A List of Common Problems of Moving Overseas for Expats & Global Nomads
If you plan to move abroad or have been living abroad for some time, you would have spoken to many expats who have sailed the same boat. One of the common topics that would come is the challenges expats face. In this article, we will explore some common problems of moving overseas. Understanding the root cause of the problem will help you overcome these obstacles a lot easier.
1. The Language Barrier
A language barrier is one of the most common problems of moving to another country. Especially if you are moving to a different continent, you would need to learn a new language. While there are various technologies like Duolingo that help people brush up on or learn a new language, lack of fluency will always be a challenge when moving to a new country or region.
To break the language barrier, learn rudimentary phrases that will help you navigate the initial phase of moving abroad. Be proactive and learn the language as early as you can. Plus, it helps if you are consistent, as it will help you progress faster. Get connected in forums and talk to other expats to get things flowing.
Once you are in your expat destination, form friendships with your neighbors and locals, and sign up for language classes as you will get a chance to make real conversations with locals and other expats. If face-to-face meetups are impossible at the moment, consider taking online lessons.
Here are six quick ways to learn a new language abroad as an expat or international citizen:
- Try to engage in daily conversations with locals. This can be difficult as most expats will socialize with other expats of the same language. We encourage our clients to practice speaking and listening to the language as much as possible. It also helps to socialize with locals, join language exchange programs, or take part in community events to enhance your conversational skills.
- Another technique is to take language courses offered locally. Many countries have language schools or community colleges that provide structured language programs for expatriates. Online course can be very helpful, but they definitely can beat in-person learning.
- Language apps and online resources can help global nomads utilize language-learning apps and online resources to supplement their studies. Babbel, or Rosetta Stone offers interactive lessons, exercises, and vocabulary-building exercises that you can conveniently access from your device.
- Language exchange partners can help expats connect with language exchange partners who want to learn their native language in exchange for helping them with the local language. Online platforms and local community bulletin boards often facilitate such partnerships.
- Full cultural immersion in the local culture is another technique when living overseas. Make sure you attend cultural events, festivals, and gatherings where the language is spoken.
- Watching local films, TV shows, or listening to music in the target language can also aid in understanding colloquial expressions and is entertaining as well.
2. Culture Shock
Depending on your expat destination, culture shock can come in various waves. Moreover, it affects each person differently. It is another common problem of moving overseas. If you are from an Asian country moving to the Western world for the first time, you may find yourself looking at the way locals dress up, the weather, food, etc.
It can be the same for someone moving from a first-world country to a less-developed country. For example, you may find the lack of clean water in DRC or their customs and traditions something foreign. Similarly, it is important to understand what constitutes good and bad because what may seem acceptable to you may not be acceptable to others. Learning how to deal with it will help you settle in quickly.
The good thing is that culture shock will pass, and if you have families with you, coping up together will help. Evaluate and check in with each other whenever you come across something new and unfamiliar.
Three quick tips on adapting to a new culture and overcoming “culture shock”:
- Cultural Awareness Training – Some expat employers will provide training before you move abroad, but individual expats can educate themselves about the local culture, customs, and social norms before arriving. Understanding the cultural context can help mitigate the initial shock. Learn about typical behaviors, communication styles, and traditions. This knowledge will provide a foundation for adapting to your new environment.
- Build a Support Network: Global nomads should establish connections with both expats and locals. There are a lot of expatriate communities out there which may provide a support system for newcomers. Additionally, forming relationships with locals can offer insights into the culture and make you feel more integrated. Join clubs, attend social events, and participate in community activities to build a supportive network.
- Maintain Familiar Routines: You may find adapting to a new culture, and maintaining some familiar routines can provide a sense of stability. THink about continuing certain hobbies, exercising, or cooking meals from your home country. It may be tough, but having a balance between embracing the local culture and holding onto familiar aspects of your life can help ease the transition.
3. Strain in Relationships
As many benefits there is to moving abroad, there are some cons to it as well. You get so busy planning, packing, moving, and settling in, that most of the time, it puts a strain in family and relationships. It is one of the most common problems of moving abroad. It can be more challenging when you are away from your family and loved ones.
Many things can put a strain on relationships, from failure to securing a job opportunity or even experiencing high demand at your new job. Not to forget, if you have moved abroad with your family, your children can feel a lot more distraught from settling in a new environment, school, and making new friends.
It is important to note that everyone who is affected by your move abroad will adjust differently. Patience with yourself and with those around you will help you get through the more challenging days. Communicate and spend time with your loved ones. Check in with your children and ask them how they are settling in. The earlier you start, the easier it will get in time.
4. Fitting In
Not only are you dealing with settling in, but you are also trying to fit into the dynamics of your new culture, environment, and even workplace. Worrying about fitting in is another common problem of moving abroad. You have to actively learn the customs and traditions and prep for your new work.
To avoid any difficulties, do research prior to moving. Find out the traditions, customs of the new culture you will be a part of. If it is a new workplace, ask your manager or your new employer if there’s anything specific you should do in preparation for your new role. When you are informed of the expectations required from you, it will be easier to transition.
You can also reach out to other new colleagues and gauge the dynamics of the team and work environment. Similarly, get in touch with other global nomads and seek advice from them. There is plenty to learn from their experiences.
Here are seven fast ways to help fit in abroad:
- Join an expat or local club
- Seek out active friendships, not just online connections
- Learn the language
- Socialize with your fellow expat workers
- Do your research and check the local social scene and cultural practices
- Be patient, as making friends and fitting in takes time
- Practice active listening
5. Finances & Medical Expenses
Finances for Expats
This is also one of the most common problems of moving to another country. If you have not found a home to live in your new expat destination, you may feel overwhelmed by navigating through the housing market in a new city. You can always reach out to your coworkers or other expats for ideas.
It’s best to rent first, as you will be able to gauge your likes and dislikes of the neighborhood. It will give you the opportunity to move around before finding the best place to live. You will also need to arrange the transfer and foreign exchange rates when living abroad.
Here are three tips to help you manage your finances abroad:
- Establish an emergency fund of at least three times your monthly income
- Talk to an expat tax expert as taxes abroad can be very complex, and you definitely need expert advice
- Create a budget
- Establish a bank account with a reputable bank
Global Medical Expenses for Expats and Nomads
Medical expenses can be quite expensive when living abroad and not having comprehensive medical coverage can expose you to financial ruin. In some developing countries, outpatient care can be very inexpensive so you might want to self-insure these, but at least having in-patient hospital care with a medical evacuation option is critical.
Global health insurance can protect you and your finances if you have a medical emergency. Securing adequate healthcare while living abroad could be seen as a common problem or obstacle that global citizens may encounter when living abroad, but it doesn’t have to be. Ensuring that you have coverage before you move abroad or plan to relocate permanently gives you security, and it is important to have a safety net when overcoming other challenges in life as an expat.
Expat health plans also help you secure coverage that may not be available locally but also allow you to seek treatment back in your home country or in a nearby medical center of excellence.
Final Thoughts for Future & Current Expatriates
It is vital to note that many expats, digital nomads, and global citizens handle their challenges differently. There are many challenges one will have to go through, but it is always worth it in the end. The roller coaster you experience will give you the best experience.