Advice to Prepare for Your Move Abroad as an Expat
Making an international move is not an easy feat. Preparing for and adjusting to life as an expatriate can be time-consuming and drain both your financial and physical resources. Getting as much information as possible before the transition can help make it as smooth as possible. Here are just a few tips that you will want to keep in mind when you prepare for moving abroad.
The first step is to get organized! Gather all of your documents and keep both an electronic copy and hard copy somewhere safe. Make sure that any documentation that you will need during your actual journey overseas is kept somewhere that is easily accessible. Next make a list of everything you will need to get done before your trip, then create a timeline. This will help ensure you have everything completed by the date it needs to be done. Items on this list include items like canceling any services you use like cell phone, electric, internet and cable along with selling your car and home.
Just because you have a timeline with specific deadlines doesn’t mean you need to wait until that day arrives to mark the task off your list. When it comes to getting your visa, immunizations and international health insurance – do these things as soon as possible if you are able to. More items will get added to your list throughout the process and keep you plenty busy.
Research Your Host Country
Knowing the local culture in the country you will be moving to can help you and your family with the transition. Also, keep in mind that culture shock is very common. Be prepared to experience culture shock and be on the lookout for its symptoms. Common symptoms include :
- a feeling of sadness and loneliness,
- an over-concern about your health,
- headaches, pains, and allergies
- insomnia or sleeping too much
- anger, depression, vulnerability
- idealizing your own culture
- trying too hard to adapt by becoming obsessed with the new culture
- unable to solve problems
- feeling shy or insecure
- become obsessed with cleanliness
- an overwhelming sense of homesickness
- feeling lost or confused
- questioning your decision to move
Recognizing these symptoms as culture shock and understanding that it’s normal to experience these when making an international move can help you get through it.
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Get Help with Your Financial Situation
Expatriate Life and Taxes
No matter how well you prepare before your departure, you might easily find yourself needing a second option regarding your foreign taxes once you settle in your new home country. Choosing the right local advisor to help you navigate all of your tax matters is key, but what should you be looking for as you choose a tax consultant in the country in which you are staying?
Take Care of Your Children’s Education
If you have children, finding a great school that will meet their needs and your educational goals is crucial.
Be Good to Your Body
Nobody likes being sick – it is often harder in a new country. Take care of your health, eat right, and exercise.
Additional Tips for Preparing to Move Abroad as an Expatriate
- Get healthy. Settling into a new city and lifestyle can be stressful and you want to be fighting fit before embarking on an adventure. You’ll be affected by anything from jetlag to heat to air pollution and unfamiliar food when you arrive – and it may be a while before you can get into a new fitness regime.
- Keep an open mind. Pretty well everybody has a taste of culture shock. Things will be different and at times, not what you’d hoped for. Learn to go with the flow. Learn to recognize the symptoms of culture shock, too, and understand that it will pass.
- Start to create a support network. Research distractions you might enjoy in moments of homesickness – a gym, maybe, or a church, or a parenting group. Join discussion forums and social networking groups and make friends online before you leave home. Arrange to meet them as soon as you arrive; a network is important when you’re alone in a new place.
- Don’t over-analyze. It’s all too easy to obsess over the minutiae of what your new home might be like but you need to learn to wing it to an extent. There will be surprises when you get there so try to take these in your stride. You can do all the research in the world and things will still be different from what you expected.
- Do, though, think about what might affect you and how you will cope with it. If you’re moving to a big city in China, how will you handle the fact that everywhere is crowded, all the time? If you’re headed for the Gulf, are you prepared for the intense heat and the fact that you’ll spend significant amounts of time trying to escape it? If you’re South America-bound, are you ready for the fact that you’ll need tighter personal security than at home? Or if you’re moving to India, are you aware of how air pollution might affect you?
- Don’t let your nerves rub off on your children. Children adapt well to new cultures and after a wobbly day or two in a new school, will probably settle in quicker than you will, so keep your frustrations to yourself and share them with your partner instead.
- Decide what to take. Most expats will share their mistakes with you – things they wish they’d brought, things they wished they’d left behind. Remember to stock up on any regular medication if there’s any doubt about where you’ll get it abroad, as well as things like contact lenses. Ask your new contacts for advice. If anything, it will be a great ice-breaker.
- Learn the language. This is very important, especially if you are to be a non-working spouse, or the ‘trailing spouse’, as they’re known in expat-speak. At the very least, you need to be able to function in shops, on public transport and so on. If you’re working, you need to get off to a flying start with colleagues so try to do a crash course before you leave.
- Study the local etiquette. Most places are fairly forgiving of foreigners but there’s no excuse for arriving completely ignorant. For example, in Germany, you should greet neighbors when you meet them on the street, and always acknowledge shop assistants. In the USA, you’ll need to be familiar with the tipping culture. In a Muslim country, prepare yourself for a different dress code.
- Finally, start an expat blog. It will help you feel connected to people back home, make the transition easier for them, and it will encourage you to go out and try new things in your new home. It’ll be fun for your kids – and when you leave, you’ll have a ready-made account of your time abroad.
Keep in mind that becoming an expat is an exciting experience! Prepare for moving abroad and enjoy it while you can.