It is a whirlwind. You get giddy. It is the day that you decide to pack up and move on to your new adventure overseas. The exhilaration drives you forward but there is no doubt that choosing an expat life is fraught with decisions.
It is easy to get lost in the details so, to help you out, here’s some of my top tips for new expats…
1. Live Close to the Action…At First
If you recall that T.V. show Survivor, it’s all about the basics. Food, shelter and water. When you are in a new place, you really need to work out the infrastructures. The best way to do this is by living close to the action and that usually means in close proximity to a city.
This gives you time to work out the basics like local transport, markets and shopping centres and the best deals on SIM cards and the internet. Once you have that under control, you will have the time and confidence to venture out and really explore where you want to live and what kind of lifestyle will suit you best.
2. Shipping Your Goods
Some expats ship their belongings with them and some don’t. It’s really up to you, but it is important to investigate the laws and processes of the country you are shipping to. In some countries, rentals come fully furnished, so a container full of chairs and cabinets can become a burden. Some countries will charge tax on goods shipped, so ask in advance to avoid a large surprise bill during pick up.
Try to keep in mind that the most liberating experience of moving overseas is letting go of ‘stuff’ which includes all the junk in your cupboards. Let it go, be free. If you find it hard to let go, but know you can’t take it, take a photo of it. That photo will bring back all the memories and you will find that having just the photo will be enough.
3. Real Friendships Take Time
Don’t dismay! Just like at home, you will come across a variety of people. Just because you are all expats does not mean you will ‘click’. Be patient, be open. In some countries, expat groups can be a little harder to break into. Don’t be put off. You will find the tribe with your vibe. It just may take some time.
Keep in mind that you will meet great people when you least expect it. Local cafes, restaurants and even swimming pools can be super places to strike up conversations and build networks. Take heart that you will find people to socialise with fairly quickly, but it may take a bit longer to really find ‘your people’.
4. Deal with Reputable Real Estate Agents
A lease is a legal document. When renting it is reasonable to pay a deposit and the contract should be designed to protect you as the renter as well as protect the landlord. So the number one tip is not to sign a lease that is not in English. And do not be pressured to sign anything until you have read the lease clearly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If the agent is not legitimate, they will not answer questions or accept challenges. If the lease includes fees such as air conditioning maintenance, for example, this is a good sign that you will live in a well-maintained property that has been looked after.
5. Expat Fatigue is a Real Thing
When you are new to a country you will find people willing to help you. They might give you a lift to the hardware store so you can buy that screw to fix your frying pan. It is wonderful. You will be really appreciative. There are so many little hints and tips that expats can help you with, particularly if you are moving to a country where English is not widely-spoken.
The flip side is that new people will love you to help them and you will be happy to because you understand the frustrations of being new and a bit lost. Unfortunately, there will be new expats that will take advantage of your kindness. It can be exhausting, especially if they then find ‘their tribe’ and dump you with little gratitude.
So, be the awesome, helpful expat that you know you are… but be prepared to set some boundaries if you feel someone is taking advantage of your kindness.
You have totally got this, fellow adventurer, so enjoy every second.