How to Avoid the Expat Bubble


How to Avoid the Expat Bubble

By John Marcarian, Founder of the Expatland Global Network

Whether you move alone, with a loved one, or family, you will have a whole new city to explore and attractions to visit. You also have to learn your way around, be it by car or public transport. There may be a language barrier that you need to overcome. As time goes on, believe it or not, it can actually start to become quite daunting as you settle into your new everyday life. It’s completely normal to be overwhelmed at this point.

It’s around this stage we hear people talk about the ‘Expat Bubble’

‘The Expat Bubble’ essentially means only socializing with other expats. You may find that you socialize out of work with other expats, your children may be friends with other expats from their International school, you may still only shop in stores that you have back home. You may only go to events or meet-ups organized by other expats. Essentially, you are keeping the same cultural background whilst living in another city.

It’s so easy to stick with the familiar rather than to put yourself in potentially unfamiliar situations. However, from experience, the importance of not only embracing but also understanding new cultures makes your expat experience better than you could have imagined. With that in mind, here’s some advice to break out of that bubble.

Eat local

There’s a reason why people say food is good for the soul. By supporting local independent restaurants and cafes you’ll not only find yourself immersed around locals by default, but you’ll also be supporting your local community and eating delicious food at the same time. Restaurant staff are typically helpful with advice about where to go or what to do and you may even find yourself becoming a regular somewhere.

Learn the language

Possibly the biggest challenge overall is learning how to get around in the local language. It can seem a big hurdle at the time but throwing yourself into learning some of the language of the city you are in can open up so many opportunities for you.

Not only does it help you navigate your way around but it will also help in your confidence and your ability to make friends with others who don’t speak the same language as you.

Even in English speaking cities such as Singapore – the expression ‘Can la’ basically means – yes I will do it! It has nothing to do with a can in Los Angeles…

For non-English speaking cities, if possible, try to have a handle of the basics before you move and once you arrive sign up to a language school. Try and speak in the language when you are out and about. It may be embarrassing at first but it will soon become second nature. I have spent a bit of time in Brazil and by studying the language in advance I have found I can get around and handle most situations.

Explore local culture

Chances are there are tons of events, traditions and culture going on right outside your front door. Take the time to understand the heritage of where you are living and explore the real city. When you have guests visiting, don’t just take them to see the tourist attractions. Show them the hidden gems that you’ve discovered. By doing this, it will start to feel more like home for you too.

If you aren’t sure where to go or what to see, take a walk. Sometimes, just walking and exploring a neighbourhood is the best way to find your new favourite places. And don’t forget to look up! Looking up often unveils beautiful architecture, often masked by the hustle and bustle of city life.


If you feel passionate about a cause or want to take more of an active part in your new community, try volunteering. Volunteering is an excellent way to make new friends. You might have to rework your schedule a bit, but if you can find the time to volunteer while abroad, it will make your overseas experience even more rewarding. If you are feeling apprehensive about doing it, take another expat or your family along too.

Our not for profit, the Expatland Giving Back Fund in Singapore and Sydney holds regular events for expats in those cities. We have found it is a great way to give back to the community but meet new people at the same time. 

Get online

Online expats groups are excellent for meeting other expats – however there are tons of online forums and social media groups for other interests you have too. Don’t forget, you are not just an expat. Think about what you love to do, be it a fitness class or any hobby and get online and research for local groups in your area. The internet is a wonderful thing and it can really help to open up doors to find other people in your area that you share the same interests with.


About Expatland – www.expatland.com

The Expatland Global Network is a resource that supports people all over the globe who are embarking on an expat journey, joining a vast, dynamic community.

In fact, if you were to group expats together to form a country, it would be the 5th largest country in the world, inhabited by more than 244 million people, and growing fast.

This ‘country’ is thriving, attracting business people, students, educators, medical professionals and many other professionals who are highly driven, socially aware and ‘global’ in their outlook.

Expatland began as a book, written in 2015 by John Marcarian. Through travelling extensively and working with expat clients in his role at CST Tax Advisors.

The Expatland book was just the start. To solve the problem of lack of support for would-be expats, John has launched the Expatland Global Network. The network is made up of Expatland Teams (‘E -Teams).

The concept, developed based on research using data from the World Bank, the OECD and the International Labour Organisation, is to provide a proactive solution to the problems faced by ‘unsupported expats’ on the move. Through one point of contact, expats can access help anywhere.

E-Teams bring together vetted professionals on the ground in a wide range of international locations, who can deliver the types of services needed by expats. Operating at a city level, they have essential local knowledge and insight. They cut through complexity and drill down to the issues that are relevant to specific locations.

E-Teams are lending their specialist knowledge to refresh and update the Expatland book, writing free-to-download chapters packed with locally-focused advice, tips and case studies.

[Images courtesy of John Marcarian and Expatland]


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