Talk to any expat and they’ll tell you moving abroad isn’t plain sailing – there will be storms ahead – even though you’re guaranteed better weather when you get there! Before you box up your belongings, check out these 12 golden rules, which will help you before and after your move.
1. Learn the lingo
Even if it is just some of the basics, it can be helpful to learn the language, especially if you’ve moved to a country where English is not widely spoken. Besides, nothing says “hello” better than it being in your new neighbour’s language, and even if your accent is terrible, it’s the trying that matters and you’re sure to adjust and blend in far quicker.
2. Look after your health
Wherever you’re laying new roots it’s unlikely you’ll automatically be entitled to healthcare. Instead you may have to enrol, apply, or sign up to the country’s healthcare system which could take time, which is why it can be useful to take out international health insurance to ensure that you are appropriately covered.
Don’t think “I’ll do it when we’re settled”, make it a must-do before you go.
3. Build a community
Even if the last thing you want to do is knock on your new neighbour’s door to say “bonjour” or venture along to a nearby wine tasting evening – go. Accept every invitation or opportunity. Be bold, brave and start to build your new network of people. There will be at least one person you like and you never know where those connections will lead – both as a friend or even for future work purposes. And for those days when you just can’t face another “churro”, join online groups in your area or ones specifically for expats – they may even become a friend!
4. Rent first
You’ve found the perfect country pile, it’s a bargain and you’re going to renovate it into your dream house. It can be a good idea to rent somewhere first to see if this really is the place for you. Your existing ideals about what works for a home may completely change when you’re in a warmer climate, or a more rural area.
5. Skype and Facetime are your friends
Need a beer with your bestie? The kids want to see grandma? Skype them. Being able to stay connected to friends and family is one of the main reasons why we love modern technology so much! That said, in some countries, there are more strict rules and regulations in place for communicative apps such as these. The UAE for example, often blocks the use of apps such as WhatsApp and Skype to control video content which is why you may need to find alternative ways of communicating.
6. Don’t go “home”… yet
Avoid venturing back to the motherland until you’re settled. Seeing old friends, your old house or even hearing your local language may tug at the heartstrings when the dust hasn’t settled on your new life.
7. Expect the unexpected
That’s why you started this adventure, isn’t it? One certainty of moving abroad is that you don’t know what’s around the corner. Even if you’ve visited your chosen land many times, living abroad as expat will be very different. You may be worried about how you’ll cope with the heat if you’re moving to a country with a hotter climate, but once you’re there you may find it easier to adapt than you initially thought. Or perhaps you cannot wait for the sanctuary of the remote rural landscape you’ve chosen and in reality, it’s isolating and not what you expected. Let the issues wash over you and think of every “problem” as a challenge that makes you stronger – and enjoy the ride.