What Does it Mean to Say You are an Expatriate
Packing up, moving abroad, and becoming an expatriate is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are many things to be considered before making such a big move, including:
- How will you earn money?
- Where will you live?
- Can you speak or easily learn the language and culture?
- What will you do with your personal belongings?
- Will you need a visa?
- What will happen if you become sick or injured?
For many expats, living abroad is a big adventure that sometimes comes after years of researching, planning, and dreaming of living elsewhere.
For others, it is because of a job transfer or new job opportunity. Whether it is because they are in search of something new or following their career path, living the expat life isn’t always glamorous and can be a lot of work. You should understand the meaning of becoming an expat before you go – so here are some considerations…
What is an Expat?
What do you mean when you say you are an expatriate? An expatriate is someone who is currently living in a foreign country outside of that person’s country of citizenship. In many cases, the purpose of their extended visit is for work purposes.
How is an Expatriate different than an immigrant? An immigrant is typically an expatriate who is planning on remaining in their country of residence for the foreseeable future. The immigrant plans to live permanently in their new country of residence, eventually becoming a citizen.
How Do You Define Expatriate Life?
The non-glamorous aspect of expatriate life comes from leaving family and friends back home and watching their lives move on via social media highlights, emails, and telephone calls. If you are planning to be an expat, be prepared to miss the ones you love, and don’t expect them to visit you overseas. You must be willing to start over. You can’t possibly bring all of your furniture and household belongings with you overseas, so you must be willing to start from the beginning.
You must also be adaptable and be okay with living out of your suitcase (or even backpack!) until you have a more permanent residence. And once you have that residence, you may have to invest in furniture and of course, food and toiletries.
Secondly, if student life isn’t for you then you may want to reconsider moving to a foreign country. If you don’t speak the language be prepared to learn it and go back to school to earn any necessary credentials so that you cannot only live well abroad but can work and earn a living.
Expat Visa Requirements
If you are moving abroad with a company then you may be granted a working visa, but if not be sure to research the terms and conditions of getting a visa in your country of interest. Even the most common jobs, such as teaching English as a second language legally require a visa.
You should also keep in mind that a visitor’s visa lasts, on average, three months, so you will need to have a job lined up (or at the very least interviews), have a place to stay so they can verify you’re not living on the streets, and have a substantial amount of financial savings available should you need it.
Learning Local Culture as an Expatriate
Even the most popular of expat countries, including Ecuador, Mexico, and Thailand are quite different in culture and language compared to the United States.
Each has their own ways of doing things and can be amused at how differently foreigners are. It’s important to remember that you are living in their country (even if it is not forever!) and therefore you need to learn and respect their culture and language.
Although there may be other expats living where you are, living abroad can still be lonely, especially if you don’t speak the language. If you walk off the airplane without knowing anyone you need to make an extra effort to assimilate and walk around your new world to get to know it better.
It will be difficult to not miss the comforts of home, including familiar fast food and traditions, but being forced outside your comfort zone can lead to exciting things! Remember, the more you get out there and familiarize yourself with your new location, the more inclined you will be to enjoy your time as an expat.
And while it is important to get out and learn your surroundings, you should also take the time to familiarize yourself with high crime areas and sections of the country that you should avoid. You should also protect yourself by ensuring you have the right health insurance to cover you in case you become ill, injured or are involved in an accident while living overseas.
Expatriates have unique insurance considerations and therefore need to make sure they leave their home country with more than just their domestic insurance plan – especially since most plans won’t cover you while you’re away for a long period of time!
Expatriate Health Insurance is a Good Idea
Depending on the plan, international health insurance provides expats with either worldwide or regional medical coverage and will cover trip cancelation and delay expenses, evacuation services, repatriation services, as well as provide access to a global network of healthcare providers, hospitals, and caregivers.
If you plan on living outside of the country for a long period of time you may not be able to take all of the comforts of home with you, but with the right expat insurance plan, you can guarantee you are insured as you would be if you were living on home soil.
Start your insurance research early and remember although it is an important investment, it does not have to be complex. Start with an insurance company you trust, be honest about your needs and they should be able to find the best plan for your expatriate needs.
Discover the best international health insurance companies at InternationalInsurance.com.
The Keys to Success
Living the expatriate life can be as exciting as it is challenging.
It will be difficult to figure out what to pack when moving abroad and what to leave behind. It will be even more difficult to say goodbye to everyone you love. It is challenging to start a new life abroad, but it is not impossible and it is something many people have done before you. The invaluable lessons and experiences you will have while living the expatriate life will be a topic of conversation for years to come. You may even reach a point where your new destination becomes “home.”
Expatriate life can be glamorous! Especially to those who have never traveled abroad, let alone lived there. Remember, there are people in this world who have not ventured past their own suburban neighborhood!
The key to a successful experience abroad is to be as prepared and as planned as possible prior to your trip’s departure. Be open-minded and willing to learn and see new people, traditions, customs, and culture. Allow yourself to fully live in your new location and take advantage of the new experiences and challenges that come with it. Before you know it you will no longer be a stranger in a strange land.