Staying safe in your new expat haven

Published:  28 May at 10 AM
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Emigrating can be an exciting lifestyle challenge for expats, but it pays to check out hidden hazards before you arrive.

Whether you’re moving overseas as part of a long-held retirement plan or taking on a new job in a challenging location, it’s best to research what’s out there as regards threats to your future or even your life. Wherever you’re going, hidden hazards unmentioned in the tourism literature can wreck even the most carefully-constructed relocation plan.

Perhaps the most important aspect of researching a new destination is the weather, especially if you’re planning to move to a hot country in order to escape freezing summers and endless downpours. During their first year or so in their new version of paradise, most expats don’t take into account the likelihood of extreme weather and its effects. Monsoons, tropical storms, typhoons, floods and suchlike are common in many favoured expat havens and should be planned for in advance.

If you’re travelling or staying in an earthquake zone, it’s essential to know the correct moves to stay at least relatively safe. Earthquakes don’t just occur in third-world countries – witness the devastating quake in New Zealand a few years ago. If you’re in love with growing things and are happy to have a huge, new garden to play in, watch out for hazardous flora as well as its poisonous inhabitants such as snakes, scorpions and large, revolting centipedes.

If you’re heading to countries with still-functioning areas of jungle, watch out for obvious species such as crocs, bears, alligators and suchlike, but also keep a look-out for poisonous, brightly-coloured frogs. In many third-world countries, stray dogs can have rabies – a shot before you leave your home country is advisable.

Another man-made danger in your new home is local traffic, especially if you’re now driving on the ‘opposite’ side of the road. Driving instruction and strict testing is unheard of in many countries and the rules of the road are regarded as merely suggestions mostly ignored by the majority of drivers. Obviously, crime occurs everywhere, but it’s sensible to check exactly where and when in your new home it’s more likely to strike.

Common sense is your best defence on all these issues, plus taking advice from seasoned expat residents in your area. Scams are common and mostly unavoidable in famous tourist hubs the world over, with taxi drivers and real estate brokers at the top of the list, followed by tourist bars, outlets selling jewellery and tourist touts posing as guides.
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