Over 8 million Americans live abroad. For various reasons, that number continues to trend upwards which helps to offset the United State’s ballooning population by a few fractions.
If you’re planning on joining the ranks of those before you by living your life in a new land, congratulations! Living abroad is no small feat and has the potential to change your outlook on life.
Unfortunately, moving to a different country can take a bit of leg work and there are some considerations that you’ll want to keep in mind before hopping on a plane and starting a new life.
Below, our team walks you through some of the key things that you’ll want to tackle before and as you go through the becoming an expat process.
1. Have Some Savings Built Up
There is a lot of uncertainty and expenses that come with the territory of moving abroad. You’ve got steep moving expenses, visas that need to be paid for, possible legal counseling and more.
On top of that, as you feel your way around your new living situation, you’re bound to make a couple of costly mistakes (hiring a crooked real estate agent when house hunting is a popular one).
To insulate yourself from all of those variables, you’re going to want to have a decent amount of savings sitting in your bank account before you make your move.
In a perfect world, you’ll have 6-months worth of expenses saved up and ready to go. If you don’t have work lined up (more on that in a moment) you’ll want a year’s worth of savings.
2. Know What You’re Going to Do for Work
Working abroad is not as easy as just filling out a job application and seeing if you get called in for an interview. Most countries have very strict regulations on letting foreigners work.
In order to get a job at a company in a different country, you’ll likely need government approval in the way of a work visa. These visas can be hard to get since companies usually have to prove that your skill set cannot be found among job seekers that are legal residents/citizens.
The more figured out your work situation is before you arrive in your new country, the less stressful your transition is going to be.
3. Separate Yourself From Your Old Stuff
It can be tempting to haul your old life with you to your new destination. We recommend that you fight that urge.
One of the best parts about becoming an expat is that it gives you an opportunity to enjoy a fresh start. If you have a bunch of attachments to your old life still, you really diminish that perk.
We think that you should bring with you only the things that you absolutely need when moving to a new place. Also, you’re going to want to clean your old house’s drains (learn more about that on this page), tidy up its rooms and get it sold so you’re not managing two homes in two separate countries.
Purge yourself of the non-consequential aspects of your old life so you can enjoy your next chapter.
4. Rent Before Buying
When you don’t know an area well, buying a home in that area can be a huge mistake. Rather than committing to something that you’re unsure of, we recommend renting first.
When you rent before you buy, you’ll enjoy a trial period that can tip you off as to whether or not a location is right for you.
If it is, buy a house in the area after your lease is up. If it’s not, rent somewhere else and continue looking for that perfect community.
5. Know Language Basis
You will not be expected to know how to speak your new country’s native language upon arrival. As a matter of fact, you may never master your new country’s native tongue and that’s 100% okay.
What you’re going to want to do though is make an effort.
Doing simple things like using mobile applications that tutor you on language basics or taking a crash course on a language at a local college before moving can go a long way in navigating your new location and endearing locals.
6. Build Your Community
Feeling different in a new place can be a hard experience. While we recommend that you do your best to just jump in and try your best to assimilate, you may still find yourself longing for things that you find familiar.
The best way to balance assimilation with comfort is to be open to making new friends in your new community while also seeking out opportunities to rendezvous with other expats.
There are a lot of social media websites that you can leverage to find other members of your native community in your area.
Go to meetings. Join expat sports leagues. Put yourself out there.
With a little effort, you’ll find that you can build social circles that embody both what you’re used to and what’s new in your life.
7. Manage Your Expectations
Moving to another country might sound like a dream but in reality, you’ll find that you’ll face stressful challenges all the time.
Don’t let those challenges derail your experience and take everything in stride.
If you expect from the get-go that not everything is going to go right, you’ll be able to better manage your emotions when things go wrong.
Our Final Thoughts on Becoming an Expat
Becoming an expat is every bit as challenging as it is exciting. To get the most out of this special time in your life, follow our tips above and always stay open to new experiences.
We wish you the best of luck and invite you to read more of our travel/lifestyle content if you’re looking for more advice!