The 10 things expats find difficult to adapt to

Published 2019-10-11 12:55

When settling down in a new country, one of the first challenges is mastering a new language and then a whole new cultural setting. The latter will, however, depend on your expat destination and cultural differences between native country and adopted country. However, in general, expats also face common difficulties that are more or less the same regardless of where one goes. has compiled a list of the 10 things that are most likely to be difficult for expats to adapt...


Before even taking the time to find your bearings, administrative formalities will most likely be the first task at hand for you. To obtain a residence permit or work, open bank accounts or utilities, sign up for an insurance, to get your driving licence or even buy a car... administrative procedures are very different from one country to another. And that’s even before factoring in the language barrier.

Time differences

Even though you might find it easy to get used to the new time zone, what might be more complicated is finding a reasonable time to get in touch with friends and family back home.


Once you’ve conquered the language barrier and the potential difficulty of making friends, we have to deal with a new constraint: cultural differences. It is important, in this sense, to know the habits and customs in terms of social interactions. Notably, when talking to new people or being invited for dinner… you do not want any awkward moments!

The health system

It is important to understand the local health system before leaving so that you do not get any unpleasant surprises. But even if you’re well informed, it is not always easy to adapt to a new healthcare system. In particular, if your home country has a very accessible and affordable healthcare system and you’re leaving for a country where the system is more difficult to navigate through.

Time schedules...

Between dinner in Spain at 10pm and dinner at 6pm ​​in the United States, one can get confused. And these are habits that are not always easy to shed. If you can adjust your meal times as you please at home, it is more complicated in society and you have to keep pace with your new country.

Religious traditions

Another major cultural difference is the customs related to religion. Whether coming from a secular country or a country of another faith, it is not always easy to adapt to unfamiliar traditions such as fasting, the closure of businesses some days of the week or the dress codes.

Units of measurement

Living in a country where units of measurement are different is a source of great destabilization. The kilos versus pounds, degrees Celsius versus Fahrenheit and meters versus feets debate can feel trivial to you now, but getting used to the difference can be a whole other story. Not to mention countries that do not even use the same calendar!


The clichés are hard to get rid of, whether the clichés that expats have of their new destination or the clichés that locals have about expats. We must therefore deal with them and be as open-minded as possible.


If one easily adopts new holidays it is, on the other hand, much more difficult not to mark the holidays of one's native country. To know that all his relatives are celebrating an important holiday, when, in his new country, it is a day like any other is not always obvious.

The educational system

To expatriate with children adds a constraint: adapting to a whole new educational system. Once again, it requires openness, but it's still a great opportunity to experience teaching differently.