So you’re looking to make your dream of moving out of the UK a reality? You may be feeling a mixture of emotions as you start to take action towards your goal. Feeling like you are on an emotional roller coaster is quite common when undertaking any big life change, so you may find yourself experiencing fear and excitement all at the same time! This is completely normal and to be expected as there is much to look forward to and of course many uncertainties that will trigger a fear response.
Rest assured with over 5.5 million living as expats abroad, it is possible to successfully transition and make this leap forward into the unknown. All you really need to do is prepare as much as possible in advance to help avoid the potential pitfalls that others have learnt the hard way!
There are two main factors that will require your attention in terms of preparing for how to be an expat and expat living in general – emotional and practical. These useful strategies are well worth your consideration to support you in achieving your dream of living abroad.
Perhaps you’re among those feeling the pressure to move before Brexit. If this is the case, whilst it does shorten your timescales somewhat, the biggest mistake you could make is to allow yourself to become panicked and rush important decisions. Pause and breathe! There is still time to do the necessary preparation to make the process as smooth as possible.
Taking care of ‘you’ should be high on your list of priorities and is a less obvious step for many, yet it is so vital! When we feel emotionally stressed or drained it has a direct impact on our decision making ability, cognitive function and can even trigger physical health concerns as your body struggles under the pressure – all of which are likely to hinder your progress. Eat the right foods and structure your schedule so there is still time for play in amongst all the preparation.
According to most expats, being far away from friends and family is deemed one of the hardest parts of moving abroad. Preparing for this reality and the likelihood of experiencing feelings of loneliness is something to bear in mind and indeed come to terms with. Be open in your communications with family and friends in the lead up to your move, tell them how you are feeling and perhaps schedule some visits so you have something familiar to look forward to in the first year of transition. If your mum doesn’t know how to use Skype, make sure you factor in some time to show her! It is also worth having strategies in place for when you do feel lonely. Don’t expect others to read your mind, you may need to be the one to reach out for support and that is ok.
Another common regret experienced by expats is not preparing enough for the culture shock! If you haven’t visited the country you are moving to before, you may wish to reconsider. It’s difficult to know how living in a country is until you do it. However, you can avoid this by doing your research and taking at least one trip without your ‘tourist hat’ on to really get acquainted with the local life and culture.
Setting a realistic budget and keeping track of your finances is another essential part of your preparations. Do your research and get estimates for each expense – insurance, removals, flights, visas, rent etc. Create a spreadsheet and update it with each expense. You may also find it useful to have some savings in the bank or a ‘just in case’ contingency budget to dip into in case of emergencies. After all, there is always the potential for unforeseen situations occurring and whilst it is impossible to predict these, you can prepare for the possibility of a worst case scenario.
Clear out the Clutter
A big chunk of your time will be dedicated to clearing up the life you are leaving behind, from getting rid of items you won’t be taking with you, to cancelling your subscriptions! It all takes time and you may need to be ruthless as the more you take with you, the higher the costs! Simply writing a list and systematically working through it can be a great way of taking care of these less enjoyable tasks.
If you are moving to country where English is not the first language, it can be useful to factor in some time to learn at least the basics prior to your move. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll get by without it as ‘everyone’ speaks English! That’s not always the case and it’s not like you’ll need to be fluent straight away. However, knowing a few common phrases will help you to integrate more quickly and easily.
As UK residents we can get quite comfortable knowing that we can just head to the doctors or hospital when we are unwell, without needing to worry about the financial implications. Most other countries have private healthcare and some have lower quality standards than we’re used to. Together with ensuring you get any necessary vaccinations for your chosen destination, its well worth having a general health check up with your GP just to be sure all is well. Above all, ensure you get yourself some good health insurance cover, regardless of where you are headed.