Posted by Louisa Heath on June 23rd, 2017.
Making a move to a new country is a big leap to take and all too often expats find themselves unprepared for the scale of the change. Whether it’s in the planning stages or once you’re out there getting to grips with your new home you may find yourself thrown off by things you didn’t account for. With that in mind, here are some of the most common mistakes that expats make when taking the plunge and how to avoid making them yourself.
While most of us may have dreams of just packing our suitcases one day and jetting off to settle down in another country, moving abroad isn’t something that can – or should – be done on the spur of the moment. Although you may fall in love with a location while holidaying there or (even just from seeing pictures of it) this should only be the starting point of your plans. It might not be necessary to know every little detail about the area you’re choosing to move to, you should be well-informed about nearby amenities and services, particularly the ones which will have a significant impact on your daily life. Wherever possible try to visit the area at least once before you commit to get a proper feel for the place.
There can be a lot of hidden costs involved in moving country – as well as costs that you may not think to factor in – so it’s important to make sure you know exactly what budget you’ll have available to you from the outset. Thanks to the volatile nature of exchange rates you could find that the value of your funds changes dramatically between you deciding to take the plunge and actually making the move itself. In order to minimise the risk – and budget accordingly – consider taking out a forward contract with a currency broker, which can lock in an exchange rate up to two years in advance of your transfer.
While it can be easy it get used to the NHS and easy access to healthcare, your entitlement in other countries can be a little more complicated. Before moving it would be worth checking whether your potential new home has an existing reciprocal agreement with the UK, which would allow you to access their healthcare system without any additional barriers. You should probably be prepared to pay for at least some of your healthcare as an expat, though, and it could be well worth investing in medical insurance in order to make sure you’re protected from the consequences of an unexpected illness or sudden injury.
It’s all-too tempting to think of your move as an extended holiday when you first arrive, making it that much easier to burn through your savings in the first few weeks in your new home. Although you’re understandably going to want to start enjoying your new surroundings straight away, it’s important to limit yourself, drawing up at least some form of budget for your first few weeks even before you arrive. Try to balance out the mundane tasks of setting up your home with more touristy activities in order to manage the adjustment period without sacrificing the thrill of being somewhere new.
No matter how much you plan there is always going to be the chance that things will go wrong. Your move simply may not work out through no real fault of your own and there’s no shame in that. For whatever reason the place you choose to relocate to may turn out not to be so ideal for you after all, even after all the planning in the world. And while nobody wants to approach their move considering the idea of it falling through you should always have at least something of a backup plan prepared. Even if you never have to use it, make sure you don’t find yourself feeling stranded in an unfamiliar country.
Although it’s undoubtedly useful to have others around you who already know the ins and outs of being a Brit living abroad, there can be a temptation to find those with a shared background and sticking to them. This sort of approach can leave you missing much of the point of relocating to another country – experiencing the local culture. Making friends with locals can be extremely beneficial, offering you even more knowledge of the country and the way things work, and is just plain good sense. It might seem like a hard mountain to climb – especially if there’s a language barrier to contend with – but any extra effort is almost certainly sure to be worth it.
Any change will take time to adjust to, especially one as drastic as uprooting your life to move abroad, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re struggling at first. Feeling some degree of buyers’ remorse in the first few days or weeks of settling in is only natural. What’s important is that you don’t let that initial, natural feeling of hesitation keep you from giving it a good try. If you can stick it out for a couple of months and push yourself to make the most of your new situation you could well find that the homesickness soon starts to fade.
As English is still one of the most widely spoken and understood languages in the world it can be tempting to rely on it even when abroad. However, while you may be able to spend a week or two in a foreign country with nothing more than a basic phrase book to help you communicate, it’s hard to build up a new life on such a threadbare foundation. Look at your new home as a learning opportunity and try to pick up at least a bit of the local language ahead of your move, in order to hit the ground running. With some dedication you could find yourself conversing easily with the locals as well as picking up a useful skill in the global world.
Comparisons are easy to fall into, everyone does it on reflex. As with looking back on holidays, there can be a risk of putting on the rose-tinted glasses when it comes to remembering the home you’ve left behind. Once you hit your first bump in the road, as you inevitably will, it’s important not to resort to thinking that home would be better. There are some things that will always happen when you live somewhere, whether it’s in the UK or somewhere more exotic. So take a step back, sleep on it and remember all the reasons you chose to make this move in the first place.
Living in a new country can be a hugely rewarding experience even if there are always going to be pitfalls along the way. So long as you make the move knowing what to expect, though, you should have every opportunity to make a success of it and put down some new roots.
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