Expat living abroad tips – The lure of living abroad captures the hearts and imaginations of many. From romantic notions of sipping wine in Tuscan villas or finding enlightenment in an ashram in India, the idea of leaving behind the familiar to start fresh in a new country is powerfully appealing.
But before you dust off that passport and purchase a one-way ticket, be sure you’re prepared for the realities of life as an expat. While undeniably rewarding, moving overseas comes with major challenges. Your fantasies of effortlessly assimilating into a new culture are up against work permit headaches, language barriers, financial strains, and profound homesickness.
This complete guide pulls back the curtain on expat life. From shipments and visas, to making new friends and managing finances abroad, you’ll know exactly what to expect – the good and the bad. Whether you’re still flirting with the idea of living overseas or committed to making it happen, use these tips to craft a strategic approach. With eyes wide open, you can avoid major mistakes and set yourself up for an adventure you’ll never forget.
So toss out your assumptions, and get ready for a primer on living abroad successfully as an expat. You may be surprised by how much preparation it involves. But with commitment and smart planning, you’ll be well on your way to an experience you’ll cherish. The world is waiting – are you ready?
Deciding to Move Abroad as an Expat
Have you always fantasized about living overseas? Does the daily grind have you daydreaming of throwing caution to the wind and starting fresh in an exotic new land?
Before tossing everything into storage and booking a one-way ticket, it’s essential to carefully consider if the expat lifestyle is right for you. Moving abroad is a major life change filled with adventure and excitement – but also very real challenges.
This guide will walk you through the key factors to ponder before taking the expat leap.
The Alluring Upsides of Life Abroad
What inspires droves of starry-eyed dreamers to leave familiarity behind and become expats?
Change of Scenery
Living in a stunning new landscape with different architecture, food, music, values and scenery can be tremendously fulfilling. Who wouldn’t want to swap a view of the parking lot for turquoise Caribbean waters or French vineyards?
Working abroad supercharges resumes by showcasing adaptability and cultural savvy. Certain careers thrive overseas with lucrative job opportunities unavailable back home.
What better way to create lifelong memories than venturing beyond borders? Every day offers new cultures, customs and experiences. Even a simple trip to the grocery store can be an adventure.
Moving abroad pushes us outside comfort zones, develops resilience, and exposes us to different perspectives. These invaluable life lessons allow us to flourish.
Lower Cost of Living
Places like Portugal, Mexico and Thailand offer beautiful lifestyles on the cheap. Housing, healthcare and entertainment cost far less than the USA.
From tropical island courtships to romantic trysts in Paris, living abroad amps up love lives. Over 90% of expats say moving overseas made their relationships more fulfilling.
The Downsides of Being an Expat
Before diving in, carefully consider the tougher aspects of life abroad:
Not speaking the local language can create major communication hurdles. Even in international hubs like Amsterdam, lack of fluency isolates us.
Missing family, friends, favorite activities and foods is inevitable. Overcoming homesickness takes effort.
No Safety Net
Without nearby loved ones or longstanding community ties, hard times can be harder. Some days will feel defeating and lonely.
**Work Restrictions **
Securing work visas is notoriously difficult, forcing some expats into unsatisfying jobs unrelated to expertise and passions.
disabled travelers must research accessibility abroad. Countries like Italy and Greece have fewer accommodations.
U.S. citizens must file taxes while living abroad. Other countries have complex tax requirements for foreign workers.
Key Questions to Ask Before Becoming an Expat
Contemplate these questions to determine if you’re ready for the expat life:
- Why do I want to live abroad? Am I dissatisfied with my current life? Running from something? Drawn to adventure? Clarity of motives is crucial.
- Have I spent extended time abroad before? Short trips are different than living in another culture. Prior travel helps us know how we’ll adapt.
- Will I move alone or with family? Having social ties makes transitioning easier. But family members may have different levels of interest.
- Which destinations appeal to me and why? Cost of living, visa rules, language and lifestyle vary enormously.
- Can I earn income abroad? Securing a job beforehand is ideal but not always realistic. Understand work visa constraints.
- How will I handle major challenges like homesickness and language barriers? It won’t always be easy. Visualize coping strategies.
- Am I willing to adapt and tolerate a foreign country’s values, even if very different from my own? Respecting cultural differences is mandatory.
With eyes wide open to both the rewards and difficulties, deciding if the expat lifestyle is right for you is a highly personal choice. There’s no one right answer – just what feels like the best life for you.
Preparing for Your Move Abroad as an Expat
You’ve decided to take the leap and move abroad! This is an incredibly exciting time.
But before you can start your global adventure, proper preparation is crucial. Moving overseas requires extensive planning and strategic decision making to smoothly transition your life.
This guide covers key steps to get your ducks in a row before heading to your new home in another country.
Taking care of logistics well in advance prevents 11th hour chaos. Be sure to:
Secure the Proper Visa
- Research visa requirements for your destination country.
- Apply as early as possible – processing times vary drastically.
- Consider different visa types like work, student, investment, etc.
Save Up Funds
- Moving overseas is expensive. Budget for:
- Relocation costs – shipping, flights, temp housing
- Living expenses until you find work
- Unexpected costs
- Have a financial cushion of 6-12 months living expenses before moving.
Sort Your Stuff
- Decide what to ship vs. put in storage vs. sell/donate.
- Time selling big items like cars and property carefully.
- Research shipping costs – they often exceed expectations.
- Hire an international moving company for door-to-door service.
- For smaller moves, consider shipping through postal service boxes.
- Transport pets properly with air travel reservations and required documents.
Take Care of Loose Ends
- Terminate your lease.
- Sell vehicles and major possessions not moving with you.
- Forward mail to a family member or PO box.
- Cancel subscriptions and memberships no longer needed.
Expat life impacts finances substantially. BE sure to:
Open an International Bank Account
- Research banks at your destination that serve expats.
- Enroll in online banking services before you move to easily transfer funds.
- Keep your accounts at home active, at least initially.
Understand Tax Requirements
- Research income tax rates and filings required by your new country.
- Stay compliant on taxes at home – Americans must file abroad!
- Consult an expat tax specialist if moving for the long term.
Know the Cost of Living
- Compare day-to-day local prices for rent, groceries, utilities, clothing, transit, etc.
- Get quotes on healthcare plans. Quality care overseas can be cheap.
- Budget for enjoyments like dining out, travel, etc. Don’t just survive!
Monitor Exchange Rates
- Understand conversion rates between your home and new country.
- Watch for big swings in exchange rates over time and adjust accordingly.
- Transfer larger amounts when rates favor you. Consider regular transfers.
With finances sorted, you’re ready to thrive in your new home abroad!
Health and Medical Considerations When Moving Abroad
Relocating overseas involves preparing for different healthcare systems and health factors. Don’t underestimate medical prep! Staying well will make your expat adventure enjoyable.
Arrange Health Insurance
Understand requirements and options for healthcare coverage abroad:
- Research national healthcare policies at your destination. Many countries have universal coverage.
- Look into international private medical insurance with global coverage. These plans are affordable and provide great care.
- Consider keeping your home country coverage active for a while if the transition seems complicated.
- Verify if your current health insurance includes international emergency coverage. If not, add a travel policy.
Don’t run out of prescriptions. Be sure to:
- Get written prescriptions from doctors for necessary medications to bring ample supplies.
- Bring copies of eyeglass/contact lens prescriptions in case you need more.
- Understand if your medications are legal in your new home country. Some common drugs are banned elsewhere.
- Ask doctors for generic medication names. Brand names vary internationally.
Get Advised on Vaccinations
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- Research recommended and required vaccinations for your destination.
- Plan ahead – some immunization schedules require multiple shots over weeks or months.
- Check that your routine vaccinations like tetanus and MMR are up to date.
- Discuss any heightened health risks like malaria, dengue, etc. with your doctor.
Bring Health Records
- Obtain copies of medical records and test results from your doctors.
- Keep a list of healthcare providers, prescriptions, surgeries, allergies, etc.
- Consider having records translated if your destination language is different.
- Verify required healthcare tests for immigration, like TB skin tests, HIV tests, etc.
With preparation, you can stay happy and healthy in your new home! Don’t leave health to chance.
Settling Into Your New Home as an Expat
You’ve arrived in your new country – congratulations, you did it! Now it’s time to settle in and make this foreign place feel like home. This transition period is exhilarating but can also feel overwhelming.
Use this guide to get grounded in your new community smoothly so you can start enjoying expat life to the fullest.
Find the Right Place to Live
Your home base matters. Prioritize finding housing that:
- Fits your budget
- Is furnished, especially short term
- Has easy access to public transportation
- Puts you close to cultural hubs, grocery stores, etc.
- Allows pets if you have them
Consider a short-term rental or corporate housing to buy time finding the perfect neighborhood.
Build a Daily Routine
Creating structure makes unfamiliar surroundings feel stable.
- Open a local bank account right away.
- Get any required IDs like residency cards or work permits.
- Learn the public transit system to get around until buying a car.
- Find a nearby grocery store and pharmacy. Shop and cook familiar foods at first.
- Respect cultural norms like dress codes, etiquette, language customs.
Make Friends and Connections
Loneliness plagues many new expats. Push yourself to make friends through:
- Local expat networking groups
- Colleagues if you’re working
- Classes and recreational sports teams
- Places of worship if you seek one out
- Online forums and meetups
Adjust to Work or Studies
If you’re employed or in school, understand new systems:
- For work, learn labor laws and expectations. Be humble.
- For school, get credentials evaluated and meet with academic advisors.
- Improve language skills immediately if needed for work/school.
- Meet colleagues and classmates – build your social circle.
The more established you become locally, the more at home you’ll feel in your new global life! Give it time, effort and an open mind.
Living Abroad Long-term as an Expat
The first few months as an expat are an exciting whirlwind. As you settle in longer-term, retaining your adventurous expat spirit requires some maintenance. Follow these tips to keep expat life magical even after the honeymoon phase ends.
Maintain Your Lifestyle
Don’t let the practicalities of expatriate life get you down over time:
- Keep your visa status current and renew it promptly to stay legally.
- Budget wisely and stick to it. Having funds saves stress.
- File taxes at home and locally each year as required.
- Build a strong local community through friends, causes etc.
Overcome Cultural Fatigue
The initial enchantment with your adopted culture may wane. Battle fatigue with:
- Patience – the adjustment timeline is long. Honor the process.
- Travel to replenish awe of differences and similarities worldwide.
- Keep growing language skills to connect better.
- Remind yourself why you wanted the expat experience.
Missing home comes in waves. Cope and carry on:
- Call family/friends often. Social media helps but don’t overdo it.
- Cook favorite foods from home.
- Start new traditions in your new home for holidays and occasions.
- Set goals that excite you about long-term expat life.
Decide if It’s Time to Return
There are signs when a move home is right:
- You’ve stopped learning and growing.
- Language and cultural barriers now feel limiting rather than exciting.
- You feel socially isolated or profoundly homesick routinely.
- New career prospects or goals aren’t possible in your location.
Leaving is bittersweet, but your expat experience stays with you forever. Leverage it in new directions at home.
The key is appreciating everyday expat life, while pursuing growth through new relationships, skills and dreams. Embrace both the place and the journey!