You have finally found your dream job abroad and you’re busy thinking about relocating. For many expats, this transition can be an exciting experience. However, getting caught up in the hubbub of moving abroad can lead to crucial mistakes being made.
Here we list some of the most common mistakes and complications when making the big move and tips on how expats can avoid them.
1. Not speaking the lingo
Many major cities are brimming with expatriates who tend to solely mix with other expats. Being friends exclusively with people in your position can make you feel more at home and help you to settle down in the short run, especially if there is a language barrier between you and the locals.
Although you might have an English-speaking job, reinforced by the “everyone speaks English” mentality ingrained into your psyche, it is important to note that to fully integrate into society and make friends from all walks of life, local language immersion is key.
Not speaking the local language can hinder daily life, for example returning an item to a supermarket, or ordering food in a restaurant. At times, a lack of language skills can greatly lower your self-esteem, cause extra hassle and make you feel like an inadequate member of society. For issues related to bills and medical emergencies, language skills are crucial and at times could be life-saving.
It’s highly advisable to take language lessons before you move, even if your work does not require it. Although basic vocabulary such as please and thank you in the local language may suffice as a tourist, as an expat this level of language competency is not likely to be enough to get by in daily life.
In order to fully appreciate a country’s culture, having a firm grasp of the language is essential. Most locals are appreciative of foreigners attempting to speak the native lingo and language learning can be as rewarding as it is hard work.
2. Calculate your costs: moving is not a vacation!
Many expats highly underestimate the hidden costs of moving abroad, whether it be the transition itself or shortly after moving there. These costs include renting a temporary place to stay whilst finding permanent accommodation, a security deposit for a house, cooking equipment costs, furniture costs and health insurance. It’s crucial to budget carefully and scrutinise your spending habits to ensure a smooth changeover to your new country.
Before moving, its highly advisable to do your homework in relation to living costs. Find out average prices online using a cost of living calculator. If you have contacts in the country ask them how much weekly groceries cost for example.
In addition, research prices for renting accommodation, fees associated with it and have a look into inflation. When choosing accommodation, make sure affordable amenities are available within your reach, after all you may not want to be doing your weekly food shop in a premium supermarket.
Many expats also need to include in their budget an allowance for when things go wrong. Although it may be the last thing on your mind, your hassle-free dream relocation process can be stopped in its tracks by your washing machine breaking or your laptop being stolen. In the first few weeks it is thus highly advisable to set up a contingency plan and budget for the worst case scenarios.
3. Not emigrating for the right reason: Thinking about the big picture
Just because you fall in love with a country on holiday, living there can turn out to be a completely different experience. On a holiday, you can enjoy the delights of a country without needing to commute, work, cook or clean, nor fully integrate with society. In this way you do not see the bigger picture of a country’s economic and cultural background.
Emigrating abroad is something that can deeply affect the life of your friends and family, which is a big factor to take into account. Moving to escape from problems at home is not always the best reason to move, as many expats have found their problems are exacerbated in a foreign atmosphere, making the overall situation worse.
Making friends and recreating the thriving social life that you may have had back home may not be as easy at first in your new country. Moving because of a partner’s favourable work prospects is a common reason for expatriating but it is important to analyse your own quality of life abroad in order to avoid problematic relationship issues.
Many couples do not realize the effect emigration may have on their children or future offspring. They may be brought up in a culture very different to your own, and their level of English may not be as fluent in a professional context if schooling is taught in another language.
A strong desire to experience and contribute to a country’s society and culture, relishing professional opportunities available and improving your quality of life are great reasons to make the big leap. Evaluating the pros and cons of all aspects of your life due to the changes before the big move will help to ensure eliminate initial regrets.
Are you moving abroad or currently an expat? Let us know in the comments below what you feel are some of the biggest hardships a new expat has to face.