International living: The essentialsBecoming an expat is a big transition, but it’s also very rewarding. We look at some of the ways you can help ease into a new life abroad.

Making the move

These days there are probably more opportunities to become an expat than at any time previously.  As business opens up into new markets, skills are required and people at different levels within an organisation may be offered the chance to work in a foreign country. And if you’re an EU citizen, it’s easy to move from one country to another within the EU. Going further afield may mean that there are various requirements such as visas, work permits and so on.

While many people go abroad on an international assignment, there are also those who decide to retire to a foreign country – often one where the weather is warmer and the days have more sunshine and less rain. This probably goes a long way to explaining why Australia and Spain are the most popular countries for expatriates from the UK. There are well over a million people from the UK who live in Australia, and over 800,000 in Spain. So in those two countries alone the number of UK expats combined amounts to about the same as one of Britain’s bigger cities.

Managing transitions

Moving abroad is a big step, and brings with it a lot of challenges. The important things to research before going include:

  • Accommodation. What part of town suits me best? How long will it take to commute to work?
  • Education. This is obviously massively important for people moving abroad with a family that includes school-age children.
  • Language skills. Even if your job doesn’t require you to speak the language, it’s still going to be very useful to acquire skills in the language of the place you’re going. And aside from the practicalities of day to day life, language skills also set you in good stead socially.
  • Health. Depending on where you are going you may be able to register with the local health service, but these obviously vary massively from country to country. Some places have a legal requirement that any foreign nationals who enter must have medical cover. This is one thing that simply can’t be left to chance, and there have been reports in some places of people being turned away at the airport due to not being insured. International health insurance (such as that provided by AXA PPP International) is the type required.
  • Mental health. Life can be stressful for all of us, but when abroad there’s all the added unfamiliarity – getting to know your way around, figuring stuff out, cultural differences, and so on. So it’s definitely useful to look into stress management techniques. For people facing difficulties there are counselling services designed for expats, and some employers may also provide an employee assistance programme.

Expat resources

Luckily with all the expatriation going on right now, there are lots of resources available. Online you’ll find some very lively and informative forum sites – useful for getting specific information on a range of expat issues relating to just about every corner of the globe. Many of the bigger towns and cities also have expat meetup groups, which can be a valuable way of building your social network on arrival.

In many ways, there’s never been a better time to become an expat, so if you’re considering it, then make the most of all the expat stuff available online and make your transition as easy as it can be.

About the author:Â G McMillan is a travel blogger specialising in expats and expat wellbeing. Follow them on Twitter.
Featured image published under creative commons, via ljcybergal.

2 thoughts on “International Living – The Essentials

  1. Thanks Molly – hope you’re doing ok and settling in. Hope your comms issues have been sorted out too! Take care, K x

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