Everybody is different and has different ideas about what life should be like. So, to say it is worth it or not to be an expat has a lot of variables. Some may seem like pros to one group and cons to another.
If you’ve done a study abroad program, or have spent a lot of time outside of your home country then you likely have the bug to live abroad. Unfortunately, reality is not always how you imagined life to be like in another country.
There are rewards, no doubt about it. There is a lot to experience and learn from as an expat, but it is a challenge to say the least. The best thing to do is to understand what you are getting into and then make a decision based on what you’ve been able to learn.
In this article, we will go over what it is really like to be an expat living in another country.
You’ll need to take care of your own healthcare
Many countries all over the world have a very good healthcare system in place. In fact, it is one of the primary reasons to move abroad due to the high cost of having health insurance.
You are not going to be able to get on the public option unless you get very lucky and get permanent residence. Of course, that isn’t to say that one day you won’t be eligible, only that it could take years.
In the meantime you’ll need some expatriate insurance to keep you going until which time you can get onto the public option. Don’t be confused with travel insurance as that is more for emergencies. An insurance policy should allow you to see a doctor for regular checkups and for routine visits.
It’s difficult to form friendships
It can take quite a while before you can really feel like you are a local, if it ever happens at all. If you are not fluent in the local language then it makes it difficult to be yourself and form actual friendships.
What usually happens is that expats are magnets for other expats and end up socializing with other English speakers. Most of the time, other expats are only there temporarily so it is very difficult to make a lasting friendship.
This might not bother some people as they are just looking for a social circle that keeps things light and friendly. Locals stick around, but if you can’t communicate clearly then they aren’t likely to want to get too deeply into your life.
You may find that people are curious about you because you are a foreigner and it may be at least easy to socialize with the locals. Also, many people will want to speak to you in English since they don’t get much opportunity to practice.
It takes a while to understand how things work
There is quite a learning curve when it comes to settling into a new country. First, there is the bureaucracy which is usually pretty significant in many countries. Expect to have to take a lot of paperwork around with you to get stamps from various clerks around the city. And many of these clerks don’t speak English so you will likely struggle to understand what needs to be done.
Then there are cultural differences that are difficult to follow. It is very easy to make a faux pas and offend somebody accidentally simply because you don’t understand how things are done. Work culture can be especially tricky to navigate as the way Americans do things is usually much different. Where we tend to appreciate directness, other cultures bristle at it.
This is part of the fun of being an expat in some ways as it is exciting to be learning new things all the time. Take all these mistakes in stride and learn from them and you’ll do fine.
There will be times when you think about how you would like to take some time off so you can go back home to visit friends and family. However, is it home? Or, is where you are now home? It’s hard to know where you fit in.
It may sound like a little thing but it can create a lot of internal struggles for people. You don’t feel like you are home in your new country but you are very far from your old home. It does help to be able to go back and visit people. And you will have friends and family eager to come visit you in your new location for a vacation. But having one foot in one country and another foot in another is very confusing for a lot of people.