Five Important Things For Expats to Consider
It’s the dream of many people to start a new life abroad. Especially at this time of year, when the cold sets in and the daily commute becomes a wet and windy ordeal, we can be seduced by the idea of a warmer climate and a more relaxed way of life.
However, with all the positives – and the positives are numerous – there are also plenty of things to consider. Moving house can be complicated at the best of times – even if it’s just five minutes down the road – let alone if you’re jetting off to another country. It makes sense to be aware of the potential pitfalls, and how you can make the best of them.
Here, we take a whistle-stop tour of the things you should bear in mind:
Adapting to the local culture
Before you make the decision to move somewhere, you should know what sort of neighbourhood you’re moving into. If you’re moving abroad for a quiet life, a street full of young families may not be up your… well, street. Equally, somewhere remote might not be best if you’re keen on immersing yourself in the local culture.
Which brings us nicely onto the next point; fully integrating yourself into the local culture will enrich your experience. Embrace the traditions, meet the locals, and be open to learning. Many expats prefer to live in exclusive expat areas, which means that while there will be plenty of people to meet, they won’t necessarily be locals and this will hardly help integration. Think about what you want to get out of it.
Everyone loves a bit of warmth, but make sure you’re ready for the change in climate. If you’re heading somewhere with an average summer temperature in the high 30s or even the 40s, it might take a bit of time to get accustomed, and you may suffer some illness as a result – or least cause you to struggle somewhat.
Another thing to bear in mind is how healthcare is provided in the country you’re heading to. Research your health insurance options in advance, and be aware of if there are any conditions on you and your family receiving healthcare. In many countries, you must have health insurance to get a work permit, but sometimes you’ll get the same healthcare provision as the locals.
One of the biggest hurdles for expats to overcome is the language barrier. Research carried out by the HSBC Expat Explorer on 3,100 expats shows that 58% find learning the local language amongst the biggest challenges.
Achieving some level of knowledge of the language is incredibly rewarding and will help you integrate with the locals – which takes us back to point one again. Even a basic understanding will help you communicate, and will help you make friends and, importantly, find work. Take additional language lessons once you’re there to get to know people who are in the same boat as you – that common goal may make things seem a little easier.
Finding new friends
Let’s take a look at some stats to see which places respondents of the HSBC Expat Explorer survey found to be the most welcoming.
Canada seems to be the most welcoming country with 95% of respondents claiming that they made friends with local people, followed by Germany (92%) and Australia (91%).
The United Arab Emirates was shown to be the most difficult with only half 54% of expatriates saying they made any local friends at all.
Though it may seem hard at first, making the effort and learning the language will all help you settle and meet good local people who may well end up as good friends. I recently met a lady who left the UK after her husband died, and retired to the south of France to start a new life there. Three years on, she’s part of a tight knit group of locals who have accepted and welcomed her into their fold. She’s even got some of them working on her garden!
Cost of living
One of the draws of living overseas can be a perceived reduction in the cost of living, given so many people feel they’re paying over the odds for things in the UK. The grass isn’t always greener, however; some countries have significantly higher living costs. Do your research before you go, and consider ALL the things you’ll have to pay for – property, food, utilities, taxes etc.
One way you can bring costs down is by using a currency exchange company rather than a bank when you make a currency transfer. Whether you’re getting your pension transferred from the UK, working abroad and sending money home, or making a payment to a loved one, by using a currency exchange company like World First, you’ll get a better exchange rate than you’ll get from your bank, which means your money will go further.Article is written by Simon Hilton senior Dealer at World First Foreign Exchange. World First specialise in assisting private and corporate clients with foreign exchange transactions. If you’d like to know more on how to get faster cheaper currency transfers click here for more information