My #1 goal on this blog is to share about becoming an expat. I feel that living abroad makes some significant, positive changes in a person. so I guess I feel living abroad is something pretty awesome. Unfortunately, it’s also something pretty scary for those interested. But scary is just an alternative to exciting, given the right mindset.
To date, I’ve helped a handful of people with their move abroad. The most popular help needed is deciding to “go for it.” In my experience, there are 5 big reasons why people don’t follow their dream of living in another country. After each, I tell you why each reason doesn’t really matter.
Number one reason is “I have a job.” People actually ask “How could I leave my career?”
To people who offer this excuse, I say you aren’t hurting your career, you’re helping it.
For nearly all employers, any international experience is a major plus. Upon your return, you will command a more senior position, higher salary and more respect. You can also expect more independence since, to move abroad obviously took the fortitude to have done what they likely haven’t. If you can’t believe me, read this article on the Harvard Business Review how living abroad can make you a better manager.
And you know what? For many of us in corporate life, the job itself may be the mealticket to a new adventure overseas. Does your company operate in other countries, in any capacity? Look for transfer opportunities. For people who step forward, the company may throw in relocation funding, language tutoring, and visa assistance. Wow!
Let’s say you’re an information security manager in Boston. Your boss’s boss knows of an planned data centre in San Jose, Costa Rica and he’s in dire need of a senior manager with native English skills. You, of all people would be the ideal candidate for the role, but he only learns you’re interested because you’re now resigning to move abroad. (That’s from my own experience, by the way. I turned down his offer, but my lesson was Speak Up Earlier!)
Bottom Line: Raise your hand up for transfers/relocation- even if the question isn’t asked. Regardless, taking a new position abroad is destined to be a major stepping stone for your career.
If you have children, they are the most important thing in your life. (I speak from experience here, too).
That’s why I think parents should consider living abroad even more – for the sake of broadening their kids’ horizons.
Our daughter attended preschool in Prague for her first 2 years of school age. Now we’re in Canada, but she still speaks fondly of her Czech friends and loves to dance to Czech kids tunes.
Does she remember our travels? She can personally remember her and daddy’s trip up the Eiffel Tower, walking around the Acropolis and visiting friends in Germany. — This all before she turned 5 years old a few months ago!
Kids with such experiences become more social, learn a foreign language more easily and will be more resourceful at problem solving. I truly believe that. Time abroad for children is the best gift a parent can offer.
For young adult children, the transition is tougher and appreciation will come later. The key to success is with communication and respect. Get young adults involved early on in the decision making.
Bottom Line: Do it for you and do it for your children.
#3. Family / Relationships
Having family nearby can make the decision to move abroad more difficult. Then again, for some, family is just the reason some want to leave. (ha ha!)
Seriously, unless your beloved grandmother has only a few months left, feel free to leave for a few years. But decide – for you. Everyone will be around when you get back. Decide and decide now.
As for that certain relationship with a significant other. Maybe you’re waiting for someone to pop the question. Maybe you’re waiting for something…but it’s been a while already, right?
In both cases, I’m telling you that the initial shock and pain of saying “I’m leaving for…” will go away be responded by “We’ll miss you, but we’re proud of you. Bon voyage!”
Bottom Line: You can’t live your life in “wait-mode.” Otherwise, there will always be a reason to wait.
#4. Personal Concerns & Fears
Maybe you’re worried about your health, your safety, or some basic fear of strange languages and customs? Maybe you don’t know what to do when bored.
This is the first reason of this list that I can personally understand. Believe it or not, I get butterflies every time I am moving to a new place, visiting a new country or starting a new job. But you know, I think that’s normal. It’s normal to be nervous. These new adventures interest us just because there is a lot of “unknown.” And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Bottom Line: Sure, all that “unknown” may scare most people away, but maybe that adventure is what sets you apart from others.
Okay, this is a genuine reason like all the above. But it’s special because it’s also a valid reason not to just take off to live for another country.
UNLESS, that chance to live abroad means making considerable more money than you’re making in your current position. Right? Did you know in Russia, over a third of the expats earn more than a quarter million dollars? Yes, over $250,000. That because Russian employers find it “fashionable” to hire expatriates and pay them crazy salaries.
And don’t forget that your worldwide income is tax-free, to a limit.
If you’re in heavy debt, than a move abroad can be more than difficult to pull off. What’s abnormal debt? Statistics say that half of Americans with credit cards have over $3,000 in rotating balance debt. I personally would not call that a serious debt, but it’s a good start. However, a move abroad could turn it into serious debt.
Bottom line: It’s important to carefully consider the cash-in versus the cash-out for every move. Odds are good overseas will win.