It is only natural for your family and friends to want to stay in touch even after you move to a different country. Fortunately, in this day and age of technology, you can easily keep your folks back home updated about your everyday activities without spending too much time or money on phone calls.In fact, many expats get into writing blogs about their daily experiences primarily in order to update friends and family without the need for individual updates, and they then gradually begin to reach out to a wider audience on a regular basis.
Writing gives you a chance to express what you are going through as an expat more clearly. Creating an expat blog also serves the purpose of helping other foreigners from your home country or other nations who are planning to move to the place that you are currently living in. Most people turn to online resources when they are trying to find out more about a new country and the quality of the expat life there. Personal experiences help them connect better than a website with generic information about the place.
However, writing your blog for the first time is a task much easier said than done. Several expats aspire to share their everyday lives in writing but are too intimidated to pen down details about themselves. In fact, studies show that most people find it most difficult to get started. However, once they get past the initial stage, things become much easier. Fortunately, there are a couple of steps you can follow to get the creative juices flowing! Read on to learn a few quick tips that will help you get started with your first expat blog today.
Embrace the change
First of all, accept the fact that when you move to a new place, things are likely to be different. The culture, language, environment, weather, lifestyle, people, food, entertainment, etc are not going to be what you are used to. Expecting things to be the same as they were back home will only lead to frustration and disappointment. These negative emotions will be evident even when you express yourself through your blog.
On the other hand, if you prepare yourself and are open to new experiences, you are likely to settle down in the new place much faster and your writing will take on a more positive spin, thereby drawing more readers, both local and foreign. Make a conscious effort to look at the brighter side of things and focus on those areas of the expat life, at least initially. Don’t lie or fabricate things to make it sound fantastic; instead, you could talk about the way things are and what you have done to fit in. Foreigners generally like reading about the fine differences between cultures and how they can overcome the gap. Perhaps you could start off by guiding people on what they can expect and the things they should do to integrate themselves within the society.
Highlight differences and similarities without comparing
One of the biggest risks of comparing cultures is putting one down or making one sound better than the other. While this may be true in some aspects, you are bound to hurt the sentiments of certain readers with such an approach. Of course, every country has its good and bad side and no place is absolutely perfect. It is therefore best to avoid comparing any two cultures in your blog.
However, there is no harm in highlighting the cultural aspects people are likely to see when they move to the new place and that these seemed quite different from what you were used to. What you should avoid doing is comparing these to your home country or other places that you have been to. It is also safer to start off by drawing parallels or highlighting the similarities.
People everywhere have a general tendency to treat foreigners a bit differently. For example, in some countries visitors are given more a lot respect and importance than the locals. However, in other places outsiders are treated with more doubt and suspicion. You could use your blog to talk about the attitude and the behavior of the locals towards you as well as other foreigners. It is best to stay away from controversial topics like high levels of racism and corruption, at least when you first start writing.
Choose a theme and the frequency of your blog
There are thousands of people online who post snippets of their life as an expat overseas. While some of these articles are highly informative, others are simply entertaining or interesting. It may be a good idea to go through some of these blogs for ideas and inspiration. Ideally, a blog is more like a journal or diary that can be read by several people online. It gets its name from the term “web log” and therefore should be fairly conversational. However, many bloggers opt for a more formal approach, in order to sound professional and authoritative.
One of the first things for you to do is decide the tone that your blog posts will take; for example, do you want them to be formal articles that give out accurate facts, figures and details or should they be more like casual conversations with the readers, based on your thoughts and feelings? Both styles have their own pros and cons.
If you decide to go in for the former, you need to keep your personal opinions completely out of it. Moreover, you have to conduct thorough research about a certain topic before you decide to post anything online. Such blogs, even though written by expats, tend to be published more frequently, as they usually cover a wide range of expat-life aspects.
There are no specific guidelines for informal expat blogs. You could write about a place that you visited or a personal experience. Make it clear that this is your opinion and others may not agree with you. Such articles can be posted, daily, weekly, monthly or anytime that is convenient for you. To make things more interesting, you could also add a few of your pictures to each blog. Do bear in mind that you need to provide fresh information on a regular basis to maintain your readers’ attention.
Learn the technical aspects of blogging
For the majority of people, this is probably the most complicated step of writing a blog. However, there are so many options online today and this need not be as difficult as it once was.
Many people write their blogs and simply post them on popular expat websites. For this, all you need to do is register with that site and you can publish your writing under a particular section. A moderator may go through your article before it is posted, but this feature does not apply to all sites. The advantage is that all the users visiting that URL will have access to the blog you wrote. Some sites also give visitors the option of sharing a review or their feedback with the writer. Several bloggers use popular social platforms to showcase their work.
The procedure for getting and maintaining your own webpage is a little more detailed and complex. This will involve you purchasing a domain name, signing up for a web hosting service and designing your webpage.
Fortunately, there are numerous domain registrars offering space on the Internet at attractive prices today. In fact, many hosting companies offer a free domain name when you sign up with them. It is therefore a good idea to check with the host before paying for a domain name separately. The procedure for registration is fairly straightforward and can be done online.
Create a backup
Technical glitches and site crashes are common occurrences; the last thing you want is for all your work, and memories, to be gone forever! It is therefore advisable to back everything up on a regular basis. You probably already do this for all the other material you have saved on your computer.
Creating your own webpage should make it easier for you to create a backup of your work. You need to “Export” all the files in the XML format. This will hold a copy of all your content, which includes your posts, pictures and pages.
If your blogs are a part of a social or expat website make sure that you maintain a copy of the original article. Contact the administrator of the site for backups of the comments.
Get someone to proofread and edit your work
Even the best writers can make a mistake while typing, especially when they multitask. At times, gaps in knowledge could also lead to errors in an article. Any writer therefore knows how important it is to proofread what they have written.
Go through your blog at least once to make sure that there are no typos. If you are not sure about the accuracy of any information, you may want to add a disclaimer or delay publishing the article till you get the details clarified. Also, while proofreading the blog, try to perceive it from an outsider’s point of view.
Instead of re-reading what you have written, why don’t you get a friend or colleague to go through it? This will help you understand how someone else interprets your blog. Moreover, you can seek feedback on how it sounds from that person and make changes, if required. Also, an editor may help you prepare for any questions, suggestions and negative comments that you are likely to receive from your readers.
There are so many online resources that give out completely contradictory information about the same place. Readers are often confused about what they read and are not sure whom to trust.
You therefore need to sound like you know exactly what you are talking about. Mention exact dates, figures, and names and if possible, add a few pictures too. Keep your blog short and simple if necessary, but don’t write about things that you aren’t sure of.
If you have got your information from another online source, you may want to mention the link or the reference that in your blog so that people can verify its authenticity and if possible, read up more on that particular topic. Citing reliable references like government or official sites will definitely be a good idea.
Be open to feedback
Interactive sites are usually the best for readers. Not only do they get to know about the writer’s experiences and opinions, they also learn a few things from those who have left their comments. It is therefore a good idea to invite comments, questions and suggestions on your blog. If any of your readers have knowledge or their own experiences to share, you will actually be giving them a platform.
Of course, this means that you could also receive some criticism on what you have written. Don’t take the negative feedback to heart; instead, try to understand why the reader has criticized your work. If you have hurt someone’s sentiments by what you have written, you may want to make amends or clarify your stand. Implementing the feedback that you receive should eventually help you improve as a writer.
While the tips mentioned above will help you to get started, you will only be able to keep up the momentum if you truly enjoy writing about your experiences as an expat. It is important to maintain some level of discipline if your aim is to become a regular blogger.
Have you set up an expat blog? Share your tips in the comments!