Article by Jose Marc Castro
Anyone who has ever even considered moving overseas will know there are many issues to consider and to take into account. While there are a number of common issues associated with moving overseas the fact is that everybody is different and everybody has their own issues and problems to overcome. However, we have been investigating the top five common problems suffered by expats and hereby list them below together with our comments.
If there is one common problem suffered by expats it would have to be the problem of loneliness when moving to a new country. There is no doubt that when moving to a foreign land, especially where a foreign language is used, it can be difficult to settle in and settle down in your new environment. Indeed, it is well documented that many expats will remain cooped up in their home for many months after their initial move overseas and find it very difficult to socialise and mix with their new found neighbours. So what can you do?
There is no simple solution to the problem of loneliness when looking to move overseas and for many people it will take some time to settle down. However, if you can push yourself to leave the house and mix with the local population then the issue of loneliness will become less prevalent in your mind. The more time that you spend in your house, whether with your friends, family or by yourself, the more time you have to think over issues which would normally pass you by without comment. Sitting cooped up amongst the same environment day in and day out is not the answer to your loneliness problems and can actually affect your physical health and your mental health.
Whether you are moving overseas with a friend, family or even by yourself, you need to push yourself to socialise and mix in local circles. If you flip a coin and put yourself in the position of the local community, how would you feel if a newcomer was unwilling, or indeed unable, to mix with you?
The truth is that a move overseas is not necessary for everybody and some people will settle quicker than others. You really do need to take into account the potential problems you may encounter, your own social skills, your own characteristics and indeed any help you may receive from friends and family who are moving with you. Even if you have a very close circle of friends and family with you, you will still need to get out and about and mix in due course. One trick which some expats use is the fact that when you move overseas nobody really knows you therefore you can be as friendly, as loud and as interactive as you want. This may well give you the opportunity to reinvent yourself and iron out any potential issues you may have had in the past.
The issue of cultural differences when moving overseas, something which is also prevalent when moving between different areas of any country, has long been a problem for some expats. This is why you need to do your homework with regards to your proposed new found homeland to ensure that you will be able to accommodate their cultures while also appreciating your own beliefs and your own culture. There are some areas of the world where cultural clashes can result in violence and other types of friction, but in reality, if you are willing and able to give and take with regards to cultural differences this should not be an issue.
The world is now a more relaxed and a more accommodating place than ever before, although this may not always seem the case if you read the attention grabbing headlines in the press. If you do your homework with regards to potential cultural differences before moving overseas you should be well aware of what’s expected of you and where any potential issues may arise between your culture and the culture you will soon be embracing. Then there is the issue of law and order, an issue which very often brings into account various cultural problems and cultural friction. Indeed, the boundaries and the goal posts very often move as many expats saw in Dubai, where initially the police turned a blind eye to Western cultures and Western practices, only to reverse this stance once the economy began to struggle and expats began to leave the area.
Many people seem to forget that moving overseas is an adventure and one major element of this adventure is embracing and experiencing different cultures. You may not agree with all of the aspects of a new culture in your new found homeland but the truth is that when in Rome do as the Romans even if not everybody has this particular attitude today. Showing respect for the local practices and local culture in your new found homeland should help you integrate with the local population.
Cost of living
There is no doubt that employment is one of the major reasons why the vast majority of expats move overseas today. Very often employees will move for a larger pay packet and a larger benefits package which can often put their previous income in the shade. However, very often a larger pay packet and a larger benefits package will be associated with an area of the world where the cost of living may be significantly higher than the country you have just left. This is not always the case, but it is certainly sensible to do your homework before even contemplating a move overseas, even if your employment package is the best you have ever seen.
It is also worth remembering that the difference between the cost of living in the suburbs of the major city and the cost of living within a major city could well be enormous. There are so many aspects to consider, including property, food, utilities, local taxes and other issues, that many people will seek professional advice in this particular area. If possible, it is also worthwhile giving yourself some kind of buffer between your income and your expected cost of living because nine times out of 10 they will be issues and costs which you have never considered which could well eat into your income.
Once you have settled down in your new found homeland there is also the opportunity to shop around away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets and the main shops. Even if you can reduce your cost of living by 10% a month this can make a massive difference to your financial situation and above all take away some pressure. Financial pressure is by far and away one of the more common issues encountered by couples when looking to move overseas. Far too many people automatically consider that they will be moving on a like-for-like basis when in reality this will not be the case.
Again, to be forewarned is to be forearmed and if there is a need to take professional advice you should do so at the earliest opportunity.
In order for any move overseas to be successful all of the parties involved need to want it as much as each others. While there are very few cases where all parties are pulling in the same direction at the same speed and with the same strength, there needs to be a general consensus that the move overseas is in the best interests of all concerned. If you have moved recently can you honestly say that all parties wanted to move as much as each other?
Aside from the issue of who is perhaps pushing for a move overseas more than the other parties involved, it can be very difficult for one party if perhaps the other is working all day and they are left to fend for themselves. It is difficult enough being stuck in the home watching children 24 hours a day seven days a week in familiar surroundings, but being stuck in a foreign land on your own with children to look after can be mind blowing. This is where a social life and routines will come into play thereby allowing each party to plan ahead and perhaps even to look forward to certain events.
In reality we see many relationships break up after a relatively short period of time in their new found homeland. The number of people who return home without their partner has grown over recent years and is something which can be very difficult to cope with. If you have a relationship which is potentially troubled then a move overseas to begin a new life could well make or break your relationship. If this is a risk which is worth taking, and the benefits of a new life overseas are attractive, then there is no reason not to discuss a potential move overseas, as long as all parties are pulling in the same direction. Small cracks in your relationship can become wide caverns in the event of a move to a foreign land!
Even if you move to your new found homeland in the best of health there will be a time when either you or your family require medical assistance. Healthcare has become a major issue amongst the expat community over the last few years as the cost of private healthcare continues to grow and the level of public healthcare in some countries continues to fall.
As a consequence, one of the first things you should do when looking to move to an overseas country, assuming you have made your plans and decided to go, is to ensure you and your family have the appropriate healthcare provisions in place. It makes no sense at all to put aside healthcare issues and sort them out later because in the event of an accident or some kind of issue which requires medical assistance it could cost you thousands upon thousands of pounds if you have no insurance available. Indeed, a number of hospitals around the world will refuse to admit and treat those who do not have some form of medical healthcare insurance in place. This really is a vital issue!
Thankfully there are now more and more expat companies looking to advise those considering a move overseas. While some of these services may seem relatively expensive, when you put them beside the potential cost to you if you ignore their advice there is little in the way of a comparison. Saving a few pounds here and a few pounds there, by ignoring issues such as healthcare, could literally cost you hundreds if not thousands of pounds in the future. Go prepared, take advice, don’t cut corners and ensure that you and your family are
fully covered in the event of an accident or treatment required for a medical condition.
While we have attempted to put together five of the more common problems encountered by expats moving overseas, we have only just uncovered the tip of the iceberg. However, mainly due to the ever growing influence of the Internet, you should be able to investigate potential problems and issues in any country which you are considering. There should be a number of expat communities, both online and off-line, which can offer you advice and assistance when required.
We say this time and time again, but unless you go prepared to your new homeland it is almost inevitable that you will encounter potentially serious issues. Even going prepared does not cover you for every eventuality but it should reduce the pressure when you land and allow you to concentrate on settling in and appreciating your new found homeland. Go prepared!
Published on expatforum.com
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