I’m often asked what advice I would give to would-be expats as well as to “already are” expats, so I created this “Top 10” list.
This really is a favorite subject of mine and I have much advice to give (just ask my husband!), so let’s get started with these 10 “tip of the iceberg” tips:
Examine your motives. Make sure you’re contemplating a move overseas for the right reasons. As the saying goes, “Take your luggage but leave your baggage behind.” You might want to escape a bad marriage, debts, or the toxic political and economic environment of home. And that’s okay. But don’t just run from, but to something. Make this about finding adventure and an overall better lifestyle and that’s exactly what you’ll do.
Embrace the differences. No place is just like home. And besides, see above. If you’re after something better, that means it will be different. Don’t make comparisons. Instead, discover why things are the way they are in your new home.
Be flexible. Your plane is late, your driver doesn’t show up, you can’t get cash from the ATM, you got a bad haircut… No problem. There are solutions to every challenge, and once you get over the initial hurdles, finding these solutions can be a lot of fun and lead to some of your best expat experiences.
Be happy. If you see the cup as half full instead of half empty, that’s a start. Sure, there will be the occasional spills, but remember that you can always refill your cup. And if you keep a smile on your face and have a pleasant attitude, you’re almost guaranteed that good things will come your way.
Make friends with the locals. Expats tend to seek out the company of fellow expats. And that’s fine. You’ll have a lot in common. And while you needn’t make friends with everyone you encounter, you really ought to have a few trusted local friends. They’ll take you “behind the curtain” and introduce you to aspects of the culture you’d never experience on your own.
Embrace minimalism and resourcefulness. This is a perfect time to downsize. Get rid of that stuff you haven’t worn or used or looked at in years. You don’t need it. And when you become an expat and you can’t find your favorite spices, barbecue sauce, art supplies, or what have you, get creative. You’ll be surprised at the workarounds you can come up with.
Remember, there’s no such thing as failure. Let’s say you decide to move to a beach town you think is perfect for you, but once you get there you discover it is so not your place. You can always move on. And if you find that expat life really isn’t for you and you decide to go back home? That’s okay, too. We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes, and it’s far better to have tried and failed at a dream than to have never tried at all.
Start taking action today. Do one little thing today to put you on your path to your goal. (Reading this note counts.) Clean out a closet, make some travel plans, send an email query…but most of all, do a bit of this:
Research, research, research. There is no such thing as knowing too much about the road ahead of you. If you’re smitten by this idea of moving overseas, do your research. And then do some more. Be as prepared as you can be.
Put a hat on it. (And wear your sunscreen.) Be careful out there and take care of one another.