30 Tips for First Time Expats

30 Tips for First Time Expats

25th February, 2015

If you are moving abroad for the first time you will undoubtedly be at a stage in your life that is exciting yet nerve-wracking at the same time. This is a new chapter and the best way to ensure it goes smoothly is to plan ahead as much as possible. There is no such thing as being too prepared. Keeping that in mind, read on to discover an abundance of tips for first time expats.

1) Embrace the difference – The whole point of moving abroad is to try something new. Expecting your new destination to be like your home country is a big mistake. Embrace the new – the culture, the way of life, the people.

2) Avoid visiting your home country within the first six months – If you have a holiday back to your home country soon after you have moved you may unsettle yourself. Try to avoid doing so for the first six months. If you can hold out for a year or more, even better.

3) Visit first – A lot of people move abroad without actually experiencing their new location first. This is often the case when a new job opportunity arises. However, you really should try and experience as much of the area as possible before you make the plunge. A two-week holiday is completely different to a new life.

4) Learn the language – It is always a good idea to learn the language of your new location. Take some lessons. Not only will it help you to integrate better, but it will stand you in good stead with the locals who will appreciate your efforts.

5) Make an effort to meet new people – Whether you simply knock on your neighbour’s door and introduce yourself or you join a local sports club, you should make an effort to get to know new people as soon as possible. Loneliness can be one of the main reasons for giving up on the expat dream.

6) Budget effectively before your move – You need to sit down and calculate potential costs for everything. It is always better to overestimate as opposed to underestimating.

7) Take out an international health insurance policy – Travel policies and local health plans are inadequate for expat use. Instead, you need a global medical insurance plan. This will cover you all over the world, whilst ensuring you gain access to the best hospitals, doctors and facilities in your new location. After all, there is no guarantee that you will have access to free health care in your country, and there is no guarantee that the public medical system will be of a standard you are used to.

8) Don’t let one bad day put you off – We all have bad days, no matter where we live. When you are feeling down it is easy to think ‘I wish I never moved here’. Stay positive.

9) Rent before you buy – Renting a property first comes highly advised. You will be able to get a feel for the area you have moved to and whether it’s right for you. By trialling first you can then make an educated decision when the time comes to buy outright.

10) Download Skype – It is the easiest way to keep in touch with people from home.

11) Consider local schools for your children – Whilst sending your kids to an international school may seem like the obvious option, you may find that a local school is better, especially for younger children as they pick up the language easier.

12) Moving abroad as a couple? Support each other – Moving abroad can be difficult. It can place strain on your relationship. You may have the pressure of finding a job or language frustration. It is important to talk and come together. It can be a magical new chapter in your relationship, but it takes work.

13) Acquire expat medical insurance before you leave – We have already highlighted the importance of choosing international health insurance. However, don’t make the mistake many people do of acquiring this after you have moved. Take out the policy beforehand.

14) Experience as much as you can – You are in a new place, enjoy it.

15) Assess the job market before you move – You should do your research to determine whether there are many jobs going in your new location. Are your skills in demand? You don’t want to move somewhere and find it impossible to get employed.

16) Try and secure a job prior to your move – If you can do this, it will take a huge amount of pressure off your shoulders.

17) Find a place where other expats live – You will find it easier to integrate if you move somewhere where other expats live. It is easier to relate to people that have once been in your position and they will undoubtedly make an effort to make you feel welcome.

18) Learn the cultural dos and don’ts – The last thing you want to do is unintentionally offend someone.

19) Research, research and research some more – You can never learn too much about your new location. Spend time reading content online. There are plenty of great blogs out there with valuable information.

 20) Look for expat forums online – This is a great way to get to know other people whilst also picking up tips and advice from others that were once in your shoes.

21) Take enough money for at least 18 months – You should take enough money to live for 18 months without a job. As mentioned earlier, overestimating your finances is a much better approach.

22) Banking options – Banking may be entirely different in your new location. Do your research. Opening an account with the first bank you lay your eyes on is definitely not a good approach to take.

23) It is ok to feel homesick – We all feel it from time to time!

24) Research the cost of accommodation before you move – Take a look at letting agency websites and estate agency websites to get an idea of the average prices being charged. But never transfer money before you go to the country and see the property for yourself.

25) Visit your doctor before you relocate – Get a copy of your medical records and take them with you. You will also be able to get a list of any prescriptions you require.

26) Will your debit/credit card work abroad? – Not all cards do. If you try and use yours in an unauthorised location it may get blocked, so check this out beforehand.

27) Try new things – If someone offers you a local delicacy to taste, try it, even if you don’t like the look of it! This approach will stand you in good stead.

28) Mentally prepare yourself for loneliness – This may sound like the most depressing tip of them all. Nevertheless, you will undoubtedly feel a sense of loneliness at some point. You are moving to a new country after all and thus you will need time to settle in. Why not go away on a retreat beforehand if possible?

29) Make friends with locals – A lot of expats tend to stick with expats, but you should make an effort to fit in with the locals too. They will take good care of you and their knowledge will prove to be exceptionally valuable.

 30) Make sure you’ve got all your documents – Last but not least, before you leave make sure you have all the documents you may need, from qualifications, to your birth certificate, to personal references.

Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

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