When you move overseas it can be an entirely new culture, location, climate, lifestyle and daily routine waiting for you. Whilst expat life offers new adventures and experiences, it can also give some tough challenges.
Before moving to a new country, research can provide you and your family with a good grounding of what to expect when you arrive. Talking to other expats already in the host location can be a valuable source of tips and advice, as well as talking to your employer if you are moving abroad for your work.
Language & Culture
If a foreign language is spoken in your new location, then consider starting language classes before you make the move. You may find you have more time before you leave for your overseas posting than once you are on seat and busy arranging other aspects of settling in. This also eases the transition on arrival, particularly if you are able to read local road signs and greet local people. In addition to language training, cultural training can also give you a head start with adaptation and integration in your new setting.
The reason for living overseas may determine where you live and the extent of your integration into the local community. If your partner is a local, you may immerse yourself more fully in the local culture and language. However, your priorities may be different if you work in an international environment and wish to remain embedded in the expat community. Whatever your wishes, adapting to a new country is easier if you understand something about the country and its people and some countries require you to undertake a course or test as part of the immigration process, even if your stay is a temporary one.
Pre-arrival research can also be beneficial when it comes to partner career opportunities; identifying any obstacles to your partner working overseas earlier rather than later can avoid nasty surprises and disappointment. Enquire about work permits and any cultural norms or local laws that act as a barrier to your partner’s career and ask if your employer offers any assistance or spouse programmes. Gaining support from your employer for work permit applications where applicable is also helpful prior to moving.
Housing can be a surprising challenge for expatriates. Firstly, determining a neighbourhood requires effective research and planning. Consider where the amenities that you want access to are located and ask yourself whether you want to live in an expat neighbourhood or a local residential area.
For security reasons maybe you have little choice about where you live, but otherwise think ahead in terms of the area you choose so that you do not feel isolated a few months into your assignment, or find yourself a long way out from social activities and facilities. Planning and research may also reduce your time in temporary accommodation, which can be particularly challenging with a family in tow.
Finding the right school for your children is potentially one of the most difficult aspects of expat life and Expat Finder has a range of articles to help you. In short, consider the length of the expat assignment, the curricula, the local language and cultural aspects of your child’s education. International schools are popular amongst expats, but the costs can be considerable.
Social Integration & Networking
Life as an expat can be difficult in terms of social interaction. If you and your family are often on the move, taking on overseas assignments for a couple of years at a time, it can be difficult to form long lasting friendships. However, generally, expat communities are lively and active, in which clubs together to offer support, organise events and create a little piece of home overseas. Volunteer organisations are also a way of giving back to the local community, whilst meeting others.
Internet networking is a useful method of gaining support, tips and advice for your new location, as well as meeting others in the same town or area. Using networking sites such as Twitter, Internations and LinkedIn can put you in touch with other expats or businesses, or notify you of local events, as well as providing useful information links.
Finding the Right Policies
Moving abroad often entails finding new international health insurance, life insurance, and propery insurance policies. Many expats do not realize until after the move that their local policies do not work abroad, which can be an expensive mistake! Compare options for all your policies that will not transfer overseas well in advance, and ensure they do not lapse. A lapsed international medical insurance policy can mean much higher premiums and deductibles later!
For more advice you can see our study advice section.
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