Sharon Mostyn a RoamRight Blog Author

What to Expect From Life as an Expat

Choosing to become an expatriate means that you'll need to adjust to the local area. Here are some tips to ease the transition.

Planning a trip to a foreign country can be exhilarating; from mapping out all of the places you’d like to visit to thinking about all of the new people you might meet along the way. However those feelings of excitement often turn to feelings of apprehension when the trip is actually a temporary or permanent relocation. Upon starting your new life as an expatriate, or expat for short, you and your family members may find yourselves overwhelmed by the amount of life changes you must undergo. But the more you can prepare yourself (and your family) for the transition from life at home to life in an unfamiliar country, the better. Here are four common obstacles an expat may face, and how you can overcome them to get the most out of the experience.

Adapting to Cultural Norms

Every country has its own set of cultural norms, what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable based on each society’s learned expectations. For example, in Japan, there are three different types of bows that can be used for a greeting, based on your audience. The first is used to greet neighbors and friends, the second is used to greet a colleague or boss, and the third is reserved for the president of a company or royalty. Although locals might make an exception if a foreigner doesn’t follow their customs to a tee, in general, you’ll find the transition into life as an expat will be much easier if you abide by them. Following a society’s customs acts as a sign of respect to the locals, and it may also result in that respect being returned. Before moving to a new country, research their customs including greetings, dining etiquette, appropriate attire, gender roles, and common symbols of respect/disrespect.

Language Barriers

One of the most difficult obstacles for expats to overcome in a foreign country is the language barrier. If you’re not fluent in the native language of your destination country, everyday activities – from grocery shopping to going to the post office – can become very frustrating. To ease the transition, consider taking private lessons in the appropriate language. Although a software program designed to teach you a new language can be helpful, an in-person tutor may be more beneficial for retention. One of the best ways to dive into a new language is to practice it regularly, in an actual live conversation with another person. If your move is happening quickly and you don’t have time for lessons, buy a small pocket dictionary in that language and keep it handy. Also, consider preparing a handful of common questions and phrases, such as:

  • Hello, Goodbye
  • Please, Thank You,
  • Yes, No
  • Where can I find...
  • How much does this cost?
  • Where is the grocery store?
  • I would like...

Cost of Living

One of the most unexpected issues that you may run into during life as an expat is the cost of living in the destination country. While your (or your spouse’s) salary may be more than enough to cover your finances back at home, will it be enough to cover the cost of your rent, utilities, food, and other bills abroad? If your place of employment will not be covering your daily living expenses, create a monthly budget that projects what you expect to spend. Add in an extra line item for emergencies that may come up unexpectedly. By creating – and abiding by – a monthly budget, you can avoid financial missteps that might negatively impact the outcome of your move.

International Insurance

In addition to learning to navigate the city and learn the language, the last thing you want to worry about is how you will pay for an unexpected healthcare expense that your existing insurance policy does not cover. U.S. citizens traveling abroad can take advantage of RoamRight’s Expat Travel Insurance, which can be customized to your trip and individual needs. You have the option to select your own benefit limits and deductibles, which can include medical evacuation benefits if you must return to your country of origin for medical treatment.

Still nervous about your trip? Avoid common travel mistakes by reading our SlideShare presentation, “Becoming an Expert Traveler.”

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About the Author

Sharon Mostyn

Sharon Mostyn, a RoamRight Blog Author Sharon Mostyn has more than 25 years of experience in marketing and communications. Between leading the RoamRight marketing team and speaking on ecommerce, social media and digital communications, Sharon enjoys traveling with her family. Avid SCUBA divers, the Mostyn clan frequents the Caribbean. Follow Sharon on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, and put her in your Google Plus  circle.

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