Last year, I had the opportunity to live abroad, and add the term “Expatriate” to my resume. My country of residence was Saudi Arabia. Yes, Saudi Arabia. Yes, I chose to live there. On purpose. And it was GREAT, life changing, amazeballs, all that. But, that’s a whole other post for another day. This post is for those of you who are seriously considering living abroad/or are about to. Here is a list of things, (in no particular priority really), to consider, along with basic suggestions.
1.) Challenge yourself. Yes, Europe is pretty and it sounds great for stories at your next college reunion……but there are six other continents out there that would love it if you just stopped on by. (Well, five that you can actually live on.) Also, a lot of times places like Japan, India, or the Middle East, have way more incentives, benefits, and better expatriate packages.
2.) Oh, and challenge yourself. What made my experience so AWESOME was that we chose a location that culturally was the VERY opposite of the spectrum from the States. From this I grew exponentially and was severely humbled. Do not keep yourself locked in your compound, or job site. LEAVE the city. Take the public transportation. Visit/eat/stay at homes that only have rugs, and cots for furniture. Eat local.
3.) Don’t listen to them. “But what about your job/child/dog/house/mother/friends, how will you be able to figure that out/leave them/live without them/how will life go on?” Look if you’ve already got this far into the process, you’ve probably already figured out how to handle that anyway. But I will give some tips to use while negotiating your incentives. (Keep in mind that this will vary depending on the company that is sponsoring you.)
a. Make sure housing is either covered, or you have a housing allowance.
b. ask about travel allowances/reimbursements,( this usually covers any costs that you had to accrue yourself. For example: visas fees, food that you paid for while in transit, etc)
c. ask about leave time. (Typically most arrangements are 30 days of paid leave. Tickets for you, and your dependents are also included in this. (If they are not, make sure they will be.)
d. Support system-Will you have a designated go to person assigned to you upon arrival? Part of the fun of living abroad is being in a whole new strange country, however it does help to have a dedicated “buddy” along the way.
e. Moving costs-Now this is tricky. Some organizations, (like the military/us govt agencies), will pay for your relocation. However, a vast majority, especially in private sector, ain’t paying for nothing but your airfare there. So be prepared to negotiate this too.
f. Ask for more money. Just do it.
4.) Research visas. DO THIS. It’s extremely important that you understand the different types of visas, because this can make your situation go from a dream to a nightmare, if you are not familiar with restrictions and expiration dates. (For instance a tourist visa is VERY different from a business visit visa.) Talk to your company about this. ASK QUESTIONS, ALL THE TIME.
5.) Visit the neighboring countries. While we lived in Saudi, we had the pleasure of visiting (collectively) UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, (and we would have done more had we had the time.) Definitely get out there and explore.
6.) Find friends, and build a support system. Most of the times in Expat communities, everyone is looking to restart their lives, and build new friendships. Be friendly. Go to stuff. Company stuff. Get involved in your community.
7.) Try to learn the local language. This WILL make life easier for you, and the local folk always appreciate the fact that you are trying to understand their culture by speaking their tongue.
8.) Don’t be THAT American. I promise you the most ignorant, most rude, (just uncouth) mofos were usually Americans. Sad to say, but not at all shocking. Everywhere else is not like America, so get used to it and stop complaining. Stay open minded.
9. Eat good food, live your life to its fullest, explore, rinse, repeat. *Honestly, this could work for just life in general, but I’m trying to reach my word quota here, so work with a sister*
Obviously there’s more, but this kind of covers the gist of it in terms of basics. For more info/questions/comments, don’t be a stranger, hit me up at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for stopping by!