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5 Sure-fire Tips to Becoming an Expat

By Luke Tyler

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Summary: Even though for some moving abroad still seems like a dream, becoming an expat is easier than you might imagine, if you have some basic skills and knowledge about your opportunities. Here are some of the tips that helped me during my move abroad.

Moving Abroad - 5 Sure-fire Tips to Becoming an Expat

For many of us, leaving our native country for greener pastures has become the most important decision ever made that dramatically changed our lives for the better. Even though for some moving abroad still seems like a dream, becoming an expat is easier than you might imagine, if you have some basic skills and knowledge about your opportunities. Here are some of the tips that helped me during my move abroad.

  1. Get a college degree if you don't have one yet. Education is one of the most important things an employer abroad looks at while examining your resume. Granted, not all degrees have the same weight so a degree from a top university would be a great bonus when applying for jobs. A master's is even better and it opens your opportunities even more – you can apply to study one year abroad with various scholarships and learn the language in that country.
  2. Research, research, research. The best way to get a proper experience of the country you're aiming for is to read whatever you can about it. Try to learn the language, investigate the culture and start early on research visas. Visas and taxes can be one of the most stressful things for expats so the sooner you dive into the issue, the better. Furthermore, be upfront with potential employers and state your visa status clearly. Don't lead someone on with false promises if you're serious about changing your life.
  3. Be prepared for the change. One of the most challenging things about going expat isn't necessarily the actual move, house hunting or visa formalities. Culture shock is a big issue most of newbie expats deal with when changing countries, even when making the move from the US to the UK. Culture shock is a process that affects people from all walks of like differently, being characterized by homesickness, boredom or hostility towards the new culture. Culture shock can behave differently for each one of us so make sure you deal with these issues when the novelty of your new place wears off.
  4. Socialize & network. Staying in touch with your loved ones or making new friends is one of the key aspects of getting into or getting used to a new country. Make an effort not to loose touch with the people you left back home, you won't find a replacement for family or friends you've known most of your life. Also, try to meet new people and socialize as often as possible – they will be your guides in the new world, will offer you valuable information or practical advice.
  5. Give up most of the things you own. You know that feeling of liberation when you move into a new apartment and you get rid of old junk you were holding onto? Imagine this feeling multiplied when you see you can fit your entire life into a big suitcase. Sell all the things you own and no longer need and stick to the basics – the sooner you do this, the better. You'll save a lot by buying things you need from the adoptive country rather than moving them overseas.

Now it's your turn. What are some of the tips and tricks you've found useful in your move?

About the Author

Luke Tyler is a freelance writer, specializing in the telecom and travel industries. Presently, he is working with one of the leading suppliers for expat phone cards.

AGS Worldwide Movers

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Comments about this Article

Nov 21, 2011 01:36

De cluttering your life works brilliantly. I have scanned all my photos, so I will be able to take my photos with me. I have also ripped all my cds to an external drive, so I can take my tunes with me. Backing up your external drive to a cloud account is another good idea.

Nov 21, 2011 12:25

Try to visit the place before you move there. It was helpful for me to visit the area of town I wanted to live in before I actually moved there a few years later. I already knew where the bus station, stores and post office were so I didn't have to waste time finding these places upon arrival. Also, I was able to make some friends and they remembered me when I moved there.

Nov 21, 2011 18:37

Learn the local language at least enough to function. Not knowing this puts a wall around you and isolates you from much of the society. - Not to mention really limits your job prospect if that's what you want.

Nov 22, 2011 09:32

The MOST important : able to understand the country LANGUAGE, second to speak it enough for your life necessities. Next, bring more CASH( credit cards, access to your bank accounts) than you calculated you need. Always some unexpected or forgotten need. Be Internet proficient ( two e-mail accounts, portable computer,).

Nov 22, 2011 13:27

sorry but these contributions are so plain and obvious that a six year old could give them. What would really help is: websites of international recruiters that really look for expats, visa regulations, country ratings (which countries need which skills), information on dual nationality (which countries support dual nationality), and so on...

Nov 22, 2011 13:46

I'd like to add a few more tips, having moved from the US to the UK two years ago. Firstly, don't underestimate the amount of money you will need to move. Visas can cost up to $1,100. When you arrive in your new country, you will need a place to live. Plan on paying at least 6 month's rent in advance, because you won't have credit established in your new country yet. Put money aside to open a bank account as soon as you have a permanent address, because employers do NOT pay you by check - it's direct deposit only. Unless you live in a big city you will probably need a car to get to work - there is public transport but it is very expensive. With all the cutbacks in the UK now, it is also not as extensive as it was before - our town no longer has Sunday bus service, for example. Unless you have won the lottery, you will need to work. The UK frowns upon anyone who enters their country and seeks public assistance. I have found that employers for the most part are willing to hire American workers because they like their work ethic. Another tip I have, which Luke touched on, is to try and make friends. From experience, though, I will tell you that there is prejudice against Americans in the UK at the moment - I have been hung up on when calling to make appointments, etc., and you get a lot of dirty looks in the street when people hear your accent. It is best to be very tough and self-reliant - you will eventually make friends, but it is not as easy as you may think. Lastly, plan on saving every penny you have for at least a year or two before you move. You will need at least twice as much money as you think you will, unless you don't mind living in a very tiny apartment with no furniture. Rents are extremely expensive and right now are hard to get because of the current housing crisis. I am sorry for writing such a long post, but please plan very carefully before you take the plunge! My husband and I planned our move for 4 years and still found the transition difficult.

Nov 24, 2011 08:35

Yeah, a degree IS a good thing to have, if it's a GOOD degree... you see how your degree "translates" into a foreign system. In most of the EU, for example, any university degree which would not correspond to an "honors" degree in various EU countries isn't worth more than a US community college degree is in the states, unless it's science or engineering. Learn the language... first. Start BEFORE you even buy a ticket. Many countries will issue you a student visa if you study their language (full time) in their country. You can also take advantage of very cheap accommodation in dormitories while you acclimate. Many countries require the use of local language in business, and proven command for long-term visas. If you can, start your own business. Remember, you'll be competing for jobs in countries full of relatives, people who have networked from mandatory stints in the local armed forces, and from the same university. Expats are ill-suited for many jobs - accounting/business law may be very different, national competency/evaluation tests or licensing may be required, and even for manual labor there may be a difference in the local availability/regulations concerning work materials such as paint or even electronics solder. Consider where you're going. Don't like socialized medicine? VAT taxes? $8 per gallon gas? Will you be able to function in a place with a sizable grey economy? Can you get used to an after taxes/expenses pay of less than $1500 per month? About money... yeah, having more is better. But, in many foreign countries ATM withdrawals are limited by bank to less than $1000 per month, per bank. You can't (legally) take more than $10000 out of the US in cash, but even if you had it in a US bank, it may be very difficult to get out an emergency withdrawal for a substantial sum. You'll need a local bank account as fast as possible, which you can usually only get with a local (meaning you have the papers to prove it) address. When you get a place, make sure it's "official.' You can always get some kind of cheap lodging, but is the owner/landlord going to provide you with the paperwork or accompany you to the local migration center for you visa interview/document submission? Have a plan A, B, and especially C.

Nov 28, 2011 16:46

Guest looking for "What would really help is: websites of international recruiters that really look for expats, visa regulations, country ratings (which countries need which skills), information on dual nationality (which countries support dual nationality), and so on..." That's outside the scope of this article. Most countries support dual nationality. Visa reg's you can get by Googling. Recruiters and needed skills you can get by checking job/elance web sites. Also check associations for the skills you have. Check the boards here for the countries you are interested in. Good luck & happy researching!

Nov 28, 2011 18:12

Look for local alumni groups from your university back home. Also, look for expat groups, a good source for community and people in your same situation.

Jun 21, 2012 16:56

Tips for others living abroad-you need to be resilient and be prepared to handle whatever it is that you are dealt with. Becoming an expat is my dream--i've been a traveller but it's one thing to do that and quiet another to be "an expat". I went about it just with the goal in mind even though it was quiet a risk -- it wasn't a direct global-co-has-placed-me-here kind of thing...long story though. To be honest, there are no footsteps, path, or ladder to follow or climb...

First Published: Nov 22, 2011

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