Wednesday, March 10, 2010

10 Tips for New Expats

Tomorrow marks the end of my first year in Ghana, and I have now spent 2 out of the last 4 years abroad. My brother recently moved to Chile, and just celebrated the end of his first month abroad. I decided to whip up some advice for him and all those other wethorn, green-behind-the-ears expats out there.

  1. Buy a phone with a flashlight
  2. They're nifty, extremely useful, most often very cheap, and a great signal that you don't have bottomless pockets. Well worth the investment, even if you're only visiting.
  3. Learn to sleep in the heat
  4. With my patented 4-step technique!

    1. Lie on your back. Don't bother trying to sleep yet; it's too hot. The goal of this stage is to build of a rich lather of sweat.
    2. Roll on your right side and fall asleep immediately. The sweat evaporating off your back should cool you down just enough to be able to fall asleep. If you don't fall asleep right away... good luck
    3. When you wake up because it's too hot again, switch sides to let the right side's sweaty lather evaporate as you fall back asleep (and let the right half of the sheets dry).
    4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as needed.

  5. Treat napkins as precious resources
  6. You will get only one. Use it wisely.
  7. Trust your gut
  8. Both in the food and the George Bush ways. If the well lit street feels dangerous, it probably is. If the dark, dingy street feels safe, it just might be. If the street food looks warm and appetizing, it probably is. If the fancy-pants restaurant's food feels suspicious, leave it on your plate.
  9. Be Responsible
  10. Don't dive if you don't know the depth. Utilize body-augmenting technologies (sunscreen, condoms, earplugs). Call your mother (she's worried about you).
  11. Take the bus
  12. Minibuses, Microbuses, Tro-tros, Matatus, Colectivos, whatever they call 'em, hop on. Buy a map and learn the routes. Scope the map during the ride so you can orient yourself when you hop down.
  13. Find your happy place
  14. And go there every time your knees are in your teeth on the bus.
  15. Cut Your Coat to Your Size
  16. Or else people will laugh at you! (My favorite Ghanaian proverb) There are tailors everywhere; there's no excuse to look like a fool. Collared shirts also keep the sun off. And while you're at it, shave.
  17. Dance like a fool
  18. Because life is more fun that way.
  19. When in doubt, drink
  20. The beer is always good to drink.


  1. Thanks for reminding everyone to call their moms! Happy one year! I am ready for you to come home...!!! And to visit you!!

  2. And I consider # 9 to be a shout out to me! I see you picked up something!

    Love Dad