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An Expat’s Guide To Relaxing – What To Do In Your Downtime

An Expat’s Guide To Relaxing – What To Do In Your Downtime

When you first make the big move abroad, you’re likely to have your time taken up with a lot of tasks. There was the planning, the organising, the actual travel, and then the moving and settling in…But now what? 

Although you’re living in a foreign country, daily life is the same in most countries and just like in the UK, from time to time you’ll find yourself with some free time. But there are ways of filling that time without adding extra stress to your days.


Take advantage of the new climate and your country’s local plants to create and improve your own garden. Look up the country’s locally grown foods as these will be the ones most suited to your garden’s natural soil and nutrients.

More classic flowers and herbs can be grown in many climates, so plant plenty of colours that can be used to brighten up a window sill or a bedroom.

You might even be able to become semi self-sufficient by growing some of your own food.


Just because you’re now an Expat, it doesn’t make you an expert. Are there any places in your new country that you’ve not yet visited?

Start by exploring your local region. Each area will have its own history and cultures that you can discover and learn from; make sure to go to the places not usually listed in the guide books – hiking can be a great way to explore!

Try marking off regions on a larger map. That way you will know when you can actually call yourself an expert on your new country.


Remember when you said you’d read To Kill A Mockingbird? And weren’t you going to read Ulysses but you just didn’t have the time? Well, now you do. There’s no time like downtime to get going on your book bucket list.

Books are a great way of taking us outside our troubles and worries and just being quiet and thoughtful for a little while. Thinking about the book’s story can give you some well-earned space from all the new experiences of life as an Expat.

If you’re having trouble getting going on a good read, then ask a neighbour for a recommendation or find a local book group to discuss it with.


If you haven’t already learnt the local language, now is a great time to start. Sometimes it can be easier to get to grips with a new language when you are in a relaxed situation, and not when you’re at the supermarket with a long queue waiting behind you!

Sources like BBC Languages and Duolingo provide free access to online learning resources with a variety of languages.


Time to go back to school? Have a look at the courses and classes in your local school or community college and see if anything leaps out at you.

As well as filling the evenings or afternoons, it will be an excellent way to make new friends by bonding over common interests. Or be really brave and try something completely different that you never thought of doing before. You never know, it might be your calling after all.


There are few things that are more rewarding – and more needed – than volunteering.

Opportunities can range from a local religious or charity organisation to keeping up the running of a historic building. Other organisations, such as Projects Abroad, offer volunteering opportunities on a larger scale, and you can save yourself money on flights if you already live in the country where one of their projects is based.  

Opportunities large and small are available in every country and are a way of taking pride in a country that is now your country too.


All of your experiences and adventures are worth their weight in gold. Take the opportunity of some free time to write all of them down.

There are plenty of places to send your stories once you are ready, including online forums, Expat blogs and travel magazines:

  • Expats Blog
  • Global Living
  • Literary Traveller

If you’d rather just keep a diary, take it with you wherever you go so you can jot a few ideas down when you’re waiting for a bus or having a morning coffee. Also, never underestimate the power of a well-written postcard to people back home.


If writing isn’t your forte – or maybe you’re just missing home – find the time to call friends or family. Skype and Whatsapp also allow you to easily get in contact with people abroad.  

It may seem like a very ordinary thing to do, but catching up and keeping in touch is a very important part of adjusting to life as an Expat. It’s better sometimes to discuss the day’s new discoveries with someone not actually there with you, and it will preserve long distance friendships.


Ultimately, a time honoured way of getting to know people is inviting them all over for a drink or a meal. Whether it’s new friends, or family from home coming to visit, hosting is a good way to fill the spare hours.

It’s a great opportunity to try out any new recipes you’ve picked up, make new friendships or catch up with people in a relaxed situation. Having company, and a variety of company at that, can keep you interested in new things and help you avoid getting yourself into the same old routine every day.


We all find ourselves at a loose end sometimes, and it’s no different when living abroad. But there are plenty of proactive ways to fill the time that don’t add extra ‘work’ to your schedule – staying motivated at work will also help to keep you in good spirits!

The best way to find things to do in your free time is to think of things that serve a purpose, for example, learning the language can help you make yourself understood. Likewise taking up a class can develop your learning skills and help you make new friends you would never have met otherwise.

So take a break and try something new – you won’t feel bored for long.

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