Have you ever thought about becoming an expat? Moving aboard is a life-rewarding experience. However, there are many things to consider BEFORE moving abroad. Here are 10 things you need to consider before becoming an expat:
Over the years, we accumulate a lot of things — clothes, furniture, cars, and so on. You need to plan what you are going to do with all your stuff.
Are you going to sell your house or should you rent it?
Will you sell or give away your belongings or will you put them in storage? (On that thought, do you really want to spent $100 a month storing things you may end up getting rid of anyways?).
Shipping your belongings abroad may also be a consideration. Calculate how much it will cost to ship them abroad and back. Oftentimes, shipping costs more than the items are actually worth. A car, for example, can cost as much as $6000 to ship abroad and back, not including additional ‘fees’ on the reciprocating end. Also, the car may not even be up to the country’s mechanical standards? Do you really want to spend THAT much to ship a car you may not be able to drive without modifications?
Don’t let material things become baggage. Let go of what you don’t need.
2. Get your paperwork in order.
Getting paperwork in order is a must and should be done AT LEAST 6 months in advance. Is your passport expiring? Get it renewed. Do you have all of your important documents in hand (birth certificate, degrees, marriage license, driver’s license, etc)? Are your documents notarized and attested? Does Spot, your family pet, have thorough vaccinations records? Do YOU even have your vaccinations up to date?? Do you have a life-threatening illness that make you prescription-dependant? Do you have those prescriptions in hand?
Make sure you have EVERY document in hand when you make the move abroad and double check that you do, in fact, have EVERYTHING.
Note: Name changes make a big difference abroad. As a woman who had changed her last name after getting married, I had to request new diplomas, certificates, and a new passport. Documents with my old (maiden) name were not accepted. It took several months just to retrieve these documents, and another few months time get them notarized and attested.
Moving abroad is an expensive process. Even if your employer provides airfare and accommodation, you still need to have money saved. It may take several months before you get your first paycheck.
Also, money goes fast. You may have to pay for unexpected expenses like security deposits for utilities, furniture, and transportation. Don’t splurge on what you don’t need. Yes, a 55-inch television is a nice addition to your new apartment, but that’s not a necessity. Get back to basics. Capiche?
Tip: Experts recommend saving AT LEAST 6 months salary before moving abroad.
4. Set yourself up for financial success.
Finances are more fluid in our own home countries. You need to pay a bill? No problem! Just do it online. Have a credit card? Pay by phone. No check? Just use a money order.
Finances are much more difficult to manage as an expat. It can seem impossible at times. However, there are some ways to make managing finances easier whilst living abroad:
Before moving abroad, open a bank account that allows you to make international transfers (without costing you an arm and a leg for each transfer).
Set up automatic recurring payments. (This is especially helpful because time differences make it difficult to know what day it is).
Get an international credit card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange rates. Also, inform your credit card and debit card companies that you will be living abroad, so as to avoid having your accounts frozen for ‘fraudulent charges.’
Consult your tax guy (or gal) about how your move will affect your tax situation. (FYI: American citizens STILL have to file taxes every April 15th, even if your salary is considered tax-free).
5. Expose yourself to culture.
Before moving abroad to become an expat, it is important to know about the culture of the country where you intend live. Be mindful and respectful of customs and/or ideals. Learn some basic phrases in the country’s native language. Immerse yourself in the culture. When living abroad, you must remember that you are a guest in the country, and a representative of your own.
6. Get used to being lonely
Living abroad as an expat can be lonely, even if you’re living in an English-speaking country. Some cultural differences will make it difficult to make friends. Language differences, for example, will make it difficult to communicate, and therefore, difficult to make friends. You will feel very lonely at times, and that’s ok.
7. Life will go on without you.
Engagements, weddings, and births are all life-changing events. As an expat, you will inevitably miss some of these important life events. Life will go on without you. Some family and friends will not understand why you couldn’t attend their god-daughter’s christening, and perhaps take the matter as a personal offense rather than circumstantial situation.
Some life events will be more difficult than others. The death of a family or friend is devastating, and perhaps more so, when you’re 10,000 miles away, feeling as though you are unable to offer much support.
Keep in contact with your loved ones by whatever means necessary. We are in the day and age of technology, and social media has platforms to allow for communication from thousands of miles away. It takes effort, and you may even have to make phone calls home at bizarre hours of the night, but ultimately, it is worth it.
8. Patience is a virtue.
I cannot say this enough: you MUST have patience as an expat. As a very punctual person, it was difficult for me to adjust to the fact that some cultures have a VERY a different concept of time.
Things are not done like they are in our home countries. Adjust and be patient.
9. Your family and friends back home will think that you’re on a year-round vacation.
Living abroad as an expat has many perks, including jet-setting off to exotic destinations. While you may not be flaunting the fact your life is so much better than theirs, it may come off that way to your family and friends.
Along the same lines, your family and friends may not take your work abroad seriously. They may consider your work abroad as a sabbatical or a year-round holiday.
Be wary of this so it doesn’t create tension.
10. Don’t lose sight of your end goal.
Consider: Why are you moving abroad in the first place? Are you trying to pay off your debts back home? Are you saving for retirement? Are you paying down your mortgage? It is easy for expats to lose sight of their end goals when living so far away from their own reality. Stick to your guns. If you want to save, then save. Don’t spend your money on take-out or going out every weekend.