How to Survive Your First Trip Home as an Expat

Planning your first trip home to visit after a year or two can be so many things! For me, it was exciting, stressful, scary, calming, familiar, and so much more that I couldn’t possibly explain, though I did try! I’m used to my new home, the customs, the food, the people, and I didn’t know how I would fit in back home or what the experience would be like.

Uncertainty is very normal. But I can assure you of two things: you will easily be able to adapt back to your home culture with your favorite foods and people, and it won’t be nearly as bad as you might think. Everyday habits and relationships you had might feel the exact same as when you left.

So, based on my experience on going home to visit about 2 years later, I give you my best advice on how to make it as awesome as possible!

Planning ahead is key

Euro Change


If you still have an bank account at home, move some money into it so you can easily access ATMs and use a local debit card with no worries. We use Wise, formerly Transferwise which is amazing! After using it for 2 years, I can say it only gets better! Just be sure you have a current debit card and know your PIN number.

plane wing

Travel Insurance

If you wouldn’t normally have access to health insurance, then I highly recommend getting some travel insurance. Not only will it cover things like lost luggage, but the right one can cover accidents or illness that happen to you! I almost used it in the United States…the land of absurdly high healthcare costs. But I got over-the-counter medicines instead. I did email them to ask if I would be covered in my case, and that assured me that I was, that I just needed to keep the receipts. That piece of mind was well worth (what I consider) a cheap price! World Nomads seems to have great reviews and is who we used for our coverage.

Cell Phone

Cell phone plan

After failing so miserably at this, I hope you learn from my mistakes! Figure out your phone situation before you leave. Are you okay with going WiFi only or will you need a SIM card with the ability to call and text while having data? The AT&T and Verizon options were so not helpful in the U.S. so I would look elsewhere to find the right plan for you. Personal hotspots are pretty popular, and I know The Planet D loves KnowRoaming, so everything is worth looking into what fits you best.

ebags luggage


We left some things in storage when we left the United States because we didn’t know what kind of space we would have in our new place. So, we used the bag-in-a-bag trick! Pack a smaller bag in a bigger bag, then you have two suitcases to bring stuff back in. We also did some shopping for ourselves and grabbed some food favorites as well. Those bags were certainly PACKED when we came back to Amsterdam.

Friendship Shot

Planning your time

This might be the hardest part and also the part that upsets people the most. Determine where you will be, and for how long and plan your visits around that. Just don’t overdo it!! You need time to yourself, and time to not be “on”. Honestly, it’s exhausting going from place to place and seeing almost everyone in your life within a week or two.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s an amazing thing to see so many people in a short time, it just takes a lot of energy. One way that helped us was to have a cookout at a local park and invited everyone to bring a side dish while we made hot dogs. It was a great way to see so many people, have a great event outside, and to see all the new babies! And since it was in the one town we spend most of our time, many people knew each other, so it was a great catch-up for them too. Win-win!

Of course, family lunches and dinner are awesome, too. Seeing family and eating the home-cooked food you’ve probably been craving for as long as you’ve been gone is pretty much heaven! Don’t forget to add snuggle time for any pets that have missed you while you’ve been gone.

Tip: Don’t forget to take photos when you visit home!

Eggs and Grits

Do you need to prepare for culture shock?

I’ve asked around about this, and for us, after living in Europe, we did not experience culture shock. Quite the opposite actually! It was like we went on a month-long vacation and came back. EVERYTHING was normal.

I mean everything. From driving to ordering my usual meal from Chick-Fil-A. Navigating the roads I grew up on and spend my adult life on took zero effort.

Many things were simply automatic…like muscle memory. Unconsciously when driving to where we were staying, I ended up making a wrong turn because I was going back to our old apartment. That’s how normal it all was.

As Sean said, “The weirdest part is that nothing is weird!

However, I’ve had friends from the same area who spend a year in Asia and came back and experienced quite a bit of culture shock. It seems that when the culture is that different, then you may need to have some time to adjust. But it also depends on the person as well.

Friendships from home

What to talk about

So…you’re back! You’re excited to share your many adventures! But don’t spill everything all the time. I mean, you want to know what they’ve been up to as well, right? Take a breath and let your friends and family talk. I’m sure they will have plenty of specific questions for you!

I can almost guarantee one of those will be “Are you fluent yet?” You might also get “When are you moving home?” Yep, things can get heavy pretty quickly.

The best thing to do if you’re not sure is just to say it! Being so far away is a big deal for the people who love you. Be honest. I’m not sure when or if I’ll move back. I mean, I’m happy now, and I have so much more traveling to do. That’s one of the reasons I moved, so that’s what I’m doing!

Don’t bug your friends and family to visit you. Of course, you can mention it, but don’t pressure! Not everyone has the means or time to take a long or far trip. It might be a good idea to let people know if you can host them. We had a bit of a misunderstanding at some point because we are currently not able to host in our tiny place, so just be clear about it!

Ask about them! Have they been on a trip recently? Have kids been born since you left? Marriages? New jobs? Have they moved homes? There is so much to ask them! See if you can find out 3 new things about them, and really listen.


Photo courtesy of TravelShoot

Prepare for the guilt

Do your best to not feel guilty for living the life you live.

This is so hard!

Yes, you are away from friends and family who love you and you love them. But I believe they want us to be happy. At least I hope so! This makes us happy. It’s a pain in the butt sometimes, but for the most part, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. If they know that, hopefully, they will be happy for you.

[bctt tweet=”Do your best to not feel guilty for living the life you live.” username=”AWlustForLife”]

How to Survive Your First Trip Home as an Expat

Have you already been back to visit? I’d love to know how it went for you on your first trip. Was it easy or did it feel weird?

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.

Travel with us - Tuscany October 2022