How to Be An Expatriate

I see you wanting to make that big move. Hey, I don’t blame you. You fell in love with another country and there also happens to be a job opportunity over there. So you now you really want to get out of dodge and start your new life as an expatriate. But there’s one thing holding you back from really committing 100%. You’re not sure how to even go about surviving out there in “uncharted social lands”.

Keep calm. All is well. Just follow these few simples tips and you’ll promptly be at ease.

I. Heaven Isn’t Everywhere You Go

Consider this… A recent study by HSBC (British bank) took a gander at quality of life and financial/economic opportunities for expats across 34 countries. And, believe it or not, China and Thailand are the two best countries. After them follow smaller, rich countries such as: Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Bahrain, and Singapore.

The absolute worst place to move? Egypt—thanks largely to the rise of xenophobia, because of the wave of populist nationalism.

So stay the heck away from those pyramids!

Other not-so-expat-friendly countries are mainly found in Western Europe: Spain, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Ireland.

II. Most Common Ways To Become One

Students… they have it great. Being is probably the best, easiest, and least risky way to visit another country. Since most 4-year universities offer some time of exchange program, it’s as simple as applying for a semester or full year abroad—no matter what your degree. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have some international experience as this makes you more appealing to future employers.

Another common way is if you’re in the government—especially the military. Temporary Duty (TDY) comes in short-term (under 30 days) or long-term (1-2 years). Overseas experience really helps distinguish you from others, putting you in a great position to get bumped up in rank.

And then there is… the full time employee. Find opportunities within your company to fulfill a need they may have for an international position. Oftentimes, they’ll even have relocation funds set aside that facilitates the move for interested employees.

Or, if you’re company doesn’t offer such opportunities, it might be time to apply for a job with another company that’s either located in your country of choice, or a local company that’s open to those possibilities.

III. Visas

Unless you plan to beg for money on the streets, it might be in your best interest to get a job wherever you decide to move to. No brainer, right? But before all of that jazz, you might want to check what are that country’s existing visa and work restrictions. Is the place amicable with foreigners?

In fact, you should probably ask yourself the following questions so you can determine what is and isn’t doable as an expat relative to work:

1) Because a lot of countries only welcome recent graduates, you should consider if work permits have age restrictions.

2) Do you already need to be working before applying for the work visa?

3) Or do you need the visa before getting the work?

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4) Do work permits have time limits? If so, make sure you know how long you can stay, whether you can renew it, and how the heck to do so.

5) Does the country in question only provide work visas to people with certain skill sets that they require at that point in time? This changes year to year. However, software developers are usually welcome everywhere.

IV. Settle In

So you’re wanting to nest on a new branch. Cool! But make sure you consider all of the obstacles and hurdles you may need to leap over to get things in order. Think about it. New government, laws, customs, and requirements. It’s crazy.

If you need to find some apartment rentals, you might want to try the old tried and true method of perusing Craigslist. That’s of course unless your job--assuming you have one lined up--provides housing or some form of assistance. Also, make sure you check out how to set-up basic utilities, and a bank account (it might require that you have a specific form of visa or proof of employment).

V. Be Very Cautious

If you’re hell bent on moving somewhere with a relatively high crime rate, it’s imperative that you get into the habit of covering your butt. Get to know your neighbors, so you’ll have a watchful eye over your home, whenever you’re not there.

And you know… don’t walk around alone at night. That’s just generally not a good idea in most places.

It also really helps to have an escape plan—especially if you’re living somewhere where drug crime is prevalent. Shootings can happen at any time, so take time to talk to family, friends, and whoever else is living with you, to devise an escape route. And make it a point to get familiar with bus schedules, highway routes, etc.

That’s all folks.

Ready to make the move?

I commend you.

And have fun with your new life.


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