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8 Things Black Expats Say They Wished They Knew Before Moving

By Parker Diakite

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Are you thinking about trying something new, like picking up and moving abroad? The good news is, you’re not alone.

A recent poll by Gallup shows that a record number of Americans are looking to live that expat life. The latest data finding that 16 percent are considering a move, up from 10 percent since the year 2000.

And while the experiences of expats vary, there are some things that you all may encounter that are the same. That’s why Travel Noire reached out to some Black expats to hear firsthand on things they wished they knew before moving.

Creating A Social Network In Your New Home

“I wouldn’t do anything differently if I had the opportunity to leave the U.S. again. I’m so glad I did it! So, I would never want my advice to deter potential expats. But, of course, there are challenges. For example, being an expat can be lonely. When you leave friends and family behind, it’s up to you to create your own community in the adopted country. Fortunately, Black people are everywhere. In many cases, even though we often have different backgrounds and life experiences, I’ve found my community among other Black women, including locals and fellow expats. It takes more effort to find your people when you’re living abroad. But, trust me, we’re out here.” – Dana Saxon, who is currently living in the Netherlands and founder of Black Girl Gone.

Race + Identity+ Nationality

“Depending on where your passport is from and where you’re going, sometimes nationality will play an even bigger role than race. It can be really discomforting realizing you’re receiving preferential treatment because of the type of passport, while also witnessing the disadvantageous treatment another black person is receiving because they happen to be from a passport holder from a country with less political pull.

“In general, it is super important to understand the racial/ethnic and national origin dynamics that play out in your new location beyond just literal skin tone.”  – Amanda Bates, founder of The Black Expat – @theblackexpat (Twitter, Instagram)

Mental Preparation

“There was just so much excitement of moving, but there was no mental preparations of expecting the worst from acceptance by the people to conform to their social norm. I was disappointed during my first few months. Think about the possibilities of what to expect and whatnot, and don’t get too excited. Be prepared for the worst.” – Ola, who is currently living in Ghana and a content creator for Waka Journals.

“In addition, don’t forget your seasonings! I always tell expat clients that food can be a great comforter when you’re moving abroad. If you’re moving to somewhere you haven’t spent a long time previously, you may not know where to get those seasonings that have at home. While you’re still navigating a place, you’ve got to eat — and we generally default to making the foods we’re familiar with. Having a starter kit of seasonings that you bring from home, can help you make the food you know while you’re acclimating to a new environment. This is especially key if you’re moving with kids, and they are picky eaters – or not in the mood to be adventurous. Beyond this, when you’re dealing with homesickness (and it will crop up), it helps to be able to make or have access to your comfort food.” – Amanda Bates, founder of The Black Expat – @theblackexpat (Twitter, Instagram)

Logistics + Accommodations + Money

“As an expat, I wish I would have known that although American dollars can go far as a tourist in Budapest [sic] you truly have to pay for comfort, private healthcare, refurbished apartments, and so much more!” – Starr Session Varga, travel blogger in Budapest and founder of Black Girl In Budapest.

“This was a major problem while moving to Ghana. The cost of accommodation is on the very high side for foreigners, added with a high standard of living. This would have helped me prepare better. To get a very conducive apartment requires a lot of money. Save as much as possible and move with enough cash as possible. It’s always better to have a surplus than insufficient or been stranded in a foreign land.” – Ola, who is currently living in Ghana and a content creator for Waka Journals.

Seasonings +Perosnal Items

“As a black expat, I wish I would have known what kind of hair products I should have brought from home or how many tubes of foundation I should’ve brought before I arrived.” – Starr Session Varga, travel blogger in Budapest and founder of Black Girl In Budapest.

“There are some basic things you can’t do without, like your personal health/skincare products (creams, soaps, etc) things you know you can’t do without. Get as much as possible, because sometimes you might not find that same exact product or it might be called a different name in the country you are moving to.” – Ola, who is currently living in Ghana and a content creator for Waka Journals.

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