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  • Writer's pictureMarc Primo

Overcoming The Challenges Of Being An Expat

This is an article “Overcoming The Challenges Of Being An Expat” by Marc Primo

Many people are constantly looking for greener pastures and what most of them don't realize is that there are many fences to climb before one can really settle in a new place. Moving to new territories for work can be quite challenging, something the world's 232 million expats know only too well. But once you overcome all the speedbumps along the way, the life of an expat can be an exciting adventure that's well worth taking.

Before you sign on the dotted line for that new job abroad, many things will pop up in your mind, including leaving your comfort zone, adjusting to new cultures, and, for some, the difficulty of acclimating to new seasons and change of weather. Moving countries to earn that almighty dollar is always a daring move that's not for the faint of heart. You can quickly expect that there will be hurdles as you dive into an entirely new world.

To help you take that bold step towards a new territory, here are some tips that can prepare you for what's to come in your new life as an expat:

Ever consider being a polyglot?

Language barriers are the usual first big problems you'll encounter when transferring to a non-English speaking country. But no need to worry. There are about 1.35 billion people who can speak English all over the globe. That figure is a good 20% of the world’s population, and chances are your new country will have a lot of them.

However, if you find yourself deep in the heart of a rural area and looking for a place to live, opening a bank account, or simply asking for directions to the nearest shop, not being able to speak the local language can be a real hassle. Suddenly, the items on your checklist seem harder to accomplish.

It's important to consider learning the local language of your new country even before you board the plane or, better yet, once you confirm your expat future. There are plenty of polyglot classes you can take online to at least learn the basic phrases you'll need to make your way around during the initial few weeks.

If you prefer learning a new language in the classroom, enrolling in language schools can also be pretty exciting once you get to your new country. There, you can meet other expats or locals who can help you out or recommend suitable viewing materials such as local soap operas so you can learn context cues and language applications. However, it's always best to keep apps like Duolingo, Mindsnacks, or Babbel handy so you can further practice your new language during your daily routine.

Appreciate new cultures

What makes being an expat so exciting are the new things you are about to discover and all the pleasant folks you'll get to meet. While living in an unfamiliar place can seem a bit daunting at first, don't give in to frustration whenever you feel left out in conversations or are prone to misinterpretations.

Most people will find themselves in the shoes of Bob Harris from the film Lost in Translation for the first few weeks – seemingly thrown into the arms of what seems like to him, an alien planet. However, like Bob, you'll soon find fun things to do and people who can help you even if you are not fluent with the local language or familiar with the new culture.

Fight homesickness with the determination to learn new things and meet new people. The faster you come to terms with the challenges, the quicker the negative emotions will pass. Do some research and visit new places so you can connect in both your new country's spiritual and emotional plains. One excellent thing to do is join local exercise groups that can help maintain your wellbeing, allow you to meet locals, and fight off those blues.

Settling in

Another big challenge you'll have to overcome as an expat is coming to terms with the new cost of living. That means you'll have to take your calculator out and punch some numbers. Look into ECA International's latest Cost of Living Survey so you can get a glimpse of what it's like to live in expensive cities. Always remember that the survey is just a guide, and things can be different once you've settled into your new home abroad.

Consider listing down the things that can be more expensive in your new country than its prices back at home to prevent yourself from spending over the budget. Of course, some things are also cheaper, which can help you a lot in terms of saving money.

For example, gas prices in Venezuela are just $ 0.01 per gallon compared to $3.06 in the US. Healthcare in France is also way better than that at home. Knowing vital consumer and healthcare information can help you adjust your monthly budget and keep your hard-earned money in your savings accounts.

Fighting off the homesickness

Earlier, we discussed how your first few weeks as an expat can bring about some of the blues. You're away from friends and family, and your adjustment period can be a bit tricky. Moving along with the pace of your new country of residence may require you to say goodbye to some lifestyle choices and learn to embrace new ones.

For example, New York is worlds away from the Haleakalā crater on the Hawaiian island of Maui (considered one of the quietest places on Earth) in terms of decibel readings and social life. Look into how much your life will change once you make the move and nurture the proper mindset to adjust.

Then there's also the pain of being homesick and away from family and friends. Fortunately, most places on Earth already have wi-fi, so ease those long-distance blues by checking in on your loved ones from time to time. Better yet, set weekly video calls to catch up and try out snail mail to make things more personal. Also, don't forget to download those fintech apps like PayPal if you're sending money home. These days, distance is but a click away if you manage to get online via Skype, Messenger, or WhatsApp, among many others.

There are, of course, some advantages like in any fruitful endeavor. Many still believe that people are innately kind and hospitable. Once you get over that initial culture shock, you'll begin to explore and discover new and worthwhile activities you can cherish for the rest of your life. Undoubtedly, the expat experience is definitely a rewarding opportunity that only a few get in a lifetime.


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