Expat Life

5 Quick Life Hacks for Expats

When you move abroad, life changes in a myriad of ways. These 5 little life hack tips could save you a lot of hassle.

1. Write down card security codes

I know, this is totally against any advice your bank and security experts have ever given you. And yet, when you only use your debit card when you go on a home visit once a year, it may not be so easy to remember the code. Also, be prepared for when you open a new bank account abroad and get to choose your own security code, take note or you might forget in the busy days post move.

Passwords you can store safely in e.g. LastPass or 1Password. You can also give others, like a parent back home, access to certain passwords.

2. Change your phone number on WhatsApp

In China I kept my Dutch number on Whatsapp all the time. For communication with my new friends in China I used WeChat (another chat app), so it didn’t feel I needed to change. However, when I moved to Brunei, I still kept my Dutch number. Don’t follow my example. Change your WhatsApp number to your new country number- you’ll immediately feel more connected and people can reach even if you have no internet credits left. Either keep your “old” WhatsApp number on another phone or notify your friends to change your number, they will expect this when you move anyway.

3. Have more than 1 means of payment

My husband and I happened to have all our bank accounts at the same bank. While we could get money in China with our Dutch ATM cards until our Chinese bank account was arranged, one day our Dutch bank was down. Luckily it was solved quickly, but made me see the importance of having multiple means of payment. So have e.g. an international Visa or American Express credit card and also have some cash stashed away for emergencies.

4. Choose odd coloured luggage

While writing this article I got distracted and typed in “life hack” in Google. It showed me a list of hacks. A pretty fun list, but… The first hack suggested to tie a large ribbon to your suitcase to recognise it quickly on the luggage belt.

Nope. Don’t do it, as the ribbon may get stuck somewhere.

However, recognizing your luggage is practical, especially if, like me, you have ever seen your small, black unbranded suit case end up on someone else’s luggage cart. Instead, find an odd coloured or patterned (but airline approved size) suitcase for that purpose. When you get different sizes, make sure they fit into each other. That may save storage space later on. A large, good quality sticker on your suitcase could also do the trick.

5. Make a “visiting back home” basket

Do you have keys from your own or your parents’ house back in your home country? Public transport passes? Phone chargers with “back home” plug? Cash in local currency leftover from last year’s visit? Put it all in one basket or box, so you have it all together and can easily put it in your suitcase for the next visit. Keep it near your passport. Don’t forget to put all the items back after the visit to your home country.     

What’s your best life hack for expats? Share it in the comments below.

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