Top Ten Expat Tips: What You Need to Know When Moving Abroad
According to the UN, just over 3% of the global population are expats--living in a country other than where they were born. If you’re thinking of moving abroad, there will be tons to learn about your new home. Before you go, check out these tips from people who have been there and lived it.
1. Don’t use your bank to transfer money.
Whether you’re buying a house, paying for school, or transferring retirement income, transferring money with your bank may well be your most expensive option. The margins on foreign exchange rates can be up to 5%, if you use your bank, and there are often additional fees at both ends of the transaction. Instead, use a global money transfer service like OFX. OFX has consistently low margins across all major currencies and the money usually arrives faster than other global money transfer services including peer-to-peer transfer services which can take days to find a buyer on the other end.
2. Try before you buy.
You’d be surprised how many people uproot their lives before spending a reasonable amount of time at their destination. Before you make a permanent move, check out your new locale in the off-season, and see if it’s still as amazing as you thought.
3. Get your paperwork in order.
From birth certificates to background checks, you can facilitate your job hunt, visa processing and general government admin, if you take the time to collect as many of your documents as you can ahead of time. Most major companies these days use verification services to ensure your resume is accurate, so make copies of your degrees or transcripts before you go. In addition, multinational companies may want documentation of your prior achievements, so keep a record of your accomplishments that you can furnish at a later date.
4. Make good use of social networks.
Whether you tap into the local expat community or just use Facebook to keep in touch with old friends, social networks are critical to prevent the isolation that can occur when moving abroad. Use services like MeetUp.com to find like-minded individuals in your area and take advantage of free software like Skype to stay close to loved ones back home.
5. Be flexible.
When you relocate, you’ll have so many decisions to make that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Do as much research as you can before you go and know that you will almost certainly make some mistakes. If you find yourself in the wrong neighborhood, school or job, don’t hesitate to change course.
6. Embrace less.
It can be so hard to get rid of stuff, but anyone who moves frequently can attest that things can quickly become a burden. Cull your keepsakes and opt for digital versions of books and music. You often won’t know what you’ll really need until you get to your new home. Pack the essentials and expect to buy the rest as needed.
7. Look for the best deals.
To get cheap access to major tourist attractions and travel around on the cheap, sign up for group buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Reading through their daily newsletters is a simple way to learn what’s going on nearby. The competitive pricing can make it easier to tick off your travel list, if you can be flexible about when you go and where you stay.
8. Learn the language from day one.
Every step you take in learning the language of your host nation brings you closer to the culture. While you may never get to speaking fluent Russian, a few words engender a lot of goodwill, so make the language a priority--if for no other reason than to simplify your trips to the grocery store.
9. Live like a local.
Whether it’s harvesting berries in Lapland or sipping wine in France, it’s so important to enjoy the simple pleasures in your new home.
10. Read up.
You’ll never learn everything there is to know about your destination but having a bit of cultural context is essential for a successful experience. You should attempt to have a basic understanding of the political system as well as the major issues of the day. Extra points if you pick up fiction or memoirs about your new home.
Sign up with OFX and start your journey the right way.