So you have made the move abroad and are now in the midst of trying to find a place to live in a foreign country. In my case I had just moved to Madrid to teach English for the upcoming school year. Even with the Spanish I know the first few days I spent in Spain were more than a little intimidating! Whether you have moved abroad for school or work, here are a few tips and suggestions to help you navigate this part of the process:
1. Embrace the hostel lifestyle. Most likely you have booked in at a hostel for a few days until you can find a more permanent living situation (another option would be to go through Airbnb if you would rather skip the hostel and rent a private room – a good idea if you have the money as the locals you rent from may have some advice about the best way to approach the apartment hunt). I know it can be a stressful situation but take time to make friends and experience the city. Going out and meeting people is one of the best ways to get a feel for the different neighborhoods and may ultimately help you to narrow down your options.
3. The online websites that host apartment listings are great but another option is to simply walk around and look for rental signs. This is another great way to get a feel for different parts of a city. Also think about what is important to you. Would you rather be in the center right in the thick of things or would you rather have a shorter commute and be able to sleep in for a few more precious minutes?
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I was lucky enough to make friends who speak better Spanish than I do and who were comfortable talking to potential landlords over the phone. When in doubt – struggling through an awkward phone conversation in a language you barely know can be a good way to start learning that language. I found in Spain that most people did not respond to emails but much preferred a phone call or a message through whatsapp. Your respective school or place of work should also be able to assist you with this process.
3. Don’t move into the first place you see! Check out a few different options and try to get a feel for what constitutes a fair rate. Absolutely don’t agree to live anywhere without seeing it in person! Not only can pictures posted online be VERY deceiving there are also a lot of scams out there so be aware.
4. If dealing with a foreign language bring a list of the questions you would like to ask while viewing the apartment (when looking at listings online it is also helpful to know certain vocabulary – for example it was helpful for me to know that ‘amueblado’ means ‘furnished’ in Spanish). If possible, I would also recommend bringing someone with you who has a good grasp of the language when you go to sign a lease. I was very lucky – my landlady went through my contract word by word with me to make sure I understood everything – not everyone will be so accommodating!
5. Try and live with locals. If it applies – living with native speakers is a great way to learn a language and understand a new culture.
For more advice on what to do once you are settled check out Tips for Students Living Abroad.