Thinking about living abroad?
The world is shrinking, or so it seems. Reality TV has brought people who have decided to leave the USA and live abroad into our living rooms, and, perhaps, into our considerations. Opportunities for teaching English in other countries are on the rise. Retirees are looking for the best possible lifestyle for the least amount of money. Adventure seekers, especially millennials, are postponing careers and starting families to experience life elsewhere. Hey, why not? Have passport, will travel, right?
Or, is it really that easy?
Traveling abroad is one thing – but establishing a new life in another country, whether temporary or permanently, comes with challenges as well as rewards.
This post and my next will focus on some helpful tips gleaned from people I know who have gone down or are still on this expat path. They live or have lived in different parts of the world, were born in different generations, are married couples and singles, and chose to live outside the USA (or their home country) for myriad reasons. I’ve managed to divide their tips into two categories.
This post’s tips fall under the category of: NUTS and BOLTS – (the practical stuff)
Practical Tips for Living Abroad
- Check the visa requirements for the country you plan to move to. Research how long you can stay, if you can work, etc.
- Check the internet and resources like Lonely Planet to get as much information about the country as you can. This can help to alleviate some of the culture shock you will experience.
- Locate a furnished temporary residence in your new locale (if possible). When you first arrive, especially if it’s a long overseas trip, you will be exhausted and overwhelmed. You won’t want to have to search for a place to eat or for spoons. From your temporary apartment, you can get to know the various neighborhoods and choose the most suitable one you can afford.
- Be prepared to use cash. Many retailers (the small one…the street vendors, etc.) do not take credit cards. And, of course there won’t be a bank check system. It may take up to 6 weeks to get bank accounts established/transferred etc. Research what options are available for cash withdrawals in your new country before you leave the USA and what the fees will be.
- Investigate the pros and cons of the various locales available to you. It’s possible that you may prefer enclaves of expats that afford all the conveniences and services of home. Or, you might prefer to live among and like the locals.
- To ward off homesickness, bring printed photos of friends and family and a few small but meaningful decorative items
- Get a Skype service (or other similar app) that offers a phone number option so you can call folks back home that may not be comfortable with other methods.
- Take along a good supply of the medications (OTC and prescription) that you typically need. It might take some time to learn the nuances of buying medication in your new locale.
- Take along all your medical records.
- If you attend church or belong to an international organization, start looking for a similar place to worship or gather, even before you get there. Having a built-in “community” is always helpful when emigrating.
- Visiting home often is not always the best remedy for homesickness. If you are intending to become a permanent resident of your new country, then establish a life there with friends, activities, and “roots.”
- Establishing a business (or entering into work contracts) in a foreign country can be challenging and frustrating. The level of corruption in a foreign government can go much deeper than you can imagine. You may have to compromise your personal integrity – or choose another way to earn income while abroad.
- Have an exit plan in case of war, political unrest, visa revocation, etc.
- Be open to adventure and “hit the ground running.” You won’t have time to become nervous, afraid, or homesick.
Hope this has been helpful! Do you have something to add? Please feel free to chime in below in the comment area.
In next week’s post, I’ll be sharing tips about fitting in, adjusting to your new culture, and how to keep your sense of humor in the meantime!