How to be a good expat, according to the expats

Have you thought about ditching the 9-to-5 in favour of travelling the world? Well, many of us have. But what does it take to make that lifestyle work? We sent out a survey to our expat customers around the globe to get their perspective on living abroad, and how to make it work for you.

Home is where your family resides

Integrate with the new...

Leaving the comforts of home can be a very difficult task, after all, we’ve come to belong to the places, families and friends we’ve made along the way. For many, the benefits of creating new homes around the globe will ultimately change that perspective.

A good portion of the advice provided by the surveyed expats indicated that the best thing to do upon arrival to a new home is to integrate by getting involved in the community and finding groups of like-minded people.

Embracing the new way of life, and remaining positive when things are different from home is really important when moving to a new place. According to many respondents, the first year can be pretty difficult, but also very rewarding.

“It will change your world perspective for the better no matter how hard the move can feel.”

Many expats feel they have two homes.

...but stay connected to the old

In saying this, it’s important to maintain the connections from home as they’ll still be very important. A large majority of the respondents use social media apps like WhatsApp and FaceTime to stay in touch, but scheduling regular visits is also a great way that many have kept their connections.

“Think about what you wanted to leave behind, what you believe your new country can offer you and what you can do to make sure you embrace your new life. Be proud of your roots but look forward to those roots growing and expanding to encompass a new, better future. Don’t look back!”

“It will change your world perspective for the better no matter how hard the move can feel."

Learn the local language

Do your homework and plan ahead

Many respondents said their best advice for the budding expat was to plan ahead. Doing your homework on the place you want to go, including medical services, residency issues, taxes and other financial implications is very important when considering your choices.

Plan your finances well ahead of time, if you know you need to be doing paid work to afford the lifestyle, start looking for work in advance. Budget accordingly and think about opening a bank account ahead of time if the place you’re moving to has difficult policies in setting one up without a job or a tax number. Finally, and probably most importantly, plan for a rainy day. Those savings might be exactly what you need in an emergency.

“Research, research, research. Know the laws, government and culture.”

Translation technology promotes more exploration.

Weigh the pros and cons

Many were also in favour of weighing up what you might gain from the new experience, and what you might lose. It’s also very helpful to visit the place you want to go first and give yourself time to see what it’s really like. Besides, if it’s to be your new home, what’s the rush?

“Embrace the adventure, don't get so focused on what you leave behind that you miss out on the opportunities of where you're going.”

Many expats identify as multicultural

Stay positive, it takes time to adjust

The main point made in this survey, aside from the abundance of people saying ‘do it!’, is to remain positive in the face of what can be quite a significant change. Adjusting to a new culture, and in some cases a new language or environment, can require some time and a new perspective.

Many respondents noted to expect homesickness, but that it’s part of the process and to ride through it. It helps to build communities or, according to some respondents, having an anchor to the place you’re moving – like a job or a partner. Then it’s just about being flexible and having an open mind.

A physical community is still going to be important

Build a support system

“Build a support system – find a community of like-minded individuals to support your transition. Build a family. Don’t be afraid to get out there and experience everything your new country has to offer.”

The general consensus suggests that the move will get a lot easier with time. But during that first period of change the best thing is to get involved and learn about the culture. Keep in contact with loved ones, but build new bridges where you are now. Make the most of the experience and learn to create a sense of belonging wherever you are. After all, it’s what is building our global world and bringing people closer together.


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