Despite an initial settling-in process, expats say they are loving life in their adopted countries and are there to stay.
The reasons that drove expats to move to a new country included the search of a new adventure, an improved work/life balance and better weather. Other motivations referenced included superior career opportunities, healthcare or a previous desire to live in a specific area of the world.
Despite the high life satisfaction, however, adjusting to life in a new country was not easy for all. Seventy-six percent found settling in an easy or enjoyable process while 22 percent admitted they found it difficult to settle, build a social life and get to grips with local laws. Of those who found it easy or enjoyable, 13 percent had attributed it to the preparations made beforehand.
With that in mind, if you’re considering a move abroad here are six top tips to help get you through what are often the six toughest months of your new life abroad.
1. Give yourself time to settle in
It takes time to integrate and find your place in a new society so don’t worry if after a couple of months you are still feeling a bit lonely and missing loved ones at home. It generally takes months to settle in.
You can ease the way by saying ‘yes’ to invitations from colleagues and neighbours and joining local groups, clubs and classes, for example, a choir, a tennis club or an exercise class. It won’t happen overnight but getting out there and meeting people will help. Staying home alone will not.
2. Tie up any loose ends
While embracing your new life is key to your happiness in the longer term, you will have to monitor some ties with your current home. Keeping in contact with friends and family back home is, of course, important, as is tying up any loose ends such as final utility bills and changes of address.
A helpful tip is to have your mail redirected to someone you trust and ask them to let you know when anything needs your attention. Even something as trivial as a parking ticket can become a big, expensive headache if it gets ignored.
3. Get set up financially
Some expats stay in accommodation found by their employers, at least initially. If this is not the case, you will need to find a place to stay and may need to look into the supply of various services such as water, electricity and internet.
You will also need to research and open a local bank account and protect yourself with insurance. Increasingly, there are banks that cater to international residents, offering specialised services such as English-language information or financial advice on local legal requirements. When choosing a bank account compare the fees and interest rates on offer before making your choice.
Shop around too to get the best deal on insurance, and in some countries, there are insurance comparison sites to help you with this. Some insurances are mandatory in certain countries, for example, health and home insurance.
With health insurance, expatriates need to consider which policies can cover their transient lifestyle. International health insurance policies, for example, allow you to receive hospital treatment both in your new country of residence and your home country.
4. Mix with the locals
It can be tempting to spend all your time with other expats. But doing this means missing out on a world of culture and useful local knowledge. If you are moving to a country where you do not speak the language, it can boost your social life to learn at least the basics as quickly as possible. Learning the local language can make everyday life a lot easier, and will also help you to meet people and start making friends.
5. Protect your health
Finding a good local doctor may not seem a top priority when you first move overseas but it will quickly become urgent when you need medical attention. In countries where waiting lists are long, if you wait until you’re sick you might not get timely treatment. You should start looking for a doctor as soon as you arrive by checking local embassies, which usually post lists of recommended medical providers in your language, or asking acquaintances for recommendations.
Where possible, obtain a copy of your medical records so that your new doctor has access to accurate, up-to-date information. You should also make sure you are familiar with the signs and symptoms of local illnesses, have adequate vaccinations, locate your closest hospital and emergency clinic, be aware of local emergency numbers and have a well-stocked First Aid kit in your home.
If you regularly take medication you should research whether you can buy it abroad or take along six months prescription where possible.
6. Be patient
In many parts of the world, life moves at a slower pace. Appointments might be less than punctual or your post can take weeks or months to arrive. Such things can be hugely frustrating — even for expats who have been living abroad for years. But it often doesn’t help to get worked up. Instead, try to remember that a more relaxed way of life was probably one of the reasons you wanted to move away.