Reflecting on our two years in Australia living as expats, I am feeling enthusiastic about expat living as a mode of travel. It’s important not to idealise expat living – it is not just going to experience another country with all expenses ‘on the company’.
There are downsides, adjustments, compromises. There is a lot to consider, including what you will be leaving behind. Overall my experience has been positive but I have missed friends and support networks being away for so much longer than my usual weeks or months of travel.
Here are a few tips for people contemplating travel via expat living:
1. Do your research – Think carefully about where you would like to live, make a reconnaissance visit and talk to anyone who might have inside information about what it is like to live in that country and/or city.
2. Do more research – Take some time to research the important aspects of daily life in the country where you are going to live. Banking, taxes, housing, transportation, healthcare, insurance, work visas for spouses, and education can all vary widely from country to country. Moving to Australia I had to get to grips with childcare provision and the government subsidies that made it affordable.
3. Be patient – Bureaucracy is universal and you need to set yourself to be a little longsuffering with the process of moving country.
4. Be open – One of the biggest joys of expat living is the opportunity to delve far more deeply in to a culture than is usually possible with regular travel. Be open to different languages and culture. Try not to impose your cultural values and perspective on others but use this as a learning experience that will help you reassess and revalue your own culture.
5. Make the most of every day – This is my travel mantra wherever I am – to get out and be a tourist. You never know what is around the corner so make the most of today. Whether I am travelling or at home there are always opportunities to seek out new sights, smells to experience. Take a look at last week’s post to find out my favourite things to see in Australia.
6. Look out for your partner – if you are doing the expat thing with a partner be aware that they may experience life in the new country in a different way. Make sure you talk about frustrations and fears.
The internet has a wealth of information on expat living, some general and some country specific. InterNations is one of my favourites.
And remember, as with any real travel, the expat experience is likely to leave you a different person from when you left home. Returning home could be almost as disorientating as moving overseas in the first place!
Happy travel dreams!
Natasha von Geldern is a travel writer, editor, and blogger who is passionate about making the pages of the atlas real by traveling the world. She is a contributor to Travel Wire Asia, Wild Junket Magazine, Yahoo! Total Travel and Travelbite. You can find her on World Wandering Kiwi.