In my series ’10 tips for people who want to become an expat’, I explained the main important things to think of when considering moving abroad (summary of all posts):

  • Making your research
  • Checking your personal situation
  • Being ready for a lot of administrative work
  • Paying attention to your finances
  • Speaking another language in a non-English country
  • Being prepared to lose some friends (and win new ones)
  • Being open to change
  • Food
  • Joining a club
  • Reverse culture shock

This article is the follow up of these videos. There are many other things to mention and so many questions you may ask yourself…

Where do I start if I want to become an expat? Which country should I choose? 

If you want to go abroad to escape certain problems you may face (for instance: a break up), moving abroad will probably not change anything. Should you decide to become an expat, leave without ’emotional luggage’. Make sure you are ready to enjoy your new adventure. If you bring your emotional problems with you, they will keep on following you. No matter how far you’ll be from your home country. You will not be able to enjoy fully your experience as an expat.

So, becoming an expat all depends on your situation (are you already an experienced professional or a fresh graduate) and which country you’re coming from. Some countries make it difficult for people to leave their home country so inquire on what is exactly required.

The best is obviously to find a job where a company would help you relocate and would also arrange visa, working permit, etc. for you. Do not give up. This can take a lot of time.

Check out big international companies such as Linkedin, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Paypal, Visa, Expedia, Club Med, big airlines, big car companies, and many others. These companies are present in many different locations and countries, and they are always looking for people. Depending on the job and level you’re applying for, you may be offered a relocation package or the company may help you with some formalities.

Looking for your dream job

You can, of course, look for your ‘dream job’. However, from my own experience, it can take a lot of time. If your goal is more to become an expat and less to have the perfect job, look for any suitable job. Sometimes a step backward can actually help you move forward afterwards… You may even be invited for an interview and might actually be offered a better job depending on your experience and skills.

As mentioned in my first video, you need to do your research, there is no other way around. Everybody has a different situation, a different background and only you know what you want to do. Find out visa requirements. If you need a working permit, if you need to have some money aside to go to certain countries/areas of the world. You usually can find this information at the embassy or consulate of the country you want to go to. Google something like ‘Visa requirements for [xxx] citizen to [country where you want to move to]’. You will get several links and you can then go deeper to find out more about the exact prerequisites, processing times etc.

Do your research

Do your research on the cost of living, taxes (income tax, car tax, etc.), accommodation, public transports, school, other expats, etc. Nowadays, you really can find anything on the Internet. Use this opportunity to find out everything you want to know.

Find out about the weather as well. Some people coming from warm countries going to work in more northern countries sometimes have challenges adapting to the colder weather and actually get depressed. So also google ‘weather climate in [country you want to go to] to get an idea of what to expect and to avoid surprises.

Be aware that in some countries and for certain professions, the diplomas or qualifications you have may not be recognized. Or you may have to have your diploma translated into the local language (and this can be quite costly). So this is also another thing to take into consideration if you are looking for a job.

What else do I need to do once I have moved?

Once you have found a place where to stay and have registered at your town hall, do not forget to go and register at your embassy or consulate. This can be very handy in case something happens (if you lose your passport for instance).

Check also if you can use your driving license (and get insured). Sometimes, certain countries require you to change your driving license to a ‘local’ one.

Inquire about phone/internet providers: there are sometimes big differences in offers.

Will it be easy to learn the local language?

As strange as it sounds, it is actually easier to learn a language where people do not speak English (or your native language). Why? Because you have no choice but to learn it!

When people speak English (even in a non-English speaking country) and they hear you try to speak their language, they often switch to English as they hear you have an accent. Whether they do it consciously or not, does not really matter. The fact is that you will have fewer opportunities to practice and learn the local language if people speak English. This can sometimes be very annoying as you’re trying to make an effort to learn the language but do not get the chance to practice it.

When you are in a country like China, France or Italy for instance, you will have to learn the language. It will be very frustrating and you’ll feel very tired at the beginning. But trust me: once you have learned the basics, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice. Your learning curve will increase quickly. Remember: learning the local language will help you understand all the subtleties of the culture and will help you integrate better. It’s an investment worth making and something you’ll keep for the rest of your life.

I was happy and excited to move, but now I feel disappointed and wonder if I did not make a mistake… Is it normal?

As an expat, you will go through different phases (a big thank you to @Randall Niznick for the inspiration).

You’ll first be a bit scared of the unknown but mostly excited by this new adventure.

After a while, you’ll go through a roller coaster of emotions. You will sometimes become frustrated, angry, disappointed, sad, alone and will wonder if you have taken the right decision. You will notice things do not work like in your own country or not as planned….

But there will come a time when you’ll have finalized most of the paperwork. You’ll have found a place where to stay and will have registered, you’ll have a bank account, an internet connection, a mobile phone, etc. You will start to relax. You’ll start enjoying your new life and appreciating the normal things. You will start making new friends and will start picking up some habits in your new country.

Depending on your character and personality, of the country you’ve come from and where you’ve moved to, these phases will differ from one person to the other. Some may need a few weeks to adjust to their new situation, some may need months (or even years!). Some people may be stuck in the ‘down phase’ (the phase where everything seems to go wrong). Other people will make the best of their situation and will move quickly to the phase where they start to enjoy their new life. The most important thing to know is that it is totally normal to have all these challenges and all these different feelings. We’ve all been there. Even when faced with challenges, take this as a learning experience. Remember, you never lose: you either win or you learn.

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