5 Things No One Tells You About Living Abroad

Heading overseas? Immigrating to another country can be an exciting step to develop your education, career or personal interests. But before you make your move, there are five things you should know that no one tells you about living abroad. Get a reality check before you go, right here, right now.
Passports

1. Your hand will get a workout from all the paperwork

In addition to planning other details for your big move, when you choose to live abroad you’ll have to tackle a lot of paperwork.
You’ll need a passport to travel internationally, but you will also need to apply for a visa if you wish to live and work abroad. This document will allow you to remain in a country for a specified period of time and for a specific purpose. Depending upon your plans, you can apply for a short-stay visa, a long-stay visa, or a residence visa, which is what you will need to establish a permanent residence in another country.

Once you have moved into your new home, your work isn’t over yet, as you will need to apply for a work permit too (unless you are planning on retiring overseas and won’t be working). Your work permit will give you the opportunity to find employment, but this document can be difficult to obtain in some nations. Regulations vary, so make it a point to talk to a consulate office in advance in order to gather information on the application process, regulations, and requirements ahead of your move.

Other documents that you might need in order to enter a country, verify your identity, pay your taxes, clear shipments through customs, and apply for your permits might include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage licenses or documents that prove you are eligible to get married
  • Medical, dental, and immunization records
  • Tax records
  • School reports and transcripts
  • Divorce, adoption, and child custody paperwork
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Wills

Also, if you are planning on taking your pets with you, you will have to pack their veterinary records and health certificates too. You will also need to find out if your pets have to go through a mandatory quarantine period before they will be released to you in your new country.

Whew, what a workout! Once all your forms are filled out and filed, you can catch your breath, relax, and take in the fact that you’re now an expat.

Couple Reading a Map

2. Getting lost comes with the territory

Another thing that a lot of people don’t talk about when they discuss living abroad is the exciting opportunity to test your mettle that comes from getting totally, hopelessly lost.
 
Once you move away from home, it is likely that, at some point, you will end up getting lost. Until you learn how to get around in your new environment, don’t be surprised to find yourself asking for directions and cursing at the GPS. Sometimes, even Google maps can’t save you when you’re on the road less traveled.

The entire act of living abroad is an exercise in wayfinding. So when you’re lost, it’s best to try to live in the moment and appreciate wherever it is you just ended up. Besides, think of all those synapses you’ll be building as you find your way home.

3. You Should Get Rid of Stuff

When moving abroad, it will be impossible to pack everything that you own, and you’ll soon find that stuff just weighs you down. Whether you choose to put your belongings in storage, give them away to friends and family, or sell them for some extra cash that you can put towards your move is entirely up to you. The key is to have a light load when going overseas, as it will make the move itself easier and less stressful.
 
Pack only what you really need in your new home, and leave space for the unexpected purchases you’ll need to make. (Yes, even adults need snowsuits in Finland.) 

4. You Will Feel a Range of Emotions

In the same way that you encounter daily struggles at home, whether that’s being able to get to the bus stop on time or arguing with coworkers, you will have to deal with hardships when you move abroad. But international challenges might also include things like stress from an immigration officer or the stress that comes with not speaking the native language fluently and having trouble communicating. Often your daily routines become cumbersome when you first move abroad. It’s normal to feel homesick, lonely and down one day and totally euphoric and awed the next.
 
The key is to let yourself move through all of these emotions, good and bad. Let them come and go, just as they would if you were living at home. Take every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow.

5. You Need to Get Your Finances in Order

Before you can head off to start living in a brand new place, you will need to get your finances in order. One of the biggest expat mistakes that people make is failing to think ahead when it comes to banking, credit, and international payments.
 
The cost of living varies from city to city, so don’t assume you can afford to continue living the way you did back home. Also living overseas can be expensive, because you’ll want to travel to nearby destinations, and you’ll need a financial cushion for flying home when you need to.

Keep in mind that banks usually take a hefty 5% margin on the daily exchange rate on top of the high fees they charge to transfer money internationally. Using a dedicated currency specialist like OFX, can help you save substantially on all your international payments.

Taking The Leap

There are quite a few things that people generally won’t tell you about living abroad, but if you have an open mind and you are prepared for the good and bad that lies ahead, you will be able to make the most of your move.

Take the plunge, find yourself, and let the experience of traveling and living abroad for a while change you for the better.

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