Some things about moving overseas are pretty obvious: you should learn the local language, you should keep negative opinions to yourself, you should behave yourself, etc. While solid advice, this should all be pretty obvious to anyone who’s about to move to a foreign country for what may very well be several years. Here are a few less obvious tips that will serve you well should you move to a different country.
1. Get the right kind of insurance
Not all international insurance policies are made equal. As a matter of fact, you might be paying more and getting less when you get international insurance from companies that do not have a focus on expats and foreign students. This can lead to a nasty surprise if you find yourself or a family member in need of medical attention overseas. To mitigate your risks, be sure to get coverage from an insurer that focuses on expatriates, such as Now Health International.
2. Get a local phone number
Many expats wait too long to get a local phone number, causing them to rack up unreasonably high roaming bills in a short time. As an expat, you have to let go of the tourist mentality and expect to face many of the same challenges that locals do. That includes taking the time to get a local phone number. Your wallet will thank you for it.
3. Open a local bank account
Speaking of wallets, you’ll find pretty quickly that you’re severely limited with what you can do if you don’t have a local bank account. This is especially true outside of countries that don’t have strong economic ties, such as members of the EU, but it still applies regardless. Without a local bank account, you will usually find you’re being billed unreasonable amounts for every international transaction – which could be OK if you’re a tourist who’s just passing by. But if you’re an expat, these fees will add up and you’ll definitely want to do business with a local bank as soon as possible.
4. Understand that culture shock is a real thing
Culture shock is not made up, nor is it something that just happens to other people. It is a very real phenomenon that can cause you to have ill-feelings towards your host culture and negatively impact your experience in your host country. It may even cause you to experience severe depression or anxiety, which can impact your quality of life in your host country.
Recognizing that it happens to everyone is the first step to taking control over your own negative experiences in your host country. Knowing that you might be experiencing culture shock can also help you seek help when needed.
5. Stop calculating things in your home currency
While exchange rates are important, they will not give you a clear picture of the cost of living in your host country. Chances are that the cost of living in your home and host countries aren’t all that comparable for a number of reasons anyhow. While a beer may cost the equivalent of half a dollar in some countries, it may cost as much as $10 in others. You will likewise find that certain items cost more than double than they do back home while others are just a fraction of what you would pay for. Keeping track of these things can drive you nuts, and it’s best to just try to understand the prices in the context of your situation as an expat.
6. Learn to eat and drink like the locals
Most locals can forgive you for not being fluent in their language, but it’s much more difficult to forgive drinking and table manners for some reason. In any case, table manners and drinking protocol is notable enough that every good guide on a foreign culture will explain these in depth. Even if you’re still a couple of years away from reaching fluency in the host culture’s language, you should and must do your best to eat and drink as the locals do to prevent any unintended disrespect.
7. Make as many local friends as you can
The janitors at your school or office, the bartender at your local dive, the people at the bank you do business with for international transactions and the folks you get your fresh fruits and veggies from are probably locals themselves. Chances are you will need their help much more often than they will need yours, making it important to take the effort to maintain a positive relationship with locals whenever possible. Not only will this make your stay in your host country go smoother, but it will also help you understand the culture more and make it less confusing over time. Making friends with locals will also allow you to build a support network in your host country which is incredibly critical for maintaining your mental and emotional health.