There are several reasons why people leave their home countries to move and work abroad: either as a way to become independent or to experience the wonders of other places and cultures.
However, upon arriving at that new destination, coming to terms with your identity as a resident of unfamiliar lands can be complicated. Everyone who has experienced this situation and fallen in love with a new country knows that it’s not easy. The benefits of moving abroad are huge, but they always come with several unexpected challenges and moments of uncertainty.
Below, we’ll tell you what challenges expats face and what you can expect on your first adventure of living abroad.
What is it like to be an expat?
This is not an easy question to answer, as no two expat experiences are the same. However, there are some general experiences you are likely to meet when entering the expat world. Here are some of the situations you might face as an expat.
1. Feeling confused in a different world
One of the main circumstances an expat encounters is understanding or knowing very little about their new country of residence, as well as the small details they must begin to understand if they ever want to feel like they belong there.
Without a doubt, being an expat implies a cultural shock in which you have to make an effort to adapt to an unknown country: to its customs, language, the rhythm of life, and much more. Bit by bit, you will learn how the local bus system works and how to calculate the time you will need to get to a place. You will be able to find the most proper greeting in each social situation and understand how to choose between a kiss, a hug, or the intensity of a handshake.
Although you may feel confused at first, this is the challenge that all expatriates must face and the one that will determine whether your stay abroad will be temporary or whether your new country will become your permanent home. If you want to know how to be an expatriate, you will have to get used to feeling uncomfortable about getting it wrong sometimes.
2. Learn a new language
If you become an expat in a country where people speak a different language, this will be your first challenge. So be prepared to spend at least the first three months without much idea of what goes on in most situations.
Ordinary exchanges at the store, in a restaurant, or requesting any service take on new meaning, and while it may take you a few weeks to understand these things, you will always feel triumphant when someone understands what you are saying.
On the other hand, if you speak the same language, but your way of speaking is different from that of your new country of residence, you will come across more than one word that is strange or means something different from what you want to express (and that will lead to some funny moments).
3. Meet people from all over the world
Being an expat is like joining a club; no one is sure of the rules, but it’s a circle in which you interact with many different people and have unique experiences.
Wherever you move to, you’ll find that there is an intangible but strong bond between expats, no matter where in the world they come from, as everyone fully understands the trials expats go through when moving abroad for the first time.
So, in addition to building a network of local friendships when you arrive in a new country, it’s a great idea to make friends with other members of the expat community, with whom you can share experiences, emotions, advice, and more.
Getting together with a group of outsiders to talk about your accomplishments in that new country or, to know that you are not the only one who is baffled by an element of the local culture, will be a great help in moving forward.
4. Coping with feelings of loneliness
Being an expatriate has downsides: living away from friends and family is difficult, and it could be harder than you think to settle into a new place at first. Friendships you thought were solid may grow cold and faced with missing out on important life events with your loved ones, you may feel disconcerted.
What you can be sure of is that becoming an expatriate takes great courage. When you move abroad, you realize how many people are proud and inspired by what you do and that the rewards of being part of a different place with a new group of friends and new experiences are well worth it.
5. Dealing with government and financial formalities
Regardless of which country you go to, this challenge will come up everywhere. Red tape in other nations can be strange and overwhelming. You probably won’t fully understand how it all works, so you may need to take a deep breath and be patient.
There will also be financial implications to consider, such as how much you will budget for your financial obligations and day-to-day expenses. One of the responsibilities you won’t be able to evade is paying taxes, so it’s important to research the tax laws in the country where you plan to live.
In addition, currency exchange rates are expensive, so using your regular credit cards may result in foreign transaction fees. No doubt you will need credit cards specially designed for expats to save you money and headaches. Fortunately, there are specialized companies to help you with all of this and make the expat procedure a smoother one.
Now that you know the difficulties you might face being an expatriate, the only thing you need to do is to decide to experience this adventure. As Susan Sontag says: “Living abroad facilitates treating life as a spectacle.”
Would you like to get professional support and make your expat adventure a great one? Contact us!