Tag Archives: Intermational Living

5 Considerations When Taking the Expat Plunge


Are you considering moving outside of the country and becoming an expat after you retire? You may be dreaming of new adventures, the excitement of living in and experiencing a new culture. Or maybe you are looking to find a place where you get more bang for your buck.  Whatever your reason, the world awaits. It is a big world and making the decision as to where to land is difficult at best.  You may decide to move to where every other expat is moving these days – the “latest” location touted by those expat retirement blogs – or you may do a personal search to find the location that works best for you.

In my search for the “right” location I have found a few cities that would offer me much of what I look for. I fell in love with Antigua, Guatemala years and hoped to live there someday. Then there is Cuenca, a beautiful, colonial city high in the Andes of Ecuador, that captured my heart as I wandered through el Centro on my very first visit. They are both viable options, but I am not yet convinced where I will hang my hat and I plan to continue my search… Guatemala, Chile, Spain, France, Sicily, Greece, Malaysia, Thailand…the list goes on and on.  So many locations to consider!

If you are thinking about becoming an expat here are five things to consider, besides location, before making your move:

Dig deep and ask the tough questions.

Why are you thinking about doing this? What is important to you? What do you need vs. what do you want?  Can you be happy with only the needs being fulfilled?  Are you willing to accept they way they do things in your new country or will  you expect they do it the way to which you are accustomed? Can you live without that red licorice or your favorite barbeque sauce?

Friends and family. How will you keep in touch? Will you be happy not seeing them in person on a weekly or monthly basis? Can you be such a long way from your grandkids?

Is this a forever move or will you only be going for a few years and returning or moving on?

All these questions and more need to honestly answered.  A trip to explore your potential expat city will help to answer some of these questions.  Digging deep and reflecting on your values, adaptability and flexibility will help clarify your reasons, expectations and likelihood of success.

Do your research.

Blogs abound about moving to and living other countries. The bloggers share their experiences and offer a myriad of suggestions for you to chew on.  Then there are sites like numbeo.com that provide costs and living expense comparisons, a very useful tool in seeing how far your resources will stretch.

Facebook has many groups for expats living in different locations around the world.  It’s a great place to interact with and ask questions of people who have already made their move. You will find those who have adapted well, some who are less than happy for numerous reasons, and still others who after a couple of years are heading back to their home country.  These pages generally give a pretty balanced perspective on living in that city or country and honest answers abound to any question you may ask.

Think about visas, residency requirement, and citizenship, if you are interested in going that route.

Healthcare. What are the options? Is there a government program with an option to purchase private insurance instead? What will it cost out of pocket and would that be within your budget?  Will you keep supplemental insurance for when you go back home to visit? Or will you just have travel insurance?

Then there is your best bud. Are you able to bring your beloved pet? What are the requirements to make that happen? Are there vets available and what does their practice look like? What is the culture of pets in the community?

Is the expat community active and welcoming? Starting by making some expat contacts and broadening your community to include the locals as well will only enhance your experience.

Make a plan.

A solid plan will take before, during and after the move into consideration.

Long before ever packing your bags, make a plan. How will all the “at home” requirements be handled? Will everything be handled by electronic mail?  Banking, credit cards, taxes, financial planning all need to be considered. How will those be handled? When will you move?  Do you need to sell a home before you leave? Or will you rent it…just in case?  What will your move look like? Will you only take a couple of suitcases and start fresh?  Or will you pack up your entire household and all your belongings and arrange for them to be shipped?  How will you stay in touch with family and friends?  Will emails and Facebook suffice or will you want to have more personal contact through Skype?

There is so much to consider and a written, detailed plan will only make things go so much smoother. The logistics related to the move need to be considered and fully understood. Stress mixed with excitement and anticipation will be high, so having all your ducks in a row before you hop on the plane will be critical to a smooth transition.

Set a few routines.

Set a few routines when you arrive to get you out into the community so you can begin to make connections with expats and locals alike.  Each morning after breakfast while living in Peru I would enjoy a leisurely cup off coffee in the house courtyard, and mid-morning I would stroll across town to the open air market to get exercise, enjoy the sights and sounds of the city and inevitably I would run into someone I was acquainted with.

While living in Guatemala City I had a routine on the weekends. Having taught school all week, I liked to take the bus to a nearby town, Antiqua, for the day and occasionally overnight on the weekends.  It became a favorite place to go to unwind, and I became familiar with the town and it with me.

If a weekend getaway isn’t an option, consider a Saturday morning walk along the river, ending with coffee and pastry at that quiet little bakery on the other side of town. Or maybe you will join a group with like interests, volunteer to read to children at the local school or help out at an animal shelter.

Setting a few routines at first to get out and about in a normal ‘I live in this town’ kind of way, not ‘I am here as a tourist’ kind of way can normalize your new life. It will provide you opportunity to meet people in those shops, restaurants, schools, clubs and overtime relationships will evolve and friendships will grow.

Create community.

For some this will be easy.  For others who may be a little more introverted or reserved this may feel like a daunting task.

Most cities where expats reside have welcome lunches or gatherings that are held weekly or monthly. Go to the expat hangouts to start the interaction.

Get to know the locals in your neighborhood. Understand that some cultures, though very friendly, may not invite you to their home for a long time. I lived in Peru for two years and I never made it past the parlor in friends homes where guests were welcomed to visit.

Walk softly, observe and learn. Local friendships will evolve naturally over time and more often than not, expats will welcome you with open arms.

Moving to another country can be a real adventure.  Having a well thought out plan and having fully considered your reasons for moving and expectations of the experience can make this new adventure fun and exciting.

What have you done or what are you doing to make your expat move smooth and successful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expat: To Be Or Not To Be…


That is the question.

Does the idea of becoming an expat call to you?  Do you enjoy new experiences, different cultures and want a retirement adventure?  Then moving to another country may be the perfect option for you.

There are many countries that offer a better lifestyle on less resources.  Deciding which one to move to can be overwhelming without a plan, and moving to a new country without completely researching it is a recipe for potential regrets.

For me, moving to another country that is within my budget is certainly an option worth considering.  Having lived outside of the U.S., in both Peru and Guatemala, I know that I enjoy other cultures and adapt well to countries that could be called “retirement affordable,” but I also recognize the need for planning.

“Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completes a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world.”

 

– David Sedaris

Once you decide that becoming an expat is an appealing retirement option, then it’s important to take time to make the best decision for you.

Read, Research and Ruminate

Do some reading.  There are lots of resources on web, books in the library and videos on YouTube that will help inform you. There is a lot to learn so start dreaming, but back up those dreams with data.  Travel guides can provide you solid information about a country you are considering, the cities, culture, weather, getting around etc.  You will want to have a travel guides on hand when you actually visit that country for the first time.

Vacation

Once you determine that the expat life may be an option for you, then the time would be sooner, rather than later, to begin determining where you will move to when you retire. Vacationing is a perfect way to start.  In the week or two you are vacation in a location you can get a feel for the city and culture your are considering.  If you are not an experienced adventure traveler, then you may want to visit the country of your choice with a tour group first.  You will get an idea of the culture, food and climate from a tourist’s perspective.  You will see the major sites and you may even get some free time to wander around the city.  It’s a great way to get a mini and usually rapid paced look at part of a country.  If it feels right and you think you might be happy there, try to get back a couple more times to explore further, branching outside the city into the small villages, hamlets or pueblos.  It may be that you decide after further exploration, to your surprise, that you prefer small village life over the hustle and bustle of the city,

Extended Stay

As time get closer to making the move, you may want to consider an extended stay in the country of your choice.  Vacations can provide some information about a country and the culture. An extended stay will provide you with a more day-today experience, a closer taste of what life might really be like.

In many countries you can stay in a room in someone’s house. I lived my first 6 months in Peru in a “hospetaje,” somewhat similar to a B&B in the United States, in concept, but with a different cultural twist.  You can stay for a short time or for an extended stay at most of them.  Choosing to stay in this type of accommodation offers an opportunity to meet locals and get to know the owners, maybe even become friends.  It’s a nice way to start your time in new city and is easier on the wallet, and more culturally real, than staying in a hotel.

Another excellent option is to rent an apartment.  In many locales you can rent an apartment for short term leases, month-to-month or a few months at a time.  Living in an apartment will give you a more realistic perspective of what daily life would look like if you were to move there full-time.  Daily life would afford you the opportunity to shop in the market, cook your own meals and occasionally venture out to a local restaurant for a meal or to a pub to listen to some local talent.  It will give you the chance to search out and connect with expats who live in the area, ask a few questions and listen to stories of their adventures.  Most expats are happy to connect with someone from back home who are considering relocation and share their experiences.

Once you have considered the various countries that you might like to live in and decide where you are headed, it’s time to learn the language.

Are you considering retiring to another country?  What research have you done to ensure you are making the right choice for you? Share your thoughts below.