How to Feel at Home Abroad

How to Feel at Home Abroad

So you just moved abroad. Now what? With your suitcase packed to the brim and hopes in hand, it’s important to establish a feeling of home abroad immediately. I mapped out some more immediate steps to do as soon as you arrive: get organized, invest in your immediate surroundings, get to know you neighborhood, establish a favorite cafe or local spot, and stay connect with friends and family. After you have lived abroad a while and established your home base, try to maintain a connection to your native culture through food, holidays, sharing your culture with friends, and trying an expat box.

Your Immediate Surroundings

The first and one of the most important orders of business when you first move abroad, is to make your home homey. It may seem like a no-brainer, but its importance cannot be understated. 

When I first moved abroad, I packed my entire life for one year in two very large (overweight) suitcases. I made sure to bring printed out pictures, then bought all of my frames at the local IKEA. I also brought along small things that I could easily use such as bookends, sentimental items, letters and cards from family, and small decorations that meant something to me.  

A further caution is to get organized as soon as possible. Nothing is worse than not knowing your environment and being unorganized on top of that. Invest in your immediate surroundings, they have a have huge impact on you.

Get to Know the Neighborhood and Find your Favorite Cafe

You moved into your first place abroad, now is the time to immediately familiarize yourself with your neighborhood. Find your local pharmacy, grocery store, bus stop, etc. This way you can begin to establish a routine and create some familiarity in your foreign environment.

It of course depends on what country you move abroad to, but establishing a regular café or bar is a great first step to making your new country home. In Denmark it is uncommon to engage in any sort of small talk, so finding a local cafe to frequent provided me with some consistency and friendliness.

Stay Connected to your Family and Friends in your Native Country

I cannot stress this enough, stay connected to your family and friends in your native country. It can be quite isolating to live in a new country, so maintaining that sense of home is vital.

I immediately established a routine of video chatting with specific members of my family and friends, on specific days. Also, its wasn’t until my four year old nephew Kiercy was born that I truly realized the power of video chat, for it is the best substitute for physical interactions.

For example, every Sunday my nephew Kiercy and I set aside time to play on FaceTime. He gave me some of his toy dinosaurs and we play, just as we would in person. Children express themselves through playing, so this enables us to still grow in our relationship as we would if we lived in the same country.

Bringing Along a Taste of Your Native Country

Now that you’ve settled into your new environment and feel comfortable with your surroundings, you may begin yearning for some deeper connections to you native culture. In order to increase that sense of feeling at home abroad you should continue to celebrate the native holidays that mean the most to you and bring along a taste of your native country through food or expat boxes.

 Continue to Celebrate Your Favorite Holidays

During my first year abroad in Denmark, I ignorantly asked my new international girlfriends, “okay girls, so what is everyone doing for Thanksgiving?!” I was obviously met with laughs and eyerolls, because Thanksgiving is a purely American holiday. I was immediately disappointed, not having Thanksgiving is equivalent to not having a proper Christmas celebration!

After some encouragement from my group of girlfriends, I hosted my first international Thanksgiving. My friends were jumping with excitement to experience a real American holiday that they had only seen in movies. Most of the girls referenced the REAL Thanksgiving as portrayed in the romantic comedy Eat, Pray, Love where Julia Roberts makes Thanksgiving for her Italian friends.

Hosting my first Thanksgiving was also a rite of passage into adulthood, where back in the United States it would always be my mother who hosted the holiday. I called my mother back in Montana and got the secret recipes for her famous stuffing, cornbread, and fresh cranberry sauce. It was impossible to get a big turkey such as in the United States, so a large chicken was a great substitute.

The evening was nothing short of wonderful and meaningful. Suddenly, I felt as if I was back in Montana, sharing a piece of my heart with people that were important to me. I immediately felt closer to my friends and felt as if they understood me on another level. I have now hosted a Thanksgiving celebration every year in Denmark for the past six years. It is incredibly special to share something like a holiday with people from all over the world. Each year my Danish family looks forward to Thanksgiving just like I do. 

Share a Taste of your Native Country

After I hosted my first native holiday abroad, this definitely encouraged my friends to begin sharing more about their native country. It began to produce a ripple effect.

The majority of my girlfriends from my first year in Denmark were from Eastern Europe: Poland, Slovakia, and Czech Republic. All countries I had limited exposure to. Each of my girlfriends from a specific country, then hosted a dinner with food and drinks from their home country. For example, my Polish girlfriend hosted a winter dinner making traditional Polish food. It was the perfect way to get to know a more meaningful side to my girlfriends. It left us feeling bonded and curious.

Try an Expat Box

Expat box from

Considering the United States is much farther away than European countries, I usually load up an entire suitcase of American things that I love and cannot get in Denmark when I visit Montana. Also, Denmark is one of the most expensive countries in Europe, next to Switizerland, so I would even bring back Venus razors, gallon sized plastic bags, facewash, make up, etc.

One thing that I couldn’t necessarily bring back is all of the foods I love from America. There are much stricter food and beverage laws in Europe, with foods with preservatives not being sold in the EU, which restricted much American food from entering the country. I just accepted this as a fact and said goodbye to of my favorite American junk food. Finally, last month I found an alternative and tried my first expat box!

Two fellow American expats living in New Zealand, Brittany Canty and Reina O’Meara, bonded their love and longing for American food while abroad to create the company Comfort Eats. The owners taped into a powerful expat feeling, by immediately being transported back to your childhood through foods you grew up on and can get that unique feeling of home from.

I have been hesitant to try an expat box before because other companies I researched charged expensive shipping or had expensive import fees. The company Comfort Eats delivers your favorite American snacks to anywhere in the world with shipping from $5-10 USD total. The price includes everything, meaning you won’t be charged for customs or duties, when they encounter them they pay those on your behalf!

Comfort Eats sells iconic American comfort food staples like cookies, pastries, chips, cereals, seasoning, spreads, chocolate, and candy. Basically all food that might not be the best for your health, but exactly what the soul ordered.

For my first expat box, the order came within three days of ordering it and came in supreme condition. Using an expat box service like this, can definitely fill part the void of missing home. In Denmark, they do not celebrate Halloween or Thanksgiving, so I stocked up on pumpkin flavored goodies and Halloween candy. You can also request any item for the company to stock up on. Using an expat box service was never available when I first moved to Denmark six years ago, and I will definitely be buying more in the future to literally get a taste of home!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Katherine Murfitt

    I am glad you found the Expat food boxes, now you and your nephew can FaceTime a video chat of enjoying lip smacking orange Cheetos together!!

    Excellent article and such a good read that brings back fond memories of sending you recipes!!