Moving abroad has never been as easy as today when we have so much information at our fingertips. No matter where you choose to relocate, you are not going into the unknown. A quick search online can tell you everything you need to know about your destination. But even so, making sense of all this information can be challenging. Moreover, every person’s experience abroad is unique and determined by numerous personal factors such as passport, occupation, age, travel experience, language skills, and not only.
Are you moving abroad and feeling a bit overwhelmed? Here are five essential things to know that will help you start on the right foot.
1. You Need to Clarify Your Tax Situation
One of the biggest challenges you will face as an expat is the paperwork and everything else related to taxation. Depending on your nationality, you may not be able to cut ties with your home country completely. Citizens of the United States, for example, must pay taxes on their foreign earned income, no matter where they live. Other countries have different rules, but most have signed double-taxation agreements to ensure their citizens don’t get taxed twice.
If you have properties and assets in your home country but plan to live abroad and work for a foreign employer, consider hiring a tax expert with international experience. Clarifying your tax situation from the beginning will give you much-needed peace of mind as you settle into the new country.
2. You Need a New Health Insurance Plan
When you move abroad, you can no longer rely on your home country’s health care system or your current health insurance plan. As an expat, you can either apply to join the public health insurance scheme in your new residence country or purchase private insurance with international coverage. You can also opt to pay for your healthcare needs out of pocket. However, medical services are expensive in most countries. Moreover, the care standards in the public system can be subpar.
For your peace of mind, invest in a good expat insurance plan. This will keep your healthcare costs predictable and give you access to prompt, world-class medical services no matter where you choose to relocate.
3. The Housing Options May Surprise You
When moving abroad, your options for housing will probably be very different than in your home country. For example, a high percentage of Americans live in spacious single-family detached homes with a yard and garage. Almost half of Europeans, however, live in flats with little to no outdoor space. Adapting to new living conditions can be challenging due to forced lifestyle changes.
Another aspect to consider is that housing prices have been rising almost everywhere, so many people all over the world struggle to find or afford a decent place. It’s thus vital to research the local housing market before moving overseas. How much can you expect to spend on housing? How easy is it to sign a lease or buy a property?
4. Making Friends is Hard, But Not Impossible
Expat loneliness is a real problem. Many expats complain about social isolation and loneliness. They talk about the difficulty of making friends or finding a community abroad. There are several possible explanations why making friends as an expat is so hard. The language barrier is often a factor. Expats who don’t speak the language of their new residence country struggle to establish a social life. It can be disheartening not to be able to participate in small talk or share a joke with the people you meet. The good news is that in more multicultural places, English can be enough to get by.
In general, taking language courses before you move or as soon as you settle in can make your life as an expat significantly easier. It will help you make friends, communicate your needs more effectively, and build a thriving social life.
5. You May Need to Adapt to a New Workplace Culture
Another essential to know before moving abroad is that you might need to relearn everything you know about work. Navigating cultural differences in the workplace is another challenge that expats face. From labor laws to office etiquette, there are many things to learn. As you start a new job abroad, you may notice cultural differences related to educational, religious, ethnic, or generational factors. Cultural differences also lead to different communication styles. What is perceived as perfectly normal somewhere could be seen as rude elsewhere.
Take the time to discover more about cultural differences before moving abroad. What can you expect in terms of workplace culture? The more you learn beforehand, the easier it will be to blend in.
Moving abroad can be the start of a great new chapter in your life. Learn as much as possible about the challenges ahead to ensure you’ll have a rewarding, life-changing experience no matter where you choose to go.