“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Leaving your hometown is a big deal for most people. Leaving your home country is a wonderful experience that also comes with a bit of fear of the unknown, like butterflies in your stomach.
In addition to dealing with cultural and language issues, you have to deal with the sheer logistics of uprooting and replanting your life on a seemingly foreign planet. Choosing the right services makes all the difference and lets you focus on the best aspects of your new adventure.
Some of the most important services you will need to choose are pretty common, and obvious. You need help with moving, banking and healthcare for instance. But those are just the tip of the iceberg.
Some of the other, less considered issues include schooling for children, finding employment and work permits, communicating with family and friends, how to handle pets and getting your physical mail.
Some of these issues are easier to address than others, and some can even be put off until you actually make the move. Unless you’re heading somewhere truly remote, there is also most likely going to be an expatriate community that you can tap into once you’ve relocated.
Typically, these communities are fairly tight-knit and your soon-to-be fellow expats are more than willing to offer all the advice and guidance you will ever need. It is generally in the planning stages that most people are at risk for making incorrect decisions. Or, they simply assume that something will be the same—or available—where they’re going.
There is no better reminder than moving abroad that you don’t know what you don’t know. So what’s the best way to ensure a smooth transition to your new place on the global scene?
First, be cautious. OK, that may sound like poor advice to someone who’s already decided to uproot their life and move somewhere completely foreign. The unknown is part of the excitement, right?
But remember, other countries don’t have the same consumer protection laws that you’re probably used to in your home country. This includes protection from false advertising claims as well as legal remedies in case a product or service provider does not deliver what they promise. This doesn’t have to a problem, but just like learning new customs such as driving etiquette and tipping norms, you do have to be aware.
Second, use first-hand knowledge whenever possible. Reach out to other expats who have been through what you are about to embark on and get their advice. If you don’t know any personally, reach out through your social networks. Ask friends if they know any expats. Ask your friends and contacts on Facebook and Linkedin. Both of these social networks also have plenty of groups and clubs of expats that you can reach out to.
Lastly, there are plenty of blogs and expat information sites online. The one cautionary issue with these is that you need to decide for yourself whether they are providing genuine information or are run by “interested parties” such as the companies they are espousing. There is also, of course, TheEmpoweredExpat.com, which provides 100% unbiased and unfiltered reviews directly from expats around the world. Just be sure to find reviews that directly match your needs.
So, while you’re making some of the biggest decisions of your life, you’re cautioned you to be safe. But also urged you to have fun.