Thinking Of Becoming An Expat? Here Are 7 Things To Consider
Living abroad as an expat is part exciting, part scary. The thought of starting a new adventure lights everyone up. More so, it’s never been easier to move abroad with modern technology and online resources at your fingertips.
But living an expat life equals leaving behind family and friends which can be difficult for some people. While logistical challenges are easier to resolve, emotional obstacles like loneliness, homesickness, and cultural barriers need more patience and effort to navigate.
What can you expect when becoming an expat?
What are the challenges of being an expat? And how do you overcome them?
This article will answer the questions above to help you better prepare for living abroad without unexpected surprises.
7 Things To Consider When Becoming An Expat
Visa requirements for expats in each country are different, so be sure to check and double-check before deciding to move.
Shortlist the countries you want to move in, visit their embassies, and understand the application process and eligibility first before you decide where to move. Some people prefer to move to a country with very little trouble in applying and renewing their visas because it could save them so much time in the long-term.
If you’re a digital nomad, you’re in luck. Because several top destinations in the world are offering digital nomad visas. This way, you can be a long-term expat living in multiple countries without relying on tourist visas.
There are a few things to consider when becoming an expat in terms of banking and finances.
Before leaving, if you’re required to pay any loans or taxes in your home country, sign up for online banking so you can do your home banking business from abroad. And open a local account in the destination country for paying utilities and bills. Also, remember to call your credit card banks to enable overseas spending.
Once you’ve landed at the airport, grab some local currencies from the first ATM you see. Some countries may not accept credit card payments yet, so having local notes in hand is the safest.
Create a safety net by stashing some U.S. currencies in your safe for emergencies. The U.S. currency is globally recognized and you can exchange it in almost every part of the world.
Some expats regretted renting their rooms or houses before reaching the country. Why? Because what they see from the pictures are different from reality. In the end, they’re stuck with a 6-month or 1-year contract before they’re able to move out.
It’s okay if you don’t have housing settled after landing in your dream country. Simply book an Airbnb or hotel and scout the area. It’s much better to visit the room or house and see the environment in person.
If you have family or friends living in the destination country, that’s even better. Staying with them for the first few days or weeks can really help you settle down faster and be at ease with the new environment.
We’re not going to lie, expat isolation is real, for 9 out of 10 expats feel isolated. Some people who have been expats for over a decade can still feel being isolated in foreign countries. They find it hard to make friends and mingle with the local community.
What experienced expats would do before moving abroad is figuring out the expat community in the destination country. They will join their Facebook, Telegram or Whatsapp groups and forums even before arriving.
It is much easier to blend into the expat community because they understand each other’s challenges and struggles to live in a foreign country. This alone can make all of you comrades in arms in the first meetup.
The expat community can also act as your support system. They understand what you are going through and can advise based on their past experiences. In this community, you can feel supported, understood, and connected.
Talking about connection, no matter how close you are with the expat community, you might feel occasional homesickness. But being away from your home country doesn’t mean you’re mentally and emotionally away from your loved ones.
Take full advantage of modern technology and connect with your loved ones with FaceTime, Whatsapp, Facebook, or Zoom video calls. If the time difference is a challenge, use a timezone converter and look for the most suitable time for you and your loved ones.
One thing you need to know about moving abroad is managing relationships as an expat. You will meet new people, you might fall in love, and when both of you get to know each other better, you may uncover greater cultural differences and language barriers you might think of.
While there are no hard rules on expat relationships, but there are some common truths about what to expect in this type of relationship:
You’ll be dating someone different from your own culture, so you can no longer interpret your partner’s actions, insecurities, dreams and goals through your cultural lens; you need to interpret from theirs.
Language barriers can exist even if you both speak the same language. Words can be mistranslated and communication can quickly escalate in the wrong direction. Take it slow and always return to empathy.
Living in a new—sometimes an opposite culture—can bring thrill and excitement to a person, or instil fear and anxiety in another.
Imagine living on a foreign planet where you look different and speak different languages, making you an alien. You could experience culture shock, or even racism, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What keeps you going is staying open-minded and empathy.
Also, spend more time with the locals to understand their way of doing things, and if the situation allows, ask why. Learning the reasons behind their actions can help you empathize with them more, which can ease your journey of fitting in.
In a nutshell, learn to live, eat, and play like the locals with the locals. Cultural shock and racism are a norm initially, but once you pushed through that phase, you might have found a new home.