. But I did a lot of research beforehand as well. I read tons of articles online and connected to friends of friends who had taught before. They were gracious enough to answer my million questions.

5. Cost of living in Korea

Korea is a very affordable country to live in but costs vary depending on the city. In Daegu, studio apartments cost between $300-450 depending on the area. Utility bills are very cheap but summer and winter months are high due to air conditioner and heater. Groceries are the one thing that I find expensive – I struggle to stay within my monthly budget of $100. Lastly, transportation is also very affordable. My public transportation card usually lasts a whole month if I put $35 in it.

6. Did you experience any difficulties while living in Daegu?

Teaching in Korea

With some of my 5th-grade students

Oh absolutely. I’ve always prided myself on being a strong and independent woman but moving to Korea left me feeling dependent on my coworker and somewhat clueless due to the language barrier. I found it demoralizing that I couldn’t do something as simple as open a bank account on my own or order food at a restaurant. I really struggled with this in the beginning but it was all a blessing in disguise as slowly I started getting more and more comfortable with asking for help. For a long time, I wanted to improve in this area, to be okay with being vulnerable and moving to Korea proved to be a crash course in teaching me this.

 

7. Discrimination from the locals in Daegu? Yes or No?

Not directly per se. But I happen to appear more Caucasians than other people of color, so I’ve been spared the staring and sometimes uninvited touching that some of them have endured.

8. How’s about culture shock?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it culture shock, it was more a phase of adjusting and feeling quite homesick but at no point was I shocked the way I felt when I first moved to the US.

9. What do you like about Daegu, Korea?

How manageable it is to navigate it. The average time to travel anywhere via public transportation is about 30 minutes which is great given that I meet up with friends a few times a week. I also love the thriving expat community here – it’s easier to stay in touch and hang out with people in Daegu than it is in Busan or Seoul. When the average commute time is more than 40 minutes, it can become a hassle. The third thing I love the most about my city is the neighborhood I live in – Suseong gu. There’s this nearby lake that I go to all the time for a stroll or picnics.

Living in Korea as an expat

Two girls donning ornate hanbok – the traditional Korean dress – at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul

 

10. Is there anything that you don’t like about Daegu?

Daegu is the hottest area of Korea and summers are hellish humid. I suffered a lot my first year but I fared much better the second time around.

11. What are your favorite things to do in Daegu?

I love going to Suseong Lake for walks and picnics. I also often meet up with friends in cafes. Korea has an amazing coffee shop culture and it’s great fun trying out all the different ones they have. There are even dog and animal cafes! I also love eating out because Korean food is delicious and super affordable.

Living in Korea Suseong Lake

Suseong Lake

 

12. How to make new friends in Daegu, Korea?

Oh yes, there are many expat Facebook groups to join. And the city organizes frequent events to connect expats with one another. Going out downtown at night is also a great way to make friends.

 

13. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Mostly foreigners. I’ve found that Koreans are shy and take a long time to warm up and get comfortable but once they do, they’ll probably be longtime friends.

14. Where to hang out with friends in Daegu?

Suseong Lake, cafes, restaurants, at dinner parties in my apartment… I also enjoy doing domestic weekend getaways with them.

15. A memorable experience in Daegu

I went to Daegu’s famous lantern festival in the springtime. The celebration is to honor Buddha’s birthday and WOW, seeing so many glowing lanterns slowly ascending in the sky was a very special moment. I’ll always carry this memory in my heart.

Living in Korea Daegu Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival held in May to celebrate Buddha’s birthday

 

16. Did you change your perspective about Daegu living here?

I guess in the first few months I was hesitant about my city, I kept wondering what it would have been like to live in Seoul. But over time, Daegu has really charmed me and I’m happy I’ve spent two years here.

Living in Korea

Hiking Palgong Mountain near Daegu

 

17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Daegu?

Mentally prepare yourself for the summers [laughs]! Other than that, have fun, you’re going to love your time here.

18. Would you recommend others to live in Daegu?

Absolutely! While I do think recommendations should be based on each person, I would recommend Daegu to most.

19. What have you learned from living abroad?

To always be flexible and adaptable. One good friend said once that being flexible is the only way to be because those that are don’t break, they simply bend, and living abroad has really taught me what this means. While challenges and difficulties will arise, try to embrace these instead of resisting because they are often beautiful life lessons.
So, get out there and travel! Be awed and expand your horizons 🙂

More About Rocio

teaching in Korea
Rocio is the creator of THIS IS ROCIO, a collection of writings about Latinx culture, travel, lifestyle, and interviews. Her career ambition is to become a freelance writer/journalist. After two years of living and writing in South Korea, she will embark on a 6-month long backpacking trip through Southeast Asia in March. Follow her adventures on her Instagram and Facebook.


Read more interviews in this Expat Interview series:

living in Korea as an expat

Moving to Finland: Living in Helsinki, Finland as an expat

Recently, Finland and Helsinki have achieved high rankings in international ratings in education, living standard and safety. While it is indeed a very good place for to live, is it as perfect for expats? What it’s like to live in Helsinki, Finland as an expat? What is the cost of living in Helsinki, or best places to visit in Helsinki? Let’s find out!

 

1. About Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is a capital of Finland and the country’s biggest city. It was founded in 1550 on the shore of the Baltic Sea. There is Helsinki city (with population 650k) and Helsinki Metropolitan area, which includes satellite cities: Espoo and Vantaa.

living in Helsinki as an expat

Helsinki Cathedral


Helsinki is the second smallest (after Brussels) capital of Europe and is the coldest one. It is famous for its closeness to nature and modernity. Also, it attracts tourists with its lakes and islands. There are about 300 islands on the shoreline, many are connected with bridges. There are 8 high-class universities and several technology parts, which brings students and expats.

 

From an extremely intense preparation in Russia into calm and quiet life in Finland. I am Alexander – A Russian expat in Finland, and this is my expat story.

I have been living in Helsinki area for more than five years.  During that time, I came through good, bad and quite weird experiences, which I would like to share.

2. Moving from St. Petersburg to Helsinki

living in Helsinki
In order to move from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, I had to do an insane number of things in a short period. I wish I knew how everything would turn out in advance, so I was prepared.
I was sitting at home, slowly exploring career opportunities in Scandinavia, German, and some other countries, when I got a call. A former colleague told that he recommended me to a company from Finland, and I got the job straight away. That was the start.
It was August 2010 I started working for a Finnish company in Russian office and found out that potentially, I can move to an office in Helsinki. It meant, along with the job and studies, I had to arrange my move in 4 months. I needed to do the following:

  • Arranging the transfer to the office in Helsinki and getting employment residence
  • Applying for a University in Finland and arranging the leave from the one in Russia
  • Getting IELTS

 

3. Tips for studying in Finland

If you plan your studies in Finland, you should know that most of the programs have fees if you come outside EU. For this reason, I applied for a job and studies at the same time. In case you have a job and the residence based on employment – you don’t need to pay for studies.
In Russia, there was no Bachelor/Master system when I was leaving. It was a specialist diploma, which is an equivalent to Master’s degree. I have completed 3.5 years of 5.5, which was an equivalent for Bachelor, recognized by Universities of Finland.

 

4. Cost of living in Helsinki, Finland

I will try to give some examples, to showcase the prices:

a) Accommodation

  • One-room apartment in central Helsinki is around 1000 Eur/month
  • Two-room apartment, outside of central area can cost around 800-900 Eur/month
  • Student apartments for long-term are normally two times cheaper

 

b) Food

  • Average price for lunch at lunchtime is around 9-11 Euros
  • A dinner in a restaurant is around 20-40 Euros
  • Kebabs and pizzas, which are everywhere, cost from 6.5 Eur (there are few spots where it cost 5)
  • A beer at a bar costs 4-7 Euros
  • Employers give tickets for lunch deduction, that saves around 30%
  • If you eat lunch out and have rest of the meals at home – you end up paying 450-600 Eur monthly for food.
  • Food in Universities for students is around 2.5-5 Eur for lunch
living in Helsinki

Helsinki Restaurant day

c) Transportation in Helsinki

  • Single ticket for Helsinki costs 2.8 Eur (with travel card)
  • Single ticket for Bigger Helsinki (Espoo, Vantaa) costs 4.5 Eur (with travel card)
  • Ticket fares can be checked here
  • Taxis are ridiculously expensive, 30 minutes ride is about 45 Euro

 

d) Taxes in Finland

  • Taxes vary heavily depending on the income and other factors (I have 1.5% less tax because my work is outside the city and I pay a lot for transport)
  • Average salary is around 3300, it has around 25% tax

 

5. Overcoming difficulties in Helsinki, Finland

There were no difficulties when I first moved in. The services in Finland worked perfectly. It was very easy to get all documents and settled down. If you secured a job and place to stay, everything should go fine.
What actually was complicated – is arranging work and studies at the same time. This was only possible because courses in Universities in Finland are very flexible. You can choose any number of courses, many of which can be done remotely. Although my schedule was very tight, I could choose work hours and timetable for my university depending on my preference.

 

6. Discrimination in Helsinki from the locals? Yes or No?

I wouldn’t say there is any discrimination. Finns are somewhat cold, but it is important to understand that it has nothing personal.  They prefer communicating among themselves and are often a bit shy with foreigners.

 

7. How to overcome culture shock in Helsinki, Finland?

Culture shock, yes. It was due to general calmness and the lack of communication. When I first came to Finland and saw my flatmate, I told: “Hi, I’m Alex, nice meeting you”. He didn’t pay any attention and just passed by. Later, I was told, that it is normal for Finland and you shouldn’t take it personally, and these types of people just don’t want to be disturbed.
As I figured out later, there are so many people like them. There was a moment when this brought me down. The solution was actually simple – avoiding all people who “don’t want to be disturbed”. Now, the majority of people I talk to in Finland are expats and very little Finns.

 

8. Things I love about Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is a modern city and very close to nature. It is a capital, with a lot of things to do, and you can live in a rural area with fast connections to everything. I see it as a very comfortable place to build a home.
I like the houses in Finland, from cute wooden houses to modern architecture. Most of them are designed with large panoramic windows to gather all the sunlight, which is rare and precious in this northern area. Apartments have access to sauna, and new ones have saunas in every flat.

living in Helsinki

Helsinki Old Vallila district with old wooden houses

9. Things I don’t like about Helsinki

There is a lack of decently priced restaurants. I miss Russia where many restaurants are open 24/7 and there are bars working until the last client leave.  In Finland, at night there are only fast food restaurants and most of them are full of drunk people. Bars normally stop letting people in at 3 am.
Also, taxis are expensive and Uber is forbidden, which I HATE!
Another thing, for me personally, this place is too calm. I ended up visiting St. Petersburg pretty often just to feel myself among friendly people and to spend nights out.

 

10. Best things to do in Helsinki, Finland

I like gathering with friends at some cafeterias or some clubs with live music, going to saunas or e nature. It is always a good idea to rent a cottage at a lake.

Recommendations

  • For saunas: Allas Sea Pool and Kultuuri sauna. Both are located centrally and are next to the sea so you can swim.
  • For nature: Nuuksio National Park and Espoo Archipelago.
  • For cafeterias: Café Regatta, Café Ursula
living in Helsinki

Helsinki nature


These are in my opinion, the best places to go as a tourist as well. In addition to things listed previously, I would recommend Ateljee bar, it has the best view onto the city.

Helsinki nature

Katajanokka island with unique architecture is a nice place to visit!

 

11. Making friends in Finland

I think I have to be honest here. Nordic courtiers have some of the lowest scores when it comes to foreigners making friends with locals. I think it is true.
I still cannot figure out how Finns make friends. When I ask, they tell that it takes a long time. Some foreigners told they have spent months at (for example) a basketball team together, to start speaking informally. In general, I guess I am too lazy to wait that long. However, I did make friends with some Finns, who visit me over years.
Most of the friends I made are from University, Couchsurfing, Language exchange and Expat meetings. They are expats or international students.
For language exchange and making friends, I’d recommend Cafe Ligua.

 

12. Places to hang out with friends

As I told before, I like bars with live music. You can try Molly Malones, Santa Fe and some bars in Kallio district. In summer, it is common to rent a cottage together, somewhere next to a lake or to go for picnics.

living in Helsinki Finland

Helsinki Market Square


Also, when we want to avoid drunk people at night, we go to café Bahgdad. The owners are from Iraq, where you can smoke hookah and drink tea. There is no alcohol.

 

13. Expat community in Helsinki

There is the expat community, to find the meetups I recommend checking this FB group. Also, you meet them at Couchsurfing and Language exchange meetups, international students have their own gatherings. I would say that expat community here is really strong.

 

14. A memorable experience in Helsinki, Finland

I had some guests from Russia. I needed to visit my University for a short time, so I took them with me. When passing through the student district we saw a naked man running, and another naked man chasing him and hitting with a wet towel. My friends were shocked, and I did not even pay attraction. If you are out of the sauna, you are allowed to be naked outside.

 

15. Changing the perspective about Helsinki after a period of time

At first, I liked the calm life here. Felt like it is giving me a good rest after all the rush in my home country. Gradually, this calm life started to annoy me. At the moment, I cannot imagine staying in Helsinki for a month, without leaving somewhere more fun.

 

16. Advice and tips for moving/ living in Helsinki

Getting around with a bicycle is easy, even in winter. I ended up with my driving license expired because it had no need.
The worst weather is in November: Windy, rainy, no sun, and people who endlessly complain about it. You should try to escape the city at around this time and come back when everyone starts getting Christmas mood.

 

17. Would you recommend others to live in Helsinki?

Despite all the calmness, this is a good city to live: Good fresh air, clean water, effective public transportation, and a lot of nature around. If that is what you look for, Helsinki is the place for you. I see many expat families with children in Helsinki area.

 

18. What have you learned from living abroad?

If I compare it to Russia, Helsinki is much more international. And since I don’t communicate with locals much, I got to know lots of things from expats. Overall, I think I got a much better picture of what is going on around the world while talking to expats directly.

 

19. More thoughts on Finland

Finland scored high in many ratings in recent years: The best country to live, the best education system, the 5th happiest country in the world, etc. You can read a full list is here.
Cmon, there is no country that is so good in everything. In my opinion, Finland is a nice place for calm life, but not nearly as perfect as it is pictured, especially, if you are an expat.
Don’t let the ratings fool you and don’t put your expectations too high.

If you’d like to know more about Alexander and his travels, he blogs at Engineer on Tour. You can follow his Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

living in Helsinki

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Expat Interview: Living in Ho Chi Minh city as an expat

Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, is a major city in Vietnam. Whilst it is not the official capital of the country, that would be Ha Noi, it is considered as the capital of the South. Ho Chi Minh has an abundance of history and is rich in culture. It is the perfect location for anyone wanted to take a city break. Also, it’s perfect for anyone wanting to take a long break as it is in close proximity to Vung Tau Beach resort and the lush nature of Da Lat. In this article, Katie will share what it’s like to live in Ho Chi Minh city as an expat. She will discuss her moving procedure, good and bad things about Ho Chi Minh, places to visit in Ho Chi Minh, cost of living in Saigon and more!

living in ho chi minh city vietnam

 

1. About Katie – Our Guide

My name is Katie Sephton and I work as an English Teacher in Ho Chi Minh City. I have always been in education, whether that has been me as the learner or me as the educator. I grew up in a small town in the UK called Wigan. It was in the UK that I graduated from university with a degree in Child and Youth studies and gained experience working in schools. Apart from teaching, I have a strong passion for travel and hope to travel the whole world one day. I am a huge Wanderluster, so I decided to start the travel blog Untold Wanderlust to share my travels and experiences from across the globe.

 

2. What was the procedure for moving to Ho Chi Minh city?

I first moved to Ho Chi Minh city in July 2016 after securing a job offer of teaching in public schools. At first, I intended to only stay for 1 year, but here I am 1 year later with no intentions of leaving anytime soon. I knew from being 18 years old that I wanted to spend a year abroad teaching; as this is the perfect way to fulfill both my passions of teaching and traveling. The only problem was that I had no idea where I wanted to teach.

 

3. Why did you choose to live in Ho Chi Minh city?

In 2015, I and boyfriend embarked on a month-long trip through Vietnam. It was during this trip that I fell in love with Vietnam, its culture, lush nature and vibrant cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. After returning to the UK to finish my final year of university, I just knew that Vietnam was the place I would spend my year of teaching abroad. It made sense really, I wanted to travel Asia and I knew I already loved Vietnam, so why take the risk and go anywhere else?

 

4. How to prepare to move to Ho Chi Minh city?

Honestly, I didn’t prepare at all. Before I came to Ho Chi Minh I spent 4 months traveling through nearby countries in South East Asia. I literally rocked up to Vietnam with nothing but my40-liter backpack stuffed with scruffy shorts, a few t-shirts and a pair of flip-flops.

As for accommodation and work documents, I was very lucky in that the company I started working for provided accommodation and applied for all relevant work permits and residency cards. However, I did move out of the accommodation provided by the company after the first two months. I moved out due to the matter of a mice infestation and lack of cleanliness. Finding a house or an apartment in Ho Chi Minh city is very easy to do. In fact, I have contacted an agent, viewed an apartment, put down a deposit, signed a contract and moved in all in one day.

working teaching in ho chi minh city

Me with some of my grade 3 students

 

5. Cost of living in Ho Chi Minh city

Generally, the cost of living in Ho Chi Minh is very low compared to European countries. Things like groceries, transport, and activities are very cheap.

a) Groceries, transport, and activities in Saigon

For example, a pineapple costs me 15,000,000 VND / $0.60. As for transport, a 40-minute journey on a motorbike taxi costs me 33,000,000 VND/ $1.50.  Activities like going to the cinema are around 150,000,000 VND/ $6.60 for a movie and a large popcorn and drink. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I have never actually cooked a meal since being here as it is just so cheap to eat out. Generally, for a local Vietnamese meal it is between 30,000 – 50,000 VND/ $1.30 – $2.20.

 

b) Accommodation

However, accommodation costs more than I had originally thought. Prices vary massively, depending on the accommodation set up and style. For a small (30sq foot) but modern one-bedroom apartment prices start from around 12,000,000 VND/ $530. To reduce costs, it is possible to find a room in a shared house for around 4,000,000 VND/ $180.

living in ho chi minh city apartments

c) Weekly expenditure

So aside from accommodation, my weekly expenditure is usually around 1,500,000 VND/ $66 per week. This includes eating out twice per day, snacks, fresh fruit, a night out, 1 western meal and a trip to the cinema or bowling.

 

6. What are the difficulties of living in Saigon?

When I first arrived, I didn’t really experience any difficulties. I have been lucky in that I moved here with my boyfriend so I have always had someone to talk to and never feel lonely. As I stated in the previous question, the company I worked for sorted everything out for me so there was nothing for me to worry about.

However, about 6 months down the line I started to dislike my job. Not the actual teaching aspect of it, but the unfair demand of work hours and lack of social life. This was difficult for me as I had a great bond with the kids but I was becoming physically exhausted of putting in 12 hour days, 6 days a week. In the end, I ended up leaving the job and finding a much better one with much better hours and pay. My advice to anyone thinking of coming to teach in Vietnam is to be sure to read your contacts thoroughly and understand your work hours.

 

7. Did you experience any discrimination in Ho Chi Minh city?

The people of Vietnam are some of the kindest and warm-hearted I have ever come across. I have never personally experienced any discrimination. The local people are very friendly and helpful, despite a language barrier. They also love it when I attempt to speak the language. Just a simple ‘hello, how are you?’ in Vietnamese goes a long way with the locals.

However, there is the slight problem of discrimination when it comes to the cost of accommodation and sometimes other services. It is openly known that foreigners will pay more money for the exact same house/ apartment than a local. Sometimes, you may not even be allowed to rent an apartment because you are not Vietnamese. However, I do think this is more to do with the law as opposed to the person letting.

 

8. How to overcome culture shock in Saigon?

The way of life here is so much different than in the UK and Europe. From the street food to going to work on a motorbike, it is all so different. For some people, I understand that eating street food may be a concern, but most of the time you can see the person cook it in front of you and let me tell you, the food is the best in Asia.

streetfood in vietnam - where to eat in saigon

Street food in Saigon – People cook in front of you!

The language is also very different too. The characters of the alphabet are the same as in the English language, so it may appear easy to read but the language is very tonal and if your pitch is off slightly it can throw your whole sentence into gobbledygook. However, learning the language is fun and a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and interact with locals.

 

9. What do you like about Ho Chi Minh city?

I love Ho Chi Minh! It is a vibrant city that is a great place to live.
There are so many things to see and do. There are also tons and tons of food places and street vendors. It is a foodie’s paradise. The thing that I love the most about the city though is the sense of community. Even though I am a foreigner here and don’t speak the language very well, I get the sense of belonging more than I did in my neighborhood in England. For example, when I sit down at one of my local restaurants, I am greeted with a huge smile and my food autonomically put in front of me, without the need to order.
restaurants in saigon living in ho chi minh city

 

10. Is there anything you don’t like about Ho Chi Minh City?

That is a very difficult question to answer because I love almost everything about it. The only downside is sometimes it can take forever to get somewhere when there is a lot of traffic. I mean there is always lots of motorbikes on the road, which I do like the hustle and bustle of, but during rush hour things can sometimes come to a standstill. This can be particularly frustrating when you just want to get home from a long day at work.

nightlife in saigon - traffic jam in ho chi minh

Saigon at night

11. What are your favorite things to do in Saigon?

My favorite thing to do is to drive around on a bike or sit in a nice bar or coffee shop and people watch.

living in ho chi minh city saigon

Just one of the crazy sights of Saigon – A dog in the driver’s seat

I just love to sit and take in the culture and watch the local people go about their daily life and business. There is always something cool or whacky to see. For example, when I first arrived, I was amazed at the full-blown man-made aquarium that some locals set up at the back of their motorbike. And I kid you not, I once saw a man hauling a huge wardrobe on the back of his bike.

12. Where do you recommend to visit in Ho Chi Minh city?

As a tourist to the city, I fully recommend people to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants Museum. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a set of tunnels that the Vietnamese used to hide out in during the war. Whilst on a visit here, you can even see the traps that were set up for the Americans. The War Remnants Museum, whilst harrowing, is very educational and a great way to educate yourself about the effects and devastation of the war. If you have a little more time in the city, take your time to visit the markets, the post office, the Independence Palace and check out Walking Street.

living in Saigon - day trip from ho chi minh city

Heading down into one of the tiny tunnel holes

13. Is it easy to make new friends in Saigon?

It is relatively easy to make new friends as the more you visit a bar or coffee shop the more you will see the same people and instantly become connected. There are also a few expat sites that offer meetups and various classes; which make it easy to find people with similar interests.

where to drink coffee in saigon ho chi minh city

Coffee in Saigon

14. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly in Saigon?

I usually hang out with friends from work, who are mostly foreigners. However, I would love to have local friends but many local people my age always seem to be busy with their studies or families. Family in Vietnam is a huge part of their culture and people often do a lot of activities with their family.

 

15. Where is your favorite place in Saigon to meet friends?

Usually a local bar/ food place. There is a great place near my apartment that sells super cheap beer and delicious food. It is the perfect place to hang out with friends, eat, drink and have a laugh. The atmosphere is great as it is lively but not too noisy so we can still chat and play card games.
(Photo caption: Bui Vien at Christmas time – the tourist drinking street)

 

16. A memorable experience in Ho Chi Minh city

I have so many memories but one that is particularly standing out right now is the time myself and a bunch of mates where walking into town for a night out and we came across some local men singing karaoke and drinking beers on the street. They invited us over, we sat, had a few drinks and sang karaoke with them for hours. In the end, we didn’t even make it out.

It was such a fun night interacting with locals and singing street karaoke. This was my first experience of street karaoke and it has since happened again; this is just the Vietnamese culture and hospitality for you.

 

17. Did you change your perspective of Saigon after living here?

Before moving to Vietnam my perspective was always a good one. The local people are so friendly, the culture is incredible and living here would be so fun. My perspective of that has remained the same until this day.

 

18. What are your advice and tips for living in Ho Chi Minh City?

Be open to the way of life and enjoy every minute of it. My main piece of advice is to learn to drive a motorbike too. This one is rich coming from me, as I have still not learned yet, but believe me, I wish I had learned from the start. Learning early on will help combat your fear and you will be able to do so much more and be more independent. Sure! Grab is a great way to get around but it can get a little annoying having to wait sometimes or when you have to rely on someone else to get you somewhere on time.

living in ho chi minh

Learning how to ride a scooter or motorbike is recommended!

 

19. Would you recommend others to live in Ho Chi Minh City?

Absolutely! Ho Chi Minh has so much to offer in terms of culture and activities. The people are incredibly welcoming and the city is very safe. I would totally recommend it to anyone who is thinking of moving here. Just take the plunge and give it a try. It may surprise you like it did me.

 

20. What have you learned from living abroad?

By living abroad, I have learned to become independent and do all the grown-up things like apartment hunting and sorting out hospital appointments and so on. I have also become much more confident in meeting and interacting with new people. It is so easy to do here, as everyone is so friendly. Furthermore, I have learned a second language. Well, kind of. I’m getting there, but Vietnamese is so darn hard to pronounce. This is still very much a learning curve for me.

 

More about Katie

living in vietnam
I’m Katie, an English teacher that has a love for traveling and exploring the world. My passions are to explore exotic destinations, experience once in a lifetime opportunities & to immerse myself in new cultures. I have lived in Vietnam as an English teacher for almost two years where my hunger for travel continues to grow. When I am not teaching I like to explore my surroundings, take lots of pictures and blog about my experiences.
Follow me on Untoldwanderlust, my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


Read more interviews in this Expat Interview series:

living in ho chi minh city as an expat


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