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What is it like to live in Chicago? In this Expat Interview, Federica shares her expat life in Chicago, United States. She includes her moving procedure from Italy, the cost of living in Chicago, good and bad things about Chicago and more.

 

About Chicago

Often considered the third city, after NY and LA, Chicago has all of the ingredients of a wonderful American city. There are fabulous parks, museums and restaurants, world-class skyscrapers, entertainment, and even a Great Lake with beaches.

Built on a grid system, with Lake Michigan set as the natural border to the east, the Windy City, (to use one of Chicago’s better-known nicknames), is a favorite destination for many. Travelers from all around the world flock to this metropolis to discover the beautiful architecture and the great eateries.

expat moving to Chicago

 

Why did you move to Chicago?

The story of my move to Chicago is also the love story that has changed my life. I was dating Mr. P. on a long distance relationship within Italian boundaries. After a beautiful holiday in Thailand, he called me one day announcing that he received a job promotion. Good news! I thought before even knowing that he should have moved to Chicago. We spent the entire following weekend thinking about our future and we were on the edge of breaking up until I decided to move with him to America.

 

How to prepare for moving to Chicago?

Moving to Chicago was not easy.

I had my job in Italy and even if I was dating Andrea for two years, it would have been our first experience as a full-time couple. I was scared that sharing our daily routine could have destroyed our balance as the couple used to a long distance liaison. Because of this uncertainty, I didn’t want to quit my job.

Luckily, I asked for and obtained from my company a sabbatical year. The other most significant problem was the one related to my Visa. At the time of our moving, Mr. P. had a green card (a permanent permit to live in the US), while I arrived in Chicago with a touristic VISA only valid for no longer than 6 months stay.

Going back and forth with Italy was too risky and the border already blocked me twice letting me understand that I should have applied for a long-term visa. That’s why after 5 weeks in the US, I came back to Italy and I applied for and obtained a student Visa. In the meantime, I searched for schools since my final goal was to spend my American years studying for a master degree.

 

What is the cost of living in Chicago?

a. Taxes

Coming from Rome, the capital of Italy, I found Chicago slightly cheaper than my hometown regarding taxes. However, I am aware that for American standards, Chicago ranks among the most expensive cities in the US with taxes over the 10%.

It was tricky at the beginning to remember that to the showed prices on every kind of goodies I had to add taxes, but after a while, I got used to the system.

cost of living in Chicago

b. Transportation

Before moving to Chicago, I was driving my car daily from and to my office and the commute was really stressful. This is the reason why when I moved I pleased Andrea to search for a place downtown. I decided that I would have never retake the car. And so I did during my Chicagoans years. Of course, the real estate market is more expansive in downtown but I also looked for the safest area to move in and to enjoy my new life as a pedestrian.

 

c. Apartment in Chicago

To what pertains to the real estate market we found that buying a place would have been a good investment for us. Also taking advantage of the exchange rates it was even cheaper than renting and after a monthly search, we bought an apartment in September.

 

d. Entertainment and food

Chicago has excellent offers of entertainment and many festivals are beautiful and free for residents. Like other big cities, also the dining scene is vibrant and with a full spectrum of options, from the street food to some of the best restaurants in the world.

 

How to deal with difficulties when first moving to Chicago?

Chicagoans and Midwestern in general are very friendly and it was truly easy to overcome all the first-time difficulties thanks to their kindness. Even if when I moved, my English wasn’t perfect, everybody, from the porters in my building to the people I was stopping in the middle of streets asking for directions, spent a lot of time understanding my requests and making sure I would have found the answer I was looking for.

Moving to Chicago has been my first international move but not the last. I can easily say that moving abroad is always tricky concerning culture shock. The fact that Americans had to hidden alcohol when bringing it from one place to another was so unusual to me coming from Italy that I was shocked. And like this little thing to many others, in the beginning, I was staring at these differences.

It was also shocking the loud volume of the city. I have never liked the too loud sirens of ambulances and firefighters. As the time passed, I got used to them and I experience a culture shock the first time I came back to Italy after three years!

 

Did you experience any discrimination in Chicago?

In, Chicago has been one of the most welcoming cities among all the places I have been as a tourist and an expat. People are genuinely kind and it is effortless to interact with them. They made everything they could to help me and make me feel at home. I felt there very welcomed as part of their community and I have never faced any problem as a foreigner.

 

How to overcome culture shock while moving to the United States?

When I moved to Chicago, I had tons of small cultural shocks.

One was related to food. Every time I was entering a grocery store I was staring at the giant dimensions of fruits and vegetables and poultry and meat. I was scared of the American use of chemicals and hormones to feed animals. To overcome my fear of eating unhealthy food, I changed my shopping habits and started to transform my life into an organic one.

The second biggest shock regarded friendship. Contrary to Italian people Americans tent to move many times in their lives and to stay less attached to people. Italian people are lead a less nomadic life that brings them to stay connected to the same social group for their entire life!

In the beginning, I was shocked by this considerable flexibility of Americans with connections, but when I understood the social reason behind this way of befriending, I accepted it and lived happily with American pals.

 

What do you like about Chicago?

I love summertime in Chicago when the city flourishes. Sipping a drink on a rooftop bar or heading for a picnic in a park while listening to a beautiful concert is a delightful experience. I love the beautiful beaches on the lake and the daily festive atmosphere in this season of the year.

expat living in Chicago moving to United states

Chicago from the lake

As a mother of two (born in Chicago!), I have to say that it is also a very child-friendly city. Restaurants are big enough to welcome parties of several families with young kids, and there are many activities and classes for children of different ages.

 

Are there bad things about Chicago?

On the negative side, one thing is a true nightmare: the cold winter, which sometimes lasts 9 months. It is brutal and it is tough to cope with. My tip was to leave Chicago for a warm destination every 40 days. The good thing is that Florida is at a 2 hours flight distance and Puerto Rico at 4 hours!

 

What are your favorite things to do in Chicago?

I love going out for dinner with friends and try new restaurants. The dining scene is exciting and new eateries options open very frequently. The concert season of the Symphonic Orchestra presents high-quality programs. When I am alone, I used to escape as much as possible to the Art Institute. For an art lover like me, this is the best escape that Chicago can offer.

 

Where do you recommend to visit in Chicago?

I love the beautiful architecture realized by great firms. Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright are just two of the most famous architects that designed the important building in and around the city.

An experience I highly recommend is to take a boat ride with the Chicago Architecture Foundation and explore the city from the river. Or, if you are not familiar with America, you should go south and visit the historic campus of the University of Chicago. For a full list of recommendations, you can check my posts.

places to visit in Chicago

Chicago from the river is a beautiful way of discovering the city/

 

How to make new friends in Chicago?

a. Being a student

My first network was the one I build around the English school firsts and the graduate program then. Attending schools is the easiest way to make friendships. I also took a watercolor class to meet ladies with whom I could share my artistic interests.

b. Through the Italian community

Another easy way to meet friends was through the Italian community. Andrea is a member of the Accademia della Cucina Italiana, the Academy of the Italian Cuisine, a Cultural Institution of the Italian Republic since 2003.

Founded in 1953 with the aim of safeguarding the traditions of Italian Cuisine, the Academy has branches around the world, and its members meet monthly at a different Italian restaurant. Through this club, I had the opportunity to meet beautiful people with whom I could share my language and my cultural habits while away from my country of origin.

c. Through parent community

The third way that allowed me to reach people happened later in my Chicagoan years when I became a mom. My first daughter music class was where I met other lovely families that became our friends over the course of the years.

 

Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

With a mathematical proportion, I would say a 60% of international people and 40% of locals.

 

Where is your favorite place in Chicago to meet friends?

I love the rooftops of Cindy’s and Cerise when we are large parties and I prefer the Shangai Terrace and NoMI when I go out with just one or two friends. I also enjoy dining out at North Pond. To discover more about my favorite places you can check my guide to restaurants and bar here.

 

Do you interact with any expat communities in Chicago?

As I mentioned, thanks to the Italian cuisine academy I interact with the Italian community of expats and of Italians living in Chicago. Besides the Italian community, I know some other foreign people through my graduate studies and my Italian friends’ studies.

 

A memorable experience in Chicago

I still remember my first fourth of July there. It was a few days after I moved there and I was so excited at the idea of watching a beautiful show of fireworks. But it revealed to be my biggest disappointment.

things to do in Chicago

Our temporary flat was in a skyscraper and from the window on the 83rd floor, everything looked so far away and incredibly small. Instead of seeing spectacular fireworks displays, I was watching a show of little, colorful bubbles, like tiny blinking lights appearing and disappearing in the darkness of the night.

 

Did you change your perspective of Chicago after living here?

I liked Chicago as soon as I arrived but never liked some aspects of being there. I never felt in love with the weather – too cold for me- nor I ever wanted the loud sirens and the acoustic pollution in general! Besides these aspects, I loved living in a city facing a lake as big as a sea!

 

What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Chicago?

If you need to move as a family, make sure that every family member has a proper Visa. To survive the brutal cold, forget fashion and buy a snowsuit.

You might need to wear it over the regular clothes during the coldest day. And buy all the equipment for wintertime there – it’s truly cheap compared to European prices.

 

Would you recommend others to live in Chicago?

Living in Chicago has been a truly enjoyable and enriching experience. I had the chance to discover and integrate with another culture which I consider a fantastic opportunity in terms of personal growth.

People in Chicago are so enthusiastic that their enthusiasm is now part of my way of being. I would recommend moving to Chicago, even if only for few years, to experience Midwest at his best.

expat living in Chicago

View of Chicago from the rooftop bar of the Athletic Hotel

 

What have you learned from living abroad?

I have lived in Chicago for four years before moving to London. For work reasons, Mr. P. has always led a nomadic life and since I became Mrs. P. (but by chance I was born as Miss P.!) I am living across the globe.

Living abroad is the most enriching experience of my life. No matter the country or city where I stay, I always learn something different. People across the world have their own rules and academic system and the more I move the more I get to know on my skin how these systems work.

It is a great opportunity because at the end of every experience I understand what I like and dislike about one system. The more I move, the more I create in my mind Utopia, an ideal place with the very best from each country I have lived.

 

More about Federica

expat living in Chicago

Curious by nature and wanderer at heart, Federica is an Italian Journalist and Digital Media Storyteller. By chance, by desire, and by the love, she is leading a nomadic life since she met, almost ten years ago, Mr. P., the man she eventually married.
Travel after travel, move after move, Federica is now based in London where she manages her travel and lifestyle blog, A stroll around the world. You can follow her adventures also on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

expat living in Chicago United States

What is it like to live on Ulleungdo island in South Korea? How is the transportation? How to prepare for moving to Ulleungdo island? In this Expat InterviewMonique shares her expat life on Ulleungdo, a beautiful island with crystal clear water, rocky and rugged coastline, and great fresh seafood.

 

About Ulleungdo Island

Ulleungdo is an island 120 km off the coast of Korea in the East Sea. It is tiny, about 11km by 12 km, and because it is a volcanic island, there is very little flat land. You can expect beautiful scenery, crystal clear water, rocky and rugged coastline, and great fresh seafood. It takes about 3 hours to get here by ferry, but this little gem is well worth the journey.

Ulleungdo is called Korea’s ‘Mysterious Island’, and that really is an apt name. Sometimes when the fog rolls in over the mountain it really can feel like you are living on the set of Jurassic Park!

best things to do on Ulleungdo Korea

The rugged beauty of the 3 sisters rocks, near Gwaneumdo, Ulleungdo Island.

 

When did you move to Ulleungdo Island?

My husband Chris and I have been teaching English in Korea since February 2017. We were previously situated in Seongju, a tiny farming town in the south of Korea. I guess you could say that we are really attracted to small towns, rural living, more than the bright lights of the city.

Late in 2017, we received an email detailing a really unusual place to work: Ulleungdo. After spending a few minutes furiously googling where it is and what it looks like, we applied for the post. We moved to Ulleungdo in February 2018, and we have a full year’s contract to teach English here. We are the only two foreign teachers on the island, so it is quite an unusual place for expats to find themselves!

 

Why did you choose to live on Ulleungdo Island?

We love Korea. Our jobs provide us with the resources we need to travel both within the country and internationally, which is a dream come true. However, we are both adventurers at heart, and we love to travel off the beaten track. When we heard that there was a possibility of moving to this strange and far-flung island, we both separately got butterflies in our stomachs.

This is always a good sign when thinking about relocating as a married couple. If you both can get excited about the idea separately, then you know that you are both equally into the move!

Ulleungdo is an adventure. It doesn’t have the amenities of a big city, and there’s really only one place to get a hamburger! But for us, it is important to move to places that stretch us and help us grow into better people and better travelers. Ulleungdo certainly does that.

 

How to prepare for moving to Ulleungdo Island?

Moving here is quite difficult, especially if you do not speak Korean well. We had to get help to find a local moving company (called a Taekbae or 택배 in Korean) that was willing to move our belongings to the island.

Ulleungdo is only accessible via ferry, so be careful when you need to move here. International companies are great because they speak English, but they are far more expensive and really not worth it.

Even getting ourselves to the island was difficult. We ended up spending an extra night in the city of Pohang, as our ferry was canceled due to bad weather. In the end, it worked out beautifully, as our belongings took the same ferry as us, and we could comfortably move into our apartment the day we arrived.

best things to do on Ulleungdo Island South Korea

Our little town of Dodong looks directly onto the harbor.

 

What is the cost of living on Ulleungdo Island?

Ulleungdo is not the cheapest destination in Korea. Here is the cost of living on Ulleungdo Island.

Groceries

We have found that groceries can be more expensive, and more sporadically available, as everything depends on the next ferry. That being said, you can order food and other household items online and even with delivery, this is a cheaper option.

Be prepared because you can’t get everything you want on the island, there are no big stores or supermarkets here. Be prepared to travel between the little towns to find what you need, and give yourself plenty of time because you’ll have to order some things online.

 

Eating out

Eating out is about the same as you’d expect anywhere in Korea. You can get a burger meal for around $3-$5, and eating out generally is around $15 to $20 dollars per person.

If you want to eat the fancier things, such as fresh raw fish, or the island’s specialty of Hanu Beef, you are looking at a more expensive night out!

cost of living

 

Accommodation

Accommodation is expensive on the island, as space is at a premium. We receive accommodation as part of our teaching contract, so I am not sure of exact prices, however, our flat in Seongju had 2 bedrooms and a living space, whilst here we live in a single room apartment.

There simply aren’t big living spaces available here, so you need to be okay with having very little space to yourself.

 

Transportation

Transport is very cheap here. There is a bus that runs the entirety of the island, and it costs less than $1 for a short trip and just over $1 for the longest trip which is an hour!

You can get a TMoney card and load it with cash so that you don’t have to worry about having the correct change. There are also taxis available and you can bring a car onto the island on certain ferries if that’s more your thing.

In general, though, the taxis are quite expensive and everybody just takes the bus.

 

How to overcome difficulties when moving to Ulleungdo island in South Korea?

Ulleungdo was not an easy place to settle into. The best example is the fact that, although we had informed our employers that we were not bringing a bed, (they provide basic furniture as part of our contract), when we arrived they still hadn’t sourced one for us.

We had luckily invested in an air mattress, and it arrived just in time on our first day so that we didn’t have to sleep on the floor. However, our employers didn’t know where to find blankets or pillows, as many shops were still closed for the Winter!

So our first night was spent on an air mattress covered in every piece of warm clothing we had. It was miserable. Luckily we soon found a bed and some blankets and were much happier on our second night.

My advice to any new expats is to check when you are arriving. Between October and April, many shops close as there are heavy snow and few tourists. So you might want to plan to bring extra blankets or necessities as there is no guarantee that you can find them as quickly as you need them. Be patient, try to be understanding, and realize that there is very little English spoken on the island, so studying up on Korean will help.

 

Did you experience any discrimination from locals in South Korea?

We were warned that island people may be grumpy-looking and come across as rude, but that simply is not the case. We are definitely minor celebrities here as the only two foreigners on the island.

Of course, there are difficult people wherever you go, but Ulleung locals are for the most part warm, welcoming, and understanding. We have felt much less isolated because of the friendliness here.

Also, if you are here as a teacher, know that the Korean teachers are not from Ulleung either, so they are more than willing to chat as best they can and help you to feel comfortable. Everyone at the schools has their own stories of the difficulties they face on the island, so you will not feel alone.

 

How to overcome culture shock in South Korea?

Because we moved here after having been in Korea for a full year, we did not face culture shock. However, I did feel some isolation and shock at just how far out we are here.

It was a big adjustment to make, especially in terms of shopping and daily activities. It just takes time, though, and once you know your way around, finding what you need becomes a little more fun, like a treasure hunt.

 

What do you like about Ulleungdo island?

Ulleungdo is one of the most stunning places I have ever seen. I work at 5 different little schools dotted around the island which is really fun.

Even the bus ride to my schools is beautiful. The road runs around the very edge of the island, so you have waves crashing on one side and these massive rocks erupting on the other.

It is an amazing place to explore nature: hiking to the peak of the volcano, snorkeling in the clear deep waters, even exploring the tiny little islands around ours. If you are a nature lover like us, you will adore Ulleungdo.

best places to visit on Ulleungdo Island South Korea

This is the view from the bus in Ulleungdo, sandwiched between sea and mountain.

 

Are there any bad things about Ulleungdo island that you don’t like?

There are certain things that are inconvenient about living here in the middle of nowhere. Planning a trip to the mainland or internationally requires extra days so that you don’t miss your flight just because the weather comes in and the ferry stops running.

I have also come to learn to love the steep hills I walk up to get to my schools, it is really good exercise and the views are amazing.

When the weather comes in and it is difficult to be out, then I do struggle with my small apartment. It can sometimes be depressing to be stuck in a small space.

 

What are your favorite things to do on Ulleungdo island?

In the town of Dodong where I live, my favorite thing to do is to take a walk on the seaside promenade. It is a long narrow pathway that is built right into the side of the mountain next to the sea, and it is absolutely stunning. On warm evenings I love to stop off at one of the tiny restaurants along the walk and have a beer while listening to the ocean.

 

Where do you recommend to visit on Ulleungdo island?

There is so much to see here! Definitely take in the sea walkway in Dodong, and also take the cable car up to the Dokdo viewing platform. From here you get a great view of the island. In the nearby town of Taeha, take the monorail up into the mountains to get a real bird’s eye view of the island.

best places to visit on Ulleungdo Island South Korea

The sea walkway is a photographer’s dream. Plenty of selfie spots await you.

I would also recommend taking the bus out to Gwaneumdo. This is a neighboring island that you can reach by the suspension bridge, it is truly unique and gorgeous.

Lastly, take a bus up to Nari Basin, the caldera of the volcano that formed the island. Here you can see the only flat land on the island, take in a hike through the forest, or grab a great coffee and some bibimbap with locally grown vegetables.

 

How to meet new people on Ulleungdo island in South Korea?

It is not super easy to make friends here, and I am so glad I came here with my husband and not alone. If you work at schools you will make friends with the teachers, however, if your Korean is not good it can be difficult to chat to them and build relationships.

 

Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Well, we are the only 2 foreigners, so we hang out together quite a lot! Seriously though, you are going to spend a lot of time with locals, mostly they are super friendly and welcoming, but be prepared for tons of questions about who you are and why you are there.

 

Where is your favorite place on Ulleungdo island to meet friends?

My favorite coffee place is Ribread, a tiny shop in Dodong that is styled to look like Santorini. This is a great place to hang out and has the best coffee on the island.

There are also many good restaurants on the island, depending on what kind of food you like you can always find something delicious!

coffee shop in South Korea

Ribread, the best coffee shop on the island.

 

A memorable experience at Ulleungdo island

One of the best memories I have on the island is of the first time we explored Nari Basin. It is at the very top of the island, and the weather changes very quickly up there. One moment we were taking a nice stroll through the forest, and the next moment we were surrounded by a thick fog!

It was a little bit creepy, but I must say, although we didn’t get to enjoy the stunning views, we did feel like we were in a movie. It really is incredible how quickly the weather can change on the island, always carry your umbrella!

best places to visit in South Korea

The view into Nari Basin on a clear day.

 

Did you change your perspective about Ulleungdo island after living here?

Yes, I have definitely become more at home here and realized that although we don’t have shopping malls, there is still lots to buy, eat, and see on the island. I also didn’t realize just how busy it would get during the tourist season, so I’m looking forward to Autumn when fewer people will be around.

 

What are your advice and tips for moving/ living on Ulleungdo island?

Definitely think very hard about whether you have the right personality for Ulleungdo. You will be some of the only foreigners on the island, and things happen really slowly out here, which could be frustrating if you are a ‘get things done’ kind of person.

Prepare your favorite cosmetics and toiletry items beforehand, because you will need to order all of that online and the Korean system is a bit complex. Get help from your Korean friends to move onto the island, otherwise, you stand a big risk of getting ripped off.

Prepare yourself for a tiny apartment, and make sure you are ready to spend long spaces of time on the island, as the ferry can be canceled for days in a row.

 

Would you recommend others to live on Ulleungdo island?

Ulleungdo is not for everyone. I would recommend that you live in Korea for at least a year before considering moving out here, as it is important to have some knowledge of the Korean language and culture.

Also be aware that it is definitely not a party island, so if you are looking for a city with a nightlife, then Jeju Island is far better suited to you!

 

What have you learned from living abroad?

Living abroad has been the best and most challenging time of my life. I have learned to be more flexible and patient and to keep my sense of humor when things inevitably go wrong. I have also learned to both pushes myself to be more outgoing and to be okay with my own company as the situation dictates.

Living in Korea especially has helped me to be more open-minded and to take every day as it comes. Korea has a culture of popping things on you at the last moment, which is super frustrating but ultimately a great life lesson in tolerance and adaptability.

 

More about living in South Korea

Chances are good that you won’t find yourself living on Ulleungdo, but please consider visiting if you are in Korea. It is the most gorgeous island, with intense natural beauty and wonderful people. Plus there is a squid festival every August, don’t miss out! Some of the most wonderful places are the hardest to get to, and I think that is especially true of our little paradise here.

 

About Monique

expat living on Ulleungdo Island South Korea

Standing in front of one of the many cute murals dotted across the island.

Monique is one half of the South African blogging duo at MC Adventure Blog. After completing her Masters in Drama Therapy, she and her husband decided that some adventures were needed. They packed up and moved to Korea to be English teachers in 2017. Monique loves learning about new cultures and is especially interested in theatre, psychology, and music. MC Adventure Blog focuses on sustainable, ethical travel, as well as traveler mental health. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

What is it like to live in Hawaii as an expat? In this Expat Interview, Katie shares her expat life in Hawaii. She discusses her moving procedure, good and bad things about Hawaii, where to visit in Hawaii, the cost of living in Hawaii and more.

 

About Hawaii

If you look on a map, the Hawaiian Islands appear so small and insignificant but, if you experience them, they will certainly occupy a big space in your heart. You see, Hawaii is more than just a state. It’s more than just a place. It’s something that becomes part of you. Hawaii is a paradise type place that is easy to fall in love with and very hard to leave.

Technically speaking, it is a state of America, though it is culturally a world apart. I immigrated to America and called Hawaii, particularly the island of O’ahu, home for three years and I am here to share it with you today.

expat living in Hawaii vacation

 

What was your procedure for moving to Hawaii?

It was a very long and stressful process to move to Hawaii from a different country. My visa petition took 10 months, cost 10,000AUD and involved interviews, medical exams, and endless paperwork.

Once I got the green light by the immigration department, I had two weeks to notice to move so I just packed two suitcases and got on a flight – that was the easy part.

I moved to Kailua on the island of O’ahu and lived by the beach where I could listen to the waves as I fell asleep each night – it was a dream. I then began the process to petition to legally stay, which took another 8 months.

 

Why did you choose to live in Hawaii?

Why not? I had visited Hawaii before and it is paradise! As far as where I lived in Hawaii, there was not a lot of thought put into it.

living in Hawaii travel to Hawaii

The two weeks notice I had to move went by like a blur and I was working full time for those full two weeks – the day I moved I worked a regular day then got on the plane at night. So it just kind of happened that I ended up living in Kailua but it worked out perfectly because it was relaxed, beachy and there were lots of stores and things to see and do in the area.

Since I was learning to drive on the other side of the road by myself at first, it was convenient to have a lot close by until I started being confident driving on the highways.

 

How did you prepare for moving to Hawaii?

I followed the immigration process as I mentioned and, apart from that, I had researched places where I could volunteer my time and planned some of the things I wanted to see and do while I was there.

 

What is the cost of living in Hawaii?

Hawaii is quite an expensive place to live, so if you were planning to move you would need to be prepared for that.

Accommodation one of the big costs – I had a studio apartment in Honolulu at one point which cost $2000USD a month in rent & it was only one room! Car expenses and food are also quite expensive.

Though it is expensive, if you like the outdoors then it can work out well because you can adventure outdoors all day, swimming or hiking, for free. You never have to drive very far to get to find adventure and you can also carpool with your buddies to save money on fuel. For food, there are a lot of farmers markets which can be a big help to save money as well.

things to do in Hawaii

 

What are the difficulties of living in Hawaii?

My difficulties were mostly adjusting to life in America – learning the new words, processes for everyday life and teaching myself to drive on the other side of the road.

The only way to deal with it was to keep learning and make a lot of mistakes. I asked a lot of questions and just kept learning about life in this new place each day.

 

Did you experience any discrimination in Hawaii from locals because you’re a foreigner?

No. I had some discrimination at one of the places I worked but I’m not sure being foreign was the cause – maybe just because I was the new person for the job.

I know other people have experienced tensions in Hawaii after moving there, but while out and about I was very lucky to have always had great interactions with the local people who made me feel welcome. It sounds cheesy to say, and maybe especially to people who haven’t lived there, but I certainly felt the Aloha spirit.

 

How to overcome culture shock?

Of course, moving to a new country and a new culture comes with a bit of shock but it was not too intense. I simply made an effort to enjoy the things that were different in a good way and understand the things that were different but not so good.

Also, I think the biggest tip is not to compare the new place you live to wherever you are from – just let it be what it is and appreciate it for that. I found a tribe of friends and tried to experience and enjoy everything that Hawaii had to offer.

 

What do you like about Hawaii?

There is so much that I love about Hawaii. I love the ocean so being able to swim in the beautiful water year-round was an absolute treat. I loved how easy it was to get out and adventure, either on land or in the water.

expat living in Hawaii vacation

The landscapes were stunning, I love the laid-back lifestyle, the shave ice, acai bowls and Huli-Huli chicken. Most of all I loved the lifestyle and the people. The way they view and love the land, their connectedness to the island, is beautiful and contagious.

 

Are there any bad things about Hawaii that you don’t like?

I feel as though I saw it decline during my three years there with litter, erosion, and places getting more crowded and I think the Instagram culture had a lot to do with it. It’s my fear for Hawaii that this trend will continue.

 

What are your favorite things to do in Hawaii?

I love to wake up early, watch the sunrise and go for a swim or hike, then go to a nice cafe for a coffee and snack, and maybe go for another swim. The outdoors was my favorite and these were the perfect days.

hiking in hawaii expat living in Hawaii

 

Where do you recommend to visit in Hawaii?

For O’ahu, my biggest recommendation is to get outside of Waikiki and see more of the island. There’s just so much more to offer than Waikiki and each area has its own unique vibe.

I think renting a car and cruising the North Shore is a must do – stopping to eat some of the famous shrimp from a food truck along the way of course. Also, you can’t go to Hawaii without a visit to the famous Lanikai Beach!

 

Is it easy to make new friends in Hawaii?

I found it easy to make friends through volunteering, working and I also made a lot of friends from connecting with people on Instagram. I think the more you put yourself out there with things you love, the easier it is to meet other like-minded people.

 

Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I think I was the only foreign one in my friend’s groups. I mostly spent time with locals or people who had moved there from another state in America.

 

Where is your favorite place in Hawaii to meet friends?

My friends and I were always outside, either hanging out in the ocean or hiking somewhere. Living in Hawaii is so expensive but luckily a lot of the fun stuff we enjoyed was free so it worked out well.

best things to do in Hawaii vacation

We were also usually hungry from all the activity and loved to stop in at small coffee shops, Green World Farms was my favorite or local food trucks.

 

A memorable experience in Hawaii

I remember when I first moved there it was just before Christmas and I was at a furniture store trying to buy myself a bed. The older, local lady asked me my plans for the holidays and I had said that I didn’t know yet, probably just go to the beach since I had just moved there and didn’t know anyone.

‘Nobody should be alone for the holidays’ she said as she gave me her phone number and invited me to spend Christmas with her family. I’ll never forget how kind she was to a stranger with a weird accent like me.

 

Did you change your perspective about Hawaii after living here for a while?

It got more beautiful and I fell in love with it more and more each day. The biggest change in perspective was that over time I saw how nature changed and was being affected by people as I mentioned earlier.

 

What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Hawaii?

Be respectful of the people, be respectful of nature and enjoy it. Hawaii has a lot to offer if you open yourself up to experiencing it.

best things to do in Hawaii

Also, check where you plan to live and work in relation to the peak traffic times and directions. The traffic can be intense, like most places traffic jams occur going into the city in the mornings and outbound in the evenings, so if you can live and work somewhere that you can avoid it, or work your schedule around those times, that would make life a little easier.

 

Would you recommend others to live in Hawaii?

Of course, if you can afford it since usually the cost of living is one of the most difficult elements of living in Hawaii.

 

What have you learned from living abroad?

I’ve since moved to a different country again since living in Hawaii and all of my expat and travel experience has taught me that while we may be from different parts of the world, we are all much more similar than we are different.

Still, it’s good to experience the culture, learn as much as you can and understand the differences because when you make an effort to learn about others, that’s where the best connections are made.

 

About Katie

expat living working in Hawaii

Katie is a former fat-girl & self-proclaimed loser turned dream chasing travel blogger who shares extraordinary travel experiences for ordinary people – like her! She has a passion for all things travel, photography, nature and generally anything outside of the ever-dangerous comfort zone. When she isn’t traveling, you can find her cuddled up with her two dogs and a warm cup of tea, blogging away on her website The Katie Show Blog. Don’t forget to follow Katie on her Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

What is it like to live in Sendai? In this Expat Interview, Viola shares her experience of moving to Japan with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET program). From the cost of living in Sendai to being a foreigner in Japan, you will understand the expat life in Japan.

 

About Sendai

Sendai is the capital and the largest city in Miyagi prefecture of Japan. It is known for many things such as its colorful Tanabata festival, traditional “sparrow” dance, and signature foods like grilled beef tongue and sweet edamame desserts.

There are also beautiful nature sights all around the region, which earned Sendai the nickname “city of trees”. Even though it is located just 1.5 hours away from Tokyo by bullet train, Sendai is often overlooked by international travelers.

I have been living in this city for the last two years and my love for it has not diminished one bit since day one. There are tons of things to do here and a great expat community. While popular cities like Tokyo and Osaka are wonderful, Sendai will always have a special place in my heart.

living in Sendai Japan

Cherry blossom season in Tsutsujigaoka park

 

Moving to Sendai

I came to Sendai in 2016 as an assistant language teacher. I have always wanted to experience living in Japan, so I finally made the move by applying to a program called “Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET)”.

I had to write an essay about why I wanted to go to Japan, get reference letters, go through an interview, so it was a lot of work. But I was ecstatic when I was finally chosen! The whole process took about 9 months from application to getting on the flight.

 

Why did you choose to live in Sendai?

It was actually a placement rather than a choice. We were asked by the program for 3 preferred cities. However, I didn’t get any of my preferences and ended up with Sendai. At first, I had no idea what to expect as I even never heard of the city before. But after moving here, I quickly fell in love.

moving to Sendai Japan

December Pageant of Starlight Festival

 

How to prepare for moving to Sendai?

There was a lot to do before moving. Thankfully, The JET Programme was very organized in helping the participants prepare. We had to apply for visas, pack, study conversing in Japanese, learn about the culture and etiquettes, attend workshops on English teaching, etc. It was a very nerve-racking yet exciting time!

 

Cost of living in Sendai

Sendai is relatively affordable. I live in a good area in the city and my rent is a bit over $500 USD per month. The average rent is about 500-700. I definitely got lucky to be on the lower end. Transportation is, unfortunately, a bit expensive. The subway base fare starts at 200 yen (over $2 USD) for just one stop!

Thankfully, commute cost to and from work every day is covered by the employer. And there are ways to save such as a metro card that earns points. Japan has a reputation for being pricey food wise but I really don’t think it’s that bad. I spend about $200 USD on groceries per month when I live alone.

 

Difficulties of living in Japan

The biggest challenge was definitely the language barrier. I was a beginner in Japanese and it was hard to do many things. I am a lot better these days but there are still tons of things that I don’t understand.

The cultural differences were also interesting to observe. The Japanese are very polite, sometimes leading to indirect and convoluted ways of dealing with issues due to fears of offending people. Overall, it just takes an open mind and patience to learn about Japanese culture.

 

Discrimination in Japan

Japan is a pretty homogeneous society and foreigners are sometimes met with wide-eyed fascination. Waiters may nervously pass you a menu in English and smile awkwardly. But people are generally respectful and kind.

I have personally never felt any type of discrimination or hostility. Western culture is seen as cool to the younger generation so you may sometimes get looks of admiration if you are visibly foreign or speak English.

 

What do you like about Sendai?

Sendai is a big city with a small town feel. While it has all the convenience and fun stuff that you would ever want, it is safe from the crowds and bustles of tourist hot spots like Tokyo.

Also, it has its own airport, so I can travel easily to other cities in Japan and rest of Asia. That is probably the best part!

things to do in Japan

Osaki Hachimangu Shrine

 

Are there any bad things about Sendai Japan?

As the city is north, the winters are cold! The indoor heating system in Japan is almost non-existential so December to about March is a challenging time. That is probably my least favorite part of living here but I got to admit the winter sceneries are magical.

 

What are your favorite things to do in Sendai?

There are so many awesome things to do in Sendai! My favorites are going to hot springs, shopping, checking out festivals and eating out with friends. The foods are so delicious here!

 

Where do you recommend to visit in the Sendai?

Sendai has several attractions depending on your interest. You can learn about its traditional side by visiting Osaki Hachimangu Shrine or hike to the Aoba Castle ruins. For nature lovers, check out Nanakita Park or simply walked down the beautiful Jozenji Dori shaded in tall trees.

 

How can you meet new people in Sendai?

You can make friends in many ways. I met many friends through the JET programme. There are about 60 JET participants teaching English in Sendai. We are from all over the world.

I have also made local friends by connecting with coworkers in the school that I teach at, as well as by joining a traditional dance team in the community.

expat living in Japan festival

Suzume Odori “sparrow dance” of Sendai

 

Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I hang out with both. But perhaps I spend more time with my foreigner friends. It’s just easier to talk with other expats who share my language, culture, and similar experience of living in a foreign country. However, I do make a lot of efforts to connect with locals as well.

 

Where is your favorite place in Sendai to meet friends?

I love to hang out in restaurants just because I’m a big foodie! Sendai has endless restaurant choices. Sushi, Japanese hot pot, udon, ramen, foreign cuisine, you name it.

Japanese food

Grilled beef tongue (Sendai’s famous food)

 

Do you interact with any expat communities in Sendai Japan?

As mentioned, I hang out with the expat communities often. The foreign English teachers often have organized outings like taking a day trip somewhere, playing volleyball, or having holiday potlucks. It’s always a fun time.

 

A memorable experience in Sendai, Japan

I honestly have not a single bad memory of Sendai, only good ones. One of my favorite memories was dancing at the Aoba Festival. This famous spring festival in the city features the traditional “sparrow dance”.

I joined a community dance team the year before and we practiced the routine for many months. It was really fun to perform in the parade. You can really feel a sense of community and togetherness during that weekend of celebration. Amongst the music and dancing, the whole city just comes alive!

 

Did you change your perspective about Sendai after living here?

I can say my perspective about the city has pretty much been the same. Before I moved to Japan, I imagined and hoped that Sendai is a welcoming and lovely place. I was happy that all my expectations had been met and even exceeded. I will continue to discover this city’s beauty and make the most out of the expat life experience.

 

What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Sendai?

Study Japanese! Sendai is not as internationalized as Tokyo (again), so you won’t encounter as many people who are confident in communicating in English. So don’t expect them to adapt to you. YOU have to be the one adapting. Having the language skills will make your life much easier.

 

Would you recommend others to live in Sendai?

Absolutely. I can’t recommend this hidden gem enough. Convenience, lower housing cost, delicious food, friendly people…Sendai is a great place for expats to live.

 

What have you learned from living abroad?

The biggest take away I have from my experience living abroad is the realization that we can be so adaptable to our surroundings. When you are determined, there are no challenges that you can’t overcome.

Living in a foreign country will throw many hustles your way, but conquering these hustles is extremely empowering. I have truly grown a lot in the last two years thanks to coming to Japan. I believe that living abroad is something everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

 

About Viola

Viola is a Canadian girl who is obsessed with seeing the world. She loves hunting for unusual destinations and best sunset spots with her camera. Viola currently documents her adventures living in Japan and travels throughout Asia. Read her easy to digest itineraries, foodie guides, packing advice and more on her blog.

In this Expat Interview, Carlo will show you what it’s like to live in Macau as an expat. You can understand the city better through the eyes of an expat, and get to know important information such as living cost in Macau, good and bad things about Macau, and how to prepare to move to here, etc.. All tips and advice about Expat life in Macau are here for you.

 

Macau – The Las Vegas of Asia

Macau is called the “Las Vegas of Asia” and the gambling capital in Asia.  It is situated south of China and west of Hong Kong.  Macau is a tiny city but it has a lot to offer.  It is home to some of the biggest resort hotels and the largest casinos in the world.  It is a metropolitan city but it is also rich with historical places having been colonized by Portugal for a couple of years.  This multi-faceted city has welcomed millions of tourists every year and is continually proving travelers with once in a lifetime experience.

Let’s get to know about Carlo – our interviewee today :)

Carlo’s Background

Hi, my name is Carlo Madrid and I am currently working in Macau as a hotelier.  Prior to this job, I didn’t have an experience in Hotel and Restaurant Management.  I graduated from a university in the Philippines with a Bachelor of Political Science Major in International Relations.  If you have asked me 12 years ago if I can see myself working in a hotel, my answer would be a big no.  But, here I am now, a hotelier for more than ten years. 

 

1. What was your moving procedure?

I graduated from college in 2006 and right after graduation I found a job as Customer Service Representative at one of the pioneer call center businesses in the Philippines.  I worked at that call center for almost 16 months mostly on a graveyard shift. 

It wasn’t an easy job and I was already feeling stressed out and already looking for some other jobs when I heard about Macau.  I know that there is a place called Macau, but I didn’t know where it was on the map.  It was my aunt who told me to try looking for a job, so I tendered my resignation abruptly and took the plane to the city I would later call my second home.

Living in Macau

 

2. Why did you choose to live in Macau?

It wasn’t really a choice, I just wanted to move out and abandon my previous job and Macau just came at the right moment.  I had almost zero knowledge about the city so it was sure a risky move.

 

3. How did you prepare to move to Macau?

To be honest, there wasn’t much of a preparation.  I’ve just read a couple of articles about Macau, the jobs, the life, and the culture.  I was still young during the move and I wasn’t really prepared to be an expat.  It helped that I have a relative who supported my transition.

 

4. Did you experience any discrimination in Macau?

Discrimination will always be there whether at work, restaurants, or any other establishment.  You just have to learn how to stand up and not to let yourself be bullied.  I am lucky that I have Chinese friends who treat me like everybody else. 

But for promotion for work?  That’s entirely a different matter.  The government does prioritize locals, so promotions are hard to come by.

 

5. How to overcome culture shock in Macau?

I think it is not a matter of overcoming it but embracing it.  I decided to be an expat, so I prepared myself that it would be different from what I grew up with.

 

6. How to deal with difficulties of living in Macau?

There are lots of difficulties during the adjustment period.  First, the language barrier.  Macau speaks predominantly Chinese and ten years ago, English was just beginning to be spoken by locals.  It was hard to communicate so I learned to master the “sign language” and studied basic Cantonese to be able to adapt. 

Second, the food and culture.  Macao has a very different culture compared to the Philippines so I needed to adjust and learn how to respect it which helped my understanding of other’s traditions and norms.  Third, though I was lucky to have had found the job after only a week of searching, it wasn’t the job I really wanted to do.  A means of helping my family motivated me to do it. 

 

About the city

7. What do you like about Macau?

I love Macau because life here is simple:  No traffic, less pollution, no intermittent internet connection, and most importantly, it is only a two-hour plane ride away from my home country, the Philippines.  I also love Macao, because it has accepted me and many other expatriates who are working to provide a better life for our families back home. 

Because of our jobs in Macao, some of us were able to send our brothers, sisters, and children to school.  Some of us were able to build a house and invest in properties.  All of us has been provided with means to have food on our table every day. 

Because of that, I’ll forever be grateful to this city that I love.  It is a bonus that Hong Kong is just a ferry away.  A fast getaway to this neighboring city has never been easier.

8. Is there anything that you don’t like about Macau?

Humidity, I guess.  If it’s summer it is not only hot but also very humid.  Other than that, can’t think of any.  Like what I said, life here is simple.

 

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

Before, my daily routine was work-sleep-work, but I realized that there was so much to explore the city I once didn’t know. 

Finding the hidden gems of Macau is my favorite thing to do.  Exploring every corner of it is what has occupied my free time for the past years so as finding to new places to eat.

Beautiful Macau mountain. Living in Macau as an expat

Beautiful nature in Macau

 

10. Where would you recommend to visit in Macau?

Macau is not all about casinos and big hotels.  It is historically rich and there are many UNESCO world heritage sites here.  I would recommend tourists to visit all of it.

Living in Macau Cathedral

11. Cost of living in Macau

Cost of living here is pretty expensive compared to some other countries in Asia.  House rent is ridiculously high and dining out can be costly, too.

  • Accommodation:  My wife and I are currently renting a studio-type apartment with single bedroom and it costs, HKD4500 a month.  That is around USD570.  Renting a flat with two or three bedrooms can cost double.  You’ll save if you will rent a bed space or a room.
  • Food:  Dining out every day is not possible for a regular hotelier, so we cook.
  • Transportation:  Taxis and public buses are available 24 hours.  For hotel staffs, complimentary shuttles are provided by companies, which is great.
  • Tax:  With our salary range, we are exempted to pay tax. 

cost of living

In general, the cost of living in Macau may be a little bit expensive, but the salary is quite higher than other countries so you’ll be able to live comfortably.  If you know how to budget, you’ll be able to travel, to save money, and to buy things you wanted.

 

Building Relationships

12. Is it easy to make new friends in Macau?

My first set of friends are people from my own country.  When I started working I got to meet and befriended people of other nationalities.  I can’t believe I have friends now who are from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Nepal, India, and Russia.  Having friends from other nationalities have helped me to be acceptable to other people’s culture, tradition, and beliefs.

 

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

I hang out with locals and foreigners alike.  Though I spent most days with Filipinos, I also go out with other friends sometimes.

 

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

Our favorite is to go to buffet restaurants because we all love to eat.  We are also regulars on bars with happy hour.  Eating while having a drink and meaningful conversation is what keeps us from being homesick. 

 

Reflection

15. A memorable experience in Macau

It was just a recent event but I’m sure it’ s something I won’t easily forget.  Macau is not used to calamities, so when typhoon Hato came, it wasn’t prepared.  It was the first time that the electricity, water, and internet supply were cut.  It flooded so badly that many small businesses were forced to close down.  It was really bad and has affected a lot of people.  The only consolation is that Macau has subsequently recuperated.

 

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

I didn’t have a preconceived idea of Macau when I decided to move, so there weren’t so many perspectives to change.  If there was, I think it’s my perception of other people. 

I never thought I will be able to develop friendships with other nationalities, but I was wrong.  I realized that we are all the same.  Just different mother tongue, but basically the same.

 

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

living in Macau

My tip is to not overthink it.  If you feel like moving, go for it.  Anywhere has its pros and cons.  You just have to learn how to deal with it.  There is something you are unfamiliar with?  Get yourself informed and well versed. 

Have something you’re scared of?  Overcome it.  Moving to a new place can be scary, that is true.  But it is scarier if you succumbed to your fright and let go of your dreams.  Make the first step and soon you’ll walk and then you’ll run. 

 

18. Would you recommend others to live in Macau?

Certainly.  I have come to love Macau as my second home.  I’ve been here for ten years, and I would have never survived if Macau didn’t love me or all expatriates back.  It has been good to me and I’m pretty sure it’ll be good for future expats who wish to work and live here.

 

19. What have you learned from living abroad?

Living abroad has helped me grow as a person.  It has helped me be independent and responsible for taking good care of myself and doing what is expected of me.  I’ve learned how to be appreciative of people. 

Most importantly, I’ve learned how to be acceptable to other people of other nationalities.  I realized that racism has no place here on earth if we want to have a better world.  Respect, Thoughtfulness, and Acceptance are the most important values we all should be possessed. 

 

20. More thoughts on working in Macau

To work in any hotels in Macau is not only for those who have a background in Hotel and Restaurant Management or Tourism.  As long as you are flexible, willing to learn, responsible, and have a drive for success, you can be a hotelier. 

Macau is good for expats because they do not discriminate.  No matter your age, race, color, sexual orientation, or religious belief, everyone is accepted.

 

More about Carlo

Carlo Madrid is an opinionated man and he’s aware that he can be annoying sometimes.  He loves to travel, read books, cook, and be lazy.  When he’s not traveling with his wife or hiking a mountain, he can be seen sitting on their sofa either watching or reading.  Writing is also a hobby of his, though mediocre at best, and is half (the other half is his wife) of the people behind the blog Young OFW.

Expat life in Macau

Don’t forget to follow Carlo on Instagram & Twitter

*This article was updated on July 30th, 2018.

What’s it like to live in India as an expat? In this Expat Interview, Lola shares her expat life in Jodhpur, a town in India. She discusses the cost of living in Jodhpur, things to do in this city as well as the difficulties and culture shock that she had.

 

About Jodhpur

Jodhpur, India is a fascinating town located on the edge of the Thar desert in India’s most beautiful state, Rajasthan! Jodhpur isn’t a part of India’s Golden Triangle or backpacker circuit so it isn’t visited quite as often by foreigners. There was no choice but to live like a local here which I fully enjoyed.

living in India

 

About Lola – An expat in Jodhpur, India

I’m a freelance travel writer and human right activist. Three years ago I left the fashion industry in New York City where I was a senior manager at a strategic branding in pursuit of the unknown out there in our great wide world.
Since then I’ve explored over 50 countries, staying several weeks or months in each place in order to get a sense of the local way of life. I advocate for sustainable travel to become more mainstream and share stories of community-based travel and cultural phenomena on my travel platform.

moving to India

 

How did you move to Jodhpur?

I lived in Jodhpur from January to March of 2017 and spent another 3 months traveling all around India. I just got my 10-year tourist visa so will certainly be heading back to mother India soon where I plan to spend 6 months in Kochi and 6 months in Udaipur to start!

I relocated to Jodhpur to work pro-bono with a local women’s empowerment NGO, Sambhali Trust. Sambhali Trust provides aid and enhances the lives of vulnerable women and children in Rajasthan. I joined the team as a voluntary communications officer with Sambhali Trust to help spread more awareness about the work they’ve been doing for over a decade. The grassroots charity operates developmental projects for at-risk women including vocational training, basic English, math, and an S.O.S. helpline.

With my background in the fashion industry, I wanted to work with a charity that’s made measurable results through teaching sewing, embroidery, and other textile skills. Sambhali Trust has seen over 10,000 beneficiaries so far!

 

How to prepare before moving to Jodhpur?

I had already been traveling full-time for over a year so had narrowed down my belongings to one small backpack.

To prepare I picked up some conservative clothing and gave way all of my leather products. I had read that leather was very frowned upon but once I arrived realized no one would have given me any grief for having a leather handbag or shoes. At the time I wasn’t vegan yet but now that I am it made it easier to have already gotten rid of my animal skin products.

I also shouldn’t have bothered picking up conservative clothing in Europe as it was important that I wear traditional clothes while in Jodhpur to blend end, and show respect.

Also, clothing in India is incredibly inexpensive-and low quality-so it was fun and cheap to shop for local things and play with colors I’d usually avoid wearing while I was in Jodhpur. The only clothes that I bought in India that survived my trip were a few handmade kurtas and vintage sari’s which were well worth the investment.

Otherwise, I’m sure there are some shots that some medicinal professionals would suggest you get but I didn’t bother with any of that. I’m a big believer in using the tried and true remedy for illness when you’re overseas-stock up on activated charcoal pills for the dreaded Delhi belly.
Do get health insurance with extensive coverage–you never know what could happen anywhere in the world but in India, you’ll run into crazy situations like tuk-tuk accidents and cows that literally knock you over.

 

How to deal with difficulties when moving to India?

It takes time to get used to the constant staring from men. For the most part, the harassment was limited to disturbing looks.

O ddly enough it was women who would pass by me and graze my skin. I had to constantly explain to people that I was not White and am also a minority but even though my skin was darker than most locals I was often called a White person.

There is a certain stigma about foreigners being incredibly wealthy. Everyone wanted to know what my father’s job was and when I explained that he does not fund my life they were shocked and wanted to know what I did for a living and how much money I made. Don’t answer these questions.

living in Jodhpur India

Haggle for local prices, otherwise, you tilt the local economy and market. It took me less than a week to realize the fair price for clothing, produce, and transportation and the local terms to haggle over it all.

 

How to overcome culture shock in India?

If anyone from the west goes to India and doesn’t have some culture shock I’d find that shocking. It’s very difficult to see so many people living in extreme poverty, especially the young children who beg in the city center. I’d buy them dinner almost nightly but never give them any rupees.

In India death isn’t feared, it’s something people look forward to, and celebrate, as they believe in reincarnation. It was shocking to see people who seemed on the brink of death simply sitting on the ground and waiting to go. Sometimes you’ll see dead bodies being carried through the streets wrapped in colorful cloth with a loud procession on their way to be cremated publicly. This is just the Hindu way of life in India.

I expected to deal with a lot more sadness and depression when meeting with the female beneficiaries of Sambhali Trust. Many of these women have been through unimaginable circumstances of abuse, neglect, and suppression. Yet somehow each and every one of them burns an interior light that glows through them and shows their resilience, hope, and love. These women are reclaiming their lives, their rights, and their future. They inspired me beyond measure and touched my life in a more meaningful way than I could ever hope to touch theirs.

 

What do you like about Jodhpur?

Jodhpur is real-deal India. You won’t find a Starbucks here full of digital nomads, but you can work at any of these awesome Jodhpur cafes serving great coffee. So many of the comforts I was used to are simply not available in Jodhpur, and that’s what made living there so beautiful. I had to be patient and go with the flow–things that don’t come naturally to me at all. Also, I grew exponentially there mainly due to the lack of modern influence.

living in India

I adapted to a lifestyle that was foreign to me and grew to really enjoy day trips to the local farmer’s market for produce, communicating with locals in my minimal Hindi, and feeling beautiful in traditional India clothing.

 

Bad things about India

Traffic in the city center is crazy between wild motorbike drivers, tuk-tuks, and aggressive cows. Oh, and the occasional elephant and camel stomp through town.

I lived in NYC for 7 years before I started traveling so I could deal with the chaos but on top of everything else that can be overwhelming in India, there were some days I just couldn’t be bothered to leave the quiet guesthouse where I was living and where the NGO was based.

 

What are your favorite things to do in Jodhpur?

Jodhpur has many historical treasures to be discovered but many travelers only spend a day or two in the city and miss some of the most beautiful sites. The most popular sites to see are the Mehrangarh Fort and the old city, which is the part of the town painted blue.

things to do in India

 

Cost of living in Jodhpur

Life in Jodhpur is seriously affordable for foreigners, for room and board I paid about $215, which was on the higher end of costs. 3GB of monthly data through Vodafone is $15 and can be used as a hotspot for my computer when WiFi went out. Transportation is usually less than $1 each way and a kilo of mangos never cost more than $1.

 

Is it easy to make new friends in Jodhpur?

I only ever saw a handful of tourists in the city center and all of the foreigners I met were volunteering with the Sambhali Trust. I didn’t have a lot of time to socialize and was in a long-distance relationship at the time and sober so I didn’t actively seek out new friends while I was in Jodhpur.

 

Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I hung out mostly with fellow volunteers which were foreigners as we were told repeatedly by the NGO founder that we were not allowed to have local friends.

I did meet some wonderful locals including women who were impacted by the charity, a trio of young Indian national guys that own my favorite hostel in Jodhpur (Bedpool) and my tattoo artists who gave me six tattoos during my time there, two of which honor my time in Jodhpur.

Namaste Cafe near the clock tower was my favorite spot to work for the day with a beautiful view and delicious affordable food.

 

A memorable experience in Jodhpur

Meeting the internationally acclaimed filmmaker and activist Deepa Mehta was an experience I’ll never forget. Although she’s received death threats during previous trips to her native India she chose to come to Jodhpur to screen her film The Anatomy of Violence to Sambhali Trust beneficiaries and speak to the women about overcoming the sexual assault. What an incredible woman!

I also got to go to an Indian wedding which was too much fun–the food, dancing, clothing, and love lasted until the early hours of the morning for three days straight! I’m still recovering a year later!

 

Did you change your perspective about Jodhpur after living here?

I didn’t have any expectations of the city going into it. Overall my perspective of India changed greatly from spending six months there.

I learned to differentiate the regions accents, clothing, cuisine, and dialects–something western media doesn’t portray well. I was pleasantly surprised to see that most women in India wear saris! I’m enamored with textiles and was thrilled to see that this clothing custom has lasted the test of time.

 

What are your advice and tips for living in India?

Try to learn as much Hindi as possible before you arrive. Some Indian people in Jodhpur speak English, but most of the people you encounter will only speak Hindi. If you’re going to live somewhere for an extended period of time it’s always best to learn as much of the local language as possible so that you can communicate and show respect to your adopted home.
expat life in India

 

Would you recommend others to live in Jodhpur?

Although it isn’t a very common city for expats and there’s a lack of infrastructure and western ideals I’d absolutely recommend Jodhpur to those who are eager to experience India in an authentic way.

It’s a wonderful place to either volunteer for a few months or base yourself for a season as a digital nomad. I’d urge foreigners not to accept jobs in the hospitality industry as they’d be taking the job away from a qualified local.

 

What have you learned from living abroad?

I honestly cannot even remember who I was before I started living abroad three years ago! I’ve become so much more aware of the impacts of my lifestyle which is why I’m a dedicated responsible traveler and plant-based eater.

 

About Lola

Lola Méndez is a travel writer and full-time globetrotter sharing her adventures on Miss Filatelista. She travels to develop her own worldview and has explored over 50 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: The photos used in this interview belong to Lola Méndez.

What is it like to live in Bangkok as an expat? In this Expat Interview, Tara shares her expat life in Bangkok, Thailand. She discusses her moving procedure, good and bad things about Bangkok, where to visit in Bangkok, cost of living in Bangkok and more.

 

1. About Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand. It is a large coastal city with roughly 14 million people in a 600 square mile area. Similar to other large cities of the world, you can find a diversity of people living throughout the city, as well as restaurants, shopping malls, museums, businesses, etc.
Bangkok is a very safe city to live in as a foreigner, and incredibly affordable. Most foreigners come to Thailand to work as Teachers because, in order to stay long-term, you either need to have a work permit or be married to a local to have a marriage visa.
From Bangkok, it is extremely easy to travel to other parts of Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

living in Bangkok - Bangkok expats

Bangkok just after sunset

2. What was your procedure for moving to Bangkok?

I originally moved to Thailand in 2011 but lived in a smaller Thai city. After completing my contract there with a government school, I moved home to NY to complete my Master’s degree. I knew I wanted to go back to Thailand, but this time my husband and I wanted to work in Bangkok at an International high school to make more money.
moving to Bangkok Thailand
In the summer of 2014 we packed up all of our things once again and this time moved to Bangkok. We had never lived in a big city before, so this was a new experience for us.

3. Why did you choose to live in Bangkok Thailand?

After living in a smaller Thai city I really wanted to experience what it was like to live in one of the biggest cities in the world. Also, as an expat living in Thailand, you can only stay longer than a few months if you have a work permit.
Many jobs do not provide a work permit, which is why the majority of people who move to Thailand work as teachers. I wanted to upgrade my job from working in the government school system, and most of the big name International schools are located in Bangkok.
Bangkok has everything you could possibly imagine, the same as other big cities, so we were looking for some conveniences of that as well.

 

4. How to prepare to move to Bangkok?

When moving from country to country it is very difficult to carry a lot of luggage with you. I could only bring 2 suitcases, so I had to figure out what was most important.
Since I was going to be working as a teacher, I made sure to pack all of my professional working clothes first. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find the styles of clothes I wanted for working in Thailand, so I prepared by purchasing those items at home first. I also needed to save a bit of money.
It is because in Thailand you get paid only once per month, which means you have to live for a whole month before receiving your first paycheck. You need to make sure you have enough money for rent, deposit, etc.

 

5. Cost of living in Bangkok

It totally depends on your lifestyle. Bangkok can be one of the most affordable cities to live in or just as expensive as New York City.
cost of living in Bangkok - Bangkok apartments

a) Accommodation: Bangkok apartments

You can rent a small studio apartment (not in the center of town) in Bangkok for as little as $300 USD per month. Or you can live directly off of Sukhumvit Road in a 2 bedroom apartment for $1,500 USD per month.
Bangkok apartments - Cost of living in Bangkok

 

b) Food in Bangkok

The same is true for food. You can eat Thai street food for less than $1 USD per dish, or you can eat at the fanciest restaurants for $20 USD per dish.

 

c) Transportation in Bangkok

Transportation is typically always cheap, whether you choose a taxi, motorbike taxi, sky-train, or subway. Tuk Tuk’s tend to charge higher prices.

 

d) Shopping for groceries in Bangkok

You can shop for groceries at the local markets and pay pennies for fresh fruits and vegetables, or you can shop at the Central shopping mall grocery stores and pay US prices.

expat living in Bangkok eat Thai food

Thai Spices

e) Buying clothes in Bangkok

For clothing and accessories, you can shop again at the local markets where shirts cost as little as $3 USD, or you can go to the luxury shopping malls that have Sephora, Gucci, Michael Kors, and Coach for example.

 

f) Paying taxes in Bangkok, Thailand

Depending on the type of job you have, you may or may not have to pay taxes. Typically in the government schools, they will pay the taxes for you. In the International schools, you often have your taxes deducted from your monthly salary, which can be anywhere from 10-20% depending on the amount of your salary.
It seems steep, but if you’re paying taxes in Thailand than you don’t have to pay taxes in the United States as well.

 

g) My experience

When I worked at a government school I only made $1,000 USD per month but I was able to save $500 USD per month. I ate cheap Thai food, shopped at the markets, and lived in a studio apartment.
When I moved to work in the International schools I made roughly $3,000 USD per month, and I saved at least $2,000 USD per month. I lived a more expensive lifestyle, had a 2 bedroom apartment, enjoyed fancier restaurants and traveled to more exotic places.

What to eat in Bangkok Thailand

Thailand is famous for it’s Thai Noodle Soup

 

6. What are the difficulties of living in Bangkok?

The Thai language is an incredibly difficult language. It consists of 5 tones, which means the same word spoken in 5 different ways means 5 different vocabularies. As a foreigner, you will most likely never say the tones correctly unless you take classes, so it can be very difficult to communicate with the Thai people.

When I first moved there, I needed to rent an apartment, a motorbike, figure out where to do laundry, etc., and all of this is quite hard without speaking the language. Unless you’re in a tourist area, most Thai’s do not speak any English.

I slowly learned the words for the things I needed doing and spent a lot of time studying. I learned how to read the Thai script, which was instrumental when trying to order food from a restaurant or read the signs on the streets.

 

7. Did you experience any discrimination in Bangkok?

The Thai people will stare at foreigners often and you will hear them say ‘farang’ (Thai word for French, but now is used as a blanket term for all foreigners) around you all the time. They don’t mean it in a derogatory way, so don’t feel offended. You might get annoyed after hearing it so many times, but you have to remember that you are a foreigner living in their country.

There are times when a Thai person will come up and take a picture with you, sometimes without asking, and this is another thing you have to get used to. For the most part, Thai people are kind and helpful and enjoy engaging in conversation with foreigners. If you learn to say just a few words in Thai, that will really impress them (you might even get better discounts on the market!)

Sometimes, although it’s very rare, foreigners will be charged higher prices than Thai’s at small restaurants or for transportation services. There is not much that you can do about it, and since Thailand is such an affordable country, these differences are so small that it’s better to just pay it and move on.

 

8. How to overcome culture shock in Bangkok?

I didn’t have too much culture shock because I had traveled to South East Asia previously (the Philippines). I knew a little bit about how they lived, and I made sure to ask friends who had been there previously for advice.

Also, I did have to get used to the squat toilets, and the fact that not everywhere is as clean as I was used to (especially in restaurants). Those adjustments come with time, and now they don’t bother me anymore.

 

9. What do you like about Bangkok?

Bangkok is one of the largest cities in the world, and just like other large cities, it has everything you could possibly imagine. Restaurants, shopping, bars, temples,  museums, you name it!
I love how cheap the transportation in the city is. You can take a taxi from one end of the city to the other for less than $10. Bangkok has both an underground subway and an above ground sky-train.

The transportation is very efficient and you can find your way around the entire city quite easily. Tuk Tuks and motorcycle taxis can be found everywhere as well. You can spend one day in Bangkok and practically move around the entire city.

Bangkok lifestyle living in Bangkok

Riding through the city in a Tuk Tuk

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

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the number of people. If you’re walking around the major tourist areas of Bangkok there were will thousands of people around you. It’s nice to find a quieter area of the city where you can roam the streets without too much chaos.

living in Bangkok - cost of living in Bangkok

Busy streets are a common sight in Bangkok


I also don’t like the scams. I haven’t been victim to any scams myself since I know what to look out for, but I hear about them all the time. As a newcomer to the city, make sure to read up on the scams you might encounter so you know how to look out for them.

For example, a huge scam in Bangkok involves the Tuk Tuk drivers. They might offer you a discounted rate to go visit a temple, but you are unaware that they plan to take you to a suit shop, or a jewelry store, and try and urge you to buy those products.

Don’t ever listen to a Tuk Tuk (or taxi) driver who tells you that a temple is closed but that they can take you to one that is open. This is a lie of course and they should be avoided.

 

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

a) Shopping in Bangkok

My favorite thing about Bangkok is the shopping. I love the shopping malls and the cheap markets. Chatuchak market, also known as JJ, is one of the biggest markets in the world. There isn’t an item you can think of that can’t be found there.

I love strolling up and down the aisles and seeing what I can find. Always offer 50% less than the asking price! They will always ask for more money, especially for foreigners.

There are enormous shopping malls all throughout the city but the majority of them are located in the Sukhumvit Road area. Malls such as Siam Paragon, Central Plaza, MBK, and Platinum are incredible and like heaven to those who love to shop.

 

b) Eating in Bangkok

I also love to eat in the city (of course!). Not only cheap Thai street food but all the different ethnic restaurants that can be found there. Bangkok has a Little India, a Little Korea, a Middle Eastern Town, Chinatown, etc. You can find food ranging from Ethiopian to Italian to Mexican.

living in Bangkok - what to eat in Bangkok: Khao Soi

Khao Soi, a Thai specialty

12. Where do you recommend to visit in the Bangkok?

a) Temples in Bangkok

At some point, you will definitely have to visit the famous temples such as Wat Pho and Wat Arun along the riverside. You can visit the Grand Palace or go to see the Emerald Buddha. Be aware that these all are extremely touristy things to do, so there will always be hundreds of other people there.

 

b) Bangkok Nightlife

For those who love nightlife, the Khao San Road area is where most of the backpackers hang out. If you love nightlife but want to stay away from the backpacker crowd, then the areas of Thong Lor or Ekkamai (off Sukhumvit Road) are the best options for you. Here you will find hipster and artsy bars with unique cocktails.

Sky bars are also popular places to visit in the city. My favorite is Above 11, on Sukhumvit Soi 11, which offers a chill vibe with spectacular views of the city’s skyline. They serve a combination of French and Peruvian food. There are dozens of sky bars around Bangkok to choose from.

 

c) Day trips from Bangkok

Since transportation is so affordable and easy to find, you can also venture outside the city to see excellent attractions. An hour north of the city is Ayutthaya where you will find ancient ruins, and an hour west of the city you can visit the famous floating market of Damneon Saduak. A few hours south and you’ll reach the pristine beaches on the islands of Koh Chang or Koh Samet.

 

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

It’s easy to make new friends if you are social! Usually, if you’re working in the school system there will be other foreigners from around the world that you’ll get to know and befriend. You can also go out to bars or join classes such as Yoga to get to know other people.
You can’t be shy about starting a conversation with someone, just go for it and they are most likely in the same situation as you and looking for friends.

 

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

I hang out with a combination of locals and foreigners. I have a lot of foreign friends from working in the school system as well as locals who work there too. You can meet more locals by going out to bars and restaurants as well and starting conversations.

 

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

Thai people love to eat and drink! So bars and restaurants are the best places to hang out. Meals are shared ‘family style’, meaning that a bunch of random dishes is ordered and shared among the whole group.
It is not common to order your own dish and not share with the others. Coffee is huge too, and every corner has a coffee shop, so this is another popular place to hang out.

 

16. Do you interact with any expat communities in Bangkok?

No, I never interacted with any expat communities. Usually, in most schools and areas of town, there are so many expats living that you don’t have to seek any out. However, there are many expat communities that you can be a part of if you wish.

There are groups for getting together at different bars or restaurants. My friend was a new mother and joined a group of new mothers in the city. They would meet at cafes or take the children to the park.

 

17. A memorable experience in Bangkok

My co-worker was a former journalist who had lived in Bangkok for 20 years. He suggested we go have some drinks at this old US/Thai Military base from the 70’s which had been converted into a bar. We weren’t sure what to expect but we agreed and followed him there.

We arrived at this large compound and he began banging on the door. It was raining outside and nothing was happening, no one was coming. He looked around and was like ‘Oh! Oops, wrong place’. He walked next door and banged again on a large metal door. A minute later we were buzzed inside.

There were Thai soldiers with large guns all around us. We walked down this skinny hallway where we had to sign our names in. We were all a little sketched out and unsure about the whole experience, so we signed fake names. Just when I was beginning to think the whole situation was a bad idea, we entered the bar. It turned out to be just your typical VFW bar. They had craft beers, pool tables, and American sports on the T.V. It ended up being a great night.

 

18. Did you change your perspective of Bangkok after living here?

Definitely. I always thought I would hate living in a large city, and Bangkok is one of the largest in the world. But there is always so much to do and see (and so much food to eat!) that it’s impossible not to love it. However, I would still prefer to live near to a big city but not inside of it. I need a little more peace and quiet.

expat living in Bangkok

Sunset from Jack’s Bar in Bangkok

 

19. Advice and tips for moving to Bangkok or living in Bangkok

Read and plan ahead. Know the general costs of things that you will need so you can come prepared with enough money. Understand the culture and customs of the people so you don’t offend anyone and start off on the wrong foot.

Go with the flow! Things are going to go wrong of course, but you will adjust and you’ll remember it as a great learning experience.

 

20. Would you recommend to live in Bangkok?

Should people live in Bangkok? Absolutely. Bangkok will always be my favorite city in the world. In my mi, d there is no other country like Thailand, and it’s a place everyone should experience at least for a short time in their life.

The way of life for the Thai people is so fascinating, and unlike the way of life in America. I believe the only way for you to grow as a person is to step outside your comfort zone every now and then. Moving out of your own country to experience another is a growth experience. You will never look at your own country the same way again.

 

21. What have you learned from living abroad?

I have learned patience, tolerance, and understanding just to name a few. I learned that people live differently all over the world and that their customs are not necessarily better or worse than your own, just different. You find yourself feeling more like a citizen of the world instead of a citizen of just your own country.

In the US, people tend to live very actively and stressed out lives. I know because I used to live that way. Constantly worried about money and taxes and bills.

In Thailand, I didn’t have to worry about those things. I had enough money to be extremely comfortable, and those worries disappeared. Life is a lot slower in Thailand. It causes you to reflect on your own life. This doesn’t mean that life in Thailand was perfect and I didn’t have any problems. But I hope I can carry the lessons I learned from living in Thailand with me throughout the rest of my life.

 

More about Tara Kenyon

moving to Bangkok
Hello! My name is Tara Kenyon and I am from Upstate, New York. I have my Master’s degree in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and my Bachelor’s in Biology and Psychology from Binghamton University.

I have been living in Thailand on and off for the past 6 years as a teacher. At first, I taught English to high school students at a Government school in Nakhon Sawan and then Science at an International High School in Bangkok.

Living in Thailand has inspired my passion for travel as well as cuisine, which helped me begin my website Nutrition Abroad. Here I write about recipes from around the world and provide travel guides and tips for the independent budget traveler. Currently, I am taking a break from teaching, and traveling the world with my husband, blogging about my experiences as I go!

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
living in Bangkok Thailand

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Discover what it's like to live in Bangkok Thailand as an expat. Read cost of living in Bangkok Thailand, good and bad things about Bangkok, things to do in Bangkok, places to visit in Bangkok and more here!  #bangkok #thailand #expat #expatlife #livingabroad #expatliving #expatblog #expatblogger #travelblog #traveltips 

*This article was updated on June 14th, 2018.

What it’s like to live in Amsterdam as an expat?
In this Expat Interview, Bruna shares her expat life in Amsterdam, from the cost of living in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 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 to 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.

* This article was updated on June 10th, 2018.

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 the 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 the 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

  • A single ticket for Helsinki costs 2.8 Eur (with travel card)
  • A 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)
  • The 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 of 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.

Common, 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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Discover what it's like to live in Helsinki, Finland as an expat. Read cost of living in Helsinki, good and bad things about Helsinki, things to do in Helsinki, places to visit in Helsinki and more here! You'll definitely want to save this in your Finland travel board to read later!  #helsinki #finland  #expat #expatlife #livingabroad #expatliving #expatblog #expatblogger 

* This article was updated in June 10th, 2018.

Do you know what it’s like to live in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, as an expat? In this Expat 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

Why did you choose to live 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.

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.

 

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.

 

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!

 

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. 

The overall attitudes toward 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 on 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.

My 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. The 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?

a) Participating in activities

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.

 

b) Finding accommodation in Glasgow

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.

 

c) Finding jobs in Glasgow

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.

 

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

*This article was updated on May 5th 2018.