Top 10 Expat Mistakes - Common Problems to Avoid

Published: 25 Feb at 7 PM
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Filed: Moving Abroad,
A move abroad is a life changing decision which many of us dream of, however that dream can just as easily turn into a nightmare due to some common mistakes which many ex-pats make when emigrating to their new country.

1 - Not doing enough research: This is one of the commonest mistakes which ex-pats all over the world make. It is essential that you thoroughly research your chosen country before you move. The internet now provides a wealth of information on culture and customs, which is easily accessible to prepare yourself before leaving. Remember, this is their country with different rules and customs that are often different to ours and it is essential to respect their culture and values if we want to fit in with the local people. It is also important to find out out about transport, education, jobs and health services in your chosen destination. If possible it is advisable to visit your destination before you commit yourself to a move so you have a feel of the country.

Top 10 expat mistakes
Top 10 expat mistakes
2 - Underestimating your budget: When planning a big move abroad it can often be easy to underestimate how much money you will need. Even if you have thoroughly researched the cost of living in your chosen country it is always necessary to take into consideration fluctuations in the cost of rent, food and travel which may have changed since you did your research. Take into consideration the cost of moving and one off costs which you may need to pay when you first arrive, such as legal services, taxes, visas and permits which can all knock a big dent in your carefully planned budget. For peace of mind, it is always best to assume that you will need more money than you have budgeted for.

3 - No health care: Even if you are in the best of health, refusing to get adequate health care insurance when moving abroad can often be the biggest mistake you make and can end up costing thousands of pounds. Although many of us moan about the NHS, their is no country in the world which has a health service compared to it. In nearly every foreign country, health care can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds for people who are not insured, with some countries even refusing treatment without medical insurance. It is not worth the risk, therefore it is essential that you and your family have adequate health insurance to cover in times of emergency. There are many ex-pat companies which offer advice on the types of insurance available, although it can appear costly in the long run it can save you thousands.

4 - Not visiting the destination enough times beforehand: It is very easy to visit a holiday destination for a two week holiday and fall in love with the place. However, a one off visit can be viewed through rosy tinted spectacles, as it is a lot different living and working in a country then when visiting on holiday. If you are considering a move to a foreign country, it is advisable to visit a few times and steer away from tourist areas, to get a good feel of what it is like to live there. Other ex-pats living there are useful to talk to for advice on local customs and rules which you should be aware of.

5 - Spending too much money in first few weeks: A new move to another country is an exciting time and many us want to embrace our new life style straight away. It can often be tempting to sample new attractions when we first arrive and act in holiday mode, eating out and spending in an extravagant fashion. It is always best to keep to your budget as best as you can and spend cautiously as you may need money for extra payments in the first few months, such as lawyers, rents, visas and permits.

6 - No backup plan: For many reasons, all best laid plans can come undone, so consequently the need for a back up plan is essential. This may mean making sure you have more funds available in a separate account, somewhere else to live or in case of emergency the possibility to move back home. If you are setting up a new business in a foreign country, don't put all your money into the investment because it it fails you may be left with nothing and worst case scenario's ex-pats have found themselves homeless with no means to return home. As the saying goes, don't put all your eggs in one basket.

7 - Running away: One of the worst reasons to move abroad is when you are trying to escape previous problems that you may have had in the UK. It may seem like the instant solution to all your problems, but running away will not necessarily solve all your problems. The problems may follow you to where ever you go and they will certainly be harder to deal with in a foreign country than they would back home where everything is familiar. Money or legal problems will not go away and will only be waiting for you when you return. If you do really have your heart set on a move abroad, it is important to sort out all problems at home beforehand as you will have less stress and worries to tackle when you do undertake a move.

8 - Spur of the moment move: It is never advisable to rush a move to a new country, however keen you are to get there. A move to new country is a life changing decision which needs serious consideration beforehand. Speak to family and friends for advice and research your destination thoroughly before committing yourself. It is best to make a move which is well planned than to find yourself unhappy and out of your depth in a foreign country because you have rushed into it.

9 - Not completely ready for the move: If you are beginning to have second thoughts about a move abroad, it is essential that you reassess your situation and take your time over your planned move. Put your plans on hold until you feel totally comfortable with your move, it may be advisable to visit the destination again to get a better idea of the life style. If you are really committed to a move, there is no rush, the country will still be there when you are ready and you will find it easier to adjust to your new environment when you are totally comfortable with the move.

10 - Restricting social scene to other ex-pats: This is a common problem for many ex-pats when they first move abroad, especially in areas of Spain and France where there is a large ex-pat community. By restricting your social scene to only ex-pats, it is difficult to get involved in the local community and can cause a feeling of isolation. Involve yourself with the local community and if the country speaks a different language try to learn, even if it is only a few words to help you manage to get by.

Got a common expat mistake that should be listed? Any problems you faced as an expat that you can add here?
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Lydia Evdoxiadi wrote 9 years ago:

This is a wonderful post and I wish to comment on this from personal and professional experience on relocation. Working hand-in-hand with people who plan their relocation every single day, I see so many life-scenarios. There is one recommendation I make which really helps people make the right decisions. Your point no.4 - 'Not visiting the destination enough times beforehand' can really turn into a life-saver. It is so critical for people to make an 'Exploratory Visit' to really evaluate what they are getting into. In practice, it can take 2-5 exploratory visits for people to find the right place and conditions to relocate at. It is recommended that the other half and dependents can join. The best financial investment you can make is to go on a first visit. GO! It’s very similar to dating. First impressions do matter and as you will be forming a close relationship with your new region, it is worth checking it out. Invest allowable time and an allowable amount of money for this visit. If it does not work out well for relocation purposes, cut your losses quickly and turn it into a great vacation to brag about. I mean get out there and live the best in those days and do some excess partying. If it is a great fit, take that victory also. You can win on different fronts. No matter what the result, aim to come back a winner on at least one front and live in the moment. What does the exploratory visit accomplish? It helps you spend a bit of your precious time and money to create a perception of where you will be landing for a while, especially if it is going to be for a long while. Contrarily to common belief, you do not need to know everything about your new destination; you just need to know enough. If you are looking to find out everything before you move, it is possible that you will put yourself in paralysis analysis. You will find so many ways to scare yourself and have enough material to write memoirs. The worst is that you won’t be able to decide based on the objective data and distinguish the subjective information from third parties. You need to be in touch with the reality and make that judgment call. The how’s fall into place later and with less effort than imagined. This exploratory visit is a minimal and very key investment in both funds and effort and I will key you into the biggest secret about relocation. It is not the surprises that guarantee your success, the initial thrill of the new place, it is the familiarity of the new place and how much of it you can find in the new place to live a balanced life. Familiarity is felt through how good you feel with and about yourself in your new destination. Is the universe working in a synergy with you, or do you feel it is against you? If you feel it is kicking you out, it is probably telling you that you need a better place and there are many places in this universe where we can do very, very well. Places are waiting for you to populate them.

Tom wrote 8 years ago:

Its always vital to think long and hard before making the move abroad,there is no substitute for good planing and realistic expectations for your life when you arrive in your chosen destination.

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