1) Do your research
In the Internet age, there is simply no excuse for not spending a few hours familiarising yourself not only with the geography of your new home, but with logistical issues such as currency, transport, housing and schooling. However, whilst online research can tell you a lot about the place which will soon be your home, nothing beats actually visiting. If you can, try to spend some time in the country before you move there permanently.
2) Learn the language
Expatriates can sometimes have a poor reputation. The root of this is often a failure to understand either the language or culture of the society in which they live. Ideally, you should attempt to obtain at least a basic grasp of the language before you move. As you settle into your new home, try not to spend all of your time amongst the familiar trappings of the expatriate community. By all means make friends with like-minded people, but try to go out of your way to become part of the local community as well.
3) Join a club
Not all expatriates will need to learn a new language, of course, but most will need to understand an entirely different culture. Reading about this in books can only go so far, and the best way to ensure that you become part of your new community is to find a shared passion. Perhaps a running group will pique your interest, or a regular card game, or even a choir. Whatever you choose, make sure that you go outside of the expatriate comfort zone and learn more about the community you have moved into.
4) Look after your health
Many expatriates find out too late that their existing medical insurance does not cover their new country. Nothing could be worse than having to make complex new arrangements during a period of illness or injury. Make sure that you invest in full coverage expatriate insurance, provided by a company with an established reputation. If you are living in a particularly isolated location, look into ‘evacuation coverage’, and if you are planning on travelling to multiple countries, make sure your policy covers this.
5) Prepare for a rainy day
Hopefully you are planning a move to a sunny paradise, but even there a contingency fund for emergencies will come in useful. Perhaps the only thing that you can be certain of is that the unexpected will lie in wait for you over the first few months of your expatriate existence. You will be much better able to meet any challenge if you have savings to fall back on, and the ability to buy a few luxuries if the going gets tough! If you follow the tips above, and keep a little money aside for a rainy day, your life as an expatriate should be a wonderful adventure.
Jessica Saxon is a fellow expatriate having lived and worked in Australia, Dubai and Europe. Shes writes as a hobby and enjoys sharing her experiences of being an expatriate. She hopes that others will find her articles interesting and helpful.