What to do on arrival in a new country

When you arrive in the country, there are several steps you can take to help things go smoothly. It may be an unsettling time for you and your family so any preparations you can make will be a real benefit.

Things that you can do

  • register with the local authorities - this may give you access to the local welfare services after a short period of time - if you are in doubt then ask
  • if you are moving to another European Economic Area country (EEA - is the European Union countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) you must apply for a residence permit within three months of arrival
  • register with the British Consulate, this will help the Consulate keep in touch with you if you have any problems
  • make sure your passport is valid and fill in the next-of-kin details on the back page - if your passport is about to go out of date apply to the British Consulate to have it renewed - if you travel on an Irish passport you may contact the Irish Embassy or Consulate
  • open a foreign bank account - if you are retiring - in many countries your pension can be paid directly into your bank account there
  • if you haven't already started, learn the local language, you will find day-to-day life much easier
  • if you haven't got one already make a will - you can get professional legal advice on how to do this, your local British Consulate can provide a list of English-speaking lawyers who can help you
  • check local traffic regulations - driving is permitted on a valid UK licence in EEA countries, although you may be required to exchange it for an EEA national licence once you have gained residence status
  • for non-EEA countries you will need to take an International Driving Permit (IDP), which must be obtained before you leave the UK
  • make sure you are fully insured to drive and that your car complies to the regulations of that country
  • stay in touch - remember to give your family and friends in the UK your address abroad
  • keep your vote by registering in the UK as an overseas elector
  • Consulates and embassies
  • European Commission
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • European Union 

Cultural awareness

Understanding a country's laws and customs can help you adjust to a new home abroad. Daily life may be unsettling at first, so any preparation could help you adjust more quickly. Appreciating cultural and legal differences could also help you avoid potentially embarrassing or difficult situations.

A few tips on how to get started

  • get a good guidebook and find out about local laws, customs and culture
  • learn the local language or use a phrase book
  • respect local customs and dress codes, think about what you wear and how you fit in
  • be discreet about your views on cultural differences and behave and dress appropriately, particularly when visiting religious sites, markets and rural communities
  • you should take particular care not to offend Islamic codes of dress and behaviour with regards to sexual relations, alcohol and drugs - in some countries, for example, it is illegal to drink, and importing alcohol into the country can lead to severe penalties
  • always ask an individual's permission before you take a photograph and respect their wishes - in some cultures, taking a woman's photograph can cause great offence
  • don't haggle too aggressively - in most countries where haggling is the norm, it is done with humour and not for too long - it is important to remember that the discount you are haggling over could be a few pence for you, but significant income for a seller
  • it is best to err on the side of caution - behaviour that would be regarded as harmless elsewhere can lead to serious trouble

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