≡ Menu

18 Excellent Tips from Expert Expats

18 Excellent Tips from Expert Expats post image

I wrote to 18 people whom I consider expert expats.

Some make a living by travelling, others traveled to go make a living.

I asked them all 1 question:

Here are their replies:

1.  “Beware of moving overseas! It’s tough, confusing, disorienting… and ultimately, extremely rewarding.  When you move back home, if you ever do, you’ll be a different person than you were when you first left.”

-Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity

2. “Don’t think that living overseas will eliminate all your problems in one go. It may distract you for a while but you’ll likely find that once you’ve been overseas for a while, old habits and patterns begin to re-emerge and you’ll find yourself with all the same problems, just in a different place.  Living overseas is fantastic but it’s not a panacea.”

-Lea Woodward, Kinetiva

3. “Get rid of your stuff. Becoming an expat is not only physical, geographical, and logistical – it’s also emotional. Your priorities change. You change inside; when you head home after a long stint abroad and “visit” your stuff, you’ll wonder what the hell made you think it was so important to hold onto.”

-Miss Expatria, a.k.a. Christine Cantera, France Travel Guide

4. “The only thing I can say is to have more cash than you think you need, because surprises will surprise you, and in general I’d just say to dive in, be prepared, and learn.”

-Henri Junttila, WakeUpCloud

5. “For people planning to live overseas long-term (i.e. more than a year)
I’d definitely recommend visiting the country first.
In 1999 I moved
to the Philippines with many incorrect preconceived notions. The
culture shock was difficult because I romanticized the country. If I
were going to do it again I would definitely visit first even if it
were to scout out cities and work.”

-Ayngelina Brogan, BaconIsMagic.ca

6. “If you’re thinking about moving overseas, be prepared to be flexible about specific destinations. Personally, I had a situation where I did a lot of research on a city that I thought I would love. After a couple of days of getting there I realized it wasn’t the kind of place I wanted to spend more than a week. Luckily there was a much better option just an hour away. Friends of mine have had similar experiences with different towns or even entire countries. You can increase your chances of loving where you end up if you’re not married to one particular place.”

-Corbett Barr, Free Pursuits

7. “My advice to anyone considering living overseas is:  #1 – clearly understand your goals for moving overseas and then decide what you are willing to give up to meet your goals; and then #2 – do your homework prior to going on the important aspects of daily life such as banking, taxes, transportion, schools, etc.”

-Rick Balderrama, author of “The Expat Checklist

8. “According to me if someone wants to live abroad then they need to be patient with the documentation procedure, to be open with different languages and culture.”

-Manjeet Malik, expat buddy from Prague and kick-ass web designer

9. “Research, research, research.

-Alison Cornford-Matheson, CheeseWeb.eu

10. “For couples, learn to really listen to and support each other. Each partner will be experiencing different kinds of stress: absence of social network, job pressures, integration issues, questions of self-worth, language frustration, child care, etc. Dedicate time to spend together each week exploring your new city or country, and be open to talking about your fears and frustrations.”

-Andrew Cornford-Matheson, CheeseWeb.eu

11. “Consider what you would want to get from your experience, and whether
you have a genuine interest in the country you’re considering relocating to.
People who have the best experiences as an expat are the ones that actually have
some affinity towards the country that they’re living in.”

-Sharell Cook, India Travel on About.com

12. “1. Be open  2. Don’t drink the water  3. Smile at strangers  4. Don’t say, ‘You should all speak Danish’ 5. Use a condom

-Peter Fogtdal, Danish Accent

13. “Experience over possessions: belongings weigh you down physically and emotionally so take only what you really need to simplify things drastically.  Just do it: outstanding things (job etc.) will fall in place when you get there through your own persistence and no doubt some luck.”

-April Wendy Hollands, le Franco Phoney

14. “It’s probably going to sound obvious, but I think the best advice is to get out and experience as much as you can.  Eat foods that you never thought you would, visit temples and museums, speak with the locals, try to learn the languauge, and most importantly, push your comfort zone to the limit.  Make your own stories!”

-Newlyweds Nicole and Cameron Wears, The Traveling Canucks

15. “Don’t try to impose your cultural values on others when you live overseas.  Instead, try to understand their culture & overlay it on your perspective.”

-Maryam Montague, My Marrakesh

16. “…become an expert on their new country even before they arrive, but also make sure that all those fine details are worked out for housing, pay, visas, etc.  It goes a long way in making a smooth transition.  Just arrived?  Go out!  Be a tourist in your new country!

-Tina Fussell, Traveling Mama

17. “Consider how far away from ‘home’ you’d be and how expensive it would be to go back.  Most expats from close families find this aspect really difficult. I have missed every one of my cousins’ weddings because it was just too difficult to get back to England for a few days. I would strongly advise would-be expats to weigh this up in their decision.”

-Toni Hargis, Expat Mum

18. “treat your relocation like a move, not a vacation; to the more philosophic – respect the country you’re from and the country you’re moving to and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself and your choice while you’re there”

-Julia Bryan, Kolo Kolo Mlynsky

p.s.

Jeff here …I’m feeling left out, so I’ll add number 19.  :-)

19. If you’re considering it, go for it.  Call it life-changing, call it rewarding, call it something you’ll “do someday…”.  However you call it, until you do it, you call it a dream.

The best way to make any dream a reality is to work on it one small step at a time, every day.

Start taking action.  A little action, every day….and before you know it, you traveled halfway around the world.

- me, Expat Yourself

p.p.s.

If you need someone to encourage you once or twice a week, I will.
If you need someone to talk you down from that ledge of fear, I will. (ok, it was dramatic)

If you need a friend, I’m here.  Sign up for my messages above.  Let keep in touch.

{ 59 comments… add one }

  • Sophie January 15, 2011, 5:09 am

    Great selection of quotes, thanks for that and for the blog. Right now I really relate to #4. I’ve moved to Vancouver in November with my boyfriend. He has a PR and I’m on a tourist visa. Thinking back, we haven’t planned enough savings to come here. We expected that he would find a job fairly easily being an electrician. But the reality has been very different. I’m used to the expat life. I’m French and I’ve lived in California, Spain and the UK, and not being able to work here makes it even more difficult.
    My boyfriend finally found a job three weeks ago and we thought we were ‘saved’, we’ve just signed a lease for a flat. He came back home today and had been laid off. Just like that. After three weeks of very hard work. We weren’t prepared for this at all. The savings are thinning scarily and anxiety levels are rising. I thought all expats experiences were the same after having lived in several countries. It’s hard at the beginning and then everything becomes more normal. But what if this time the miracle doesn’t happen, I wonder. I’ve never flunked at ‘expat myself’, will this be the first time? I’m retelling our experience in our blog and I’m trying to be honest about it all. I’m in two minds about sharing this new episode with my readers/friends. I don’t want to worry them, and maybe also by shame. One tells that wonderful up and down dream experience and suddenly reality humbles you more than you need.
    Anyhow, I’ll bookmark this page and will read it now and then for reassurance.
    many thanks again

    • Jeff January 17, 2011, 11:30 am

      Sophie,

      Great comment – open and honest. And yes, I believe that’s best for both you and your readers.

      You mentioned humility. Yes, being an expat brings humility – you know that from past times. But above all, there is zero shame in experiencing the life as you and Ed chose. If you wonder how it could be worse, then wonder what how you’d feel if you didn’t take the risks to begin with.

      We’ll keep an eye on you, too, Sophie. You & Ed are heros to the quiet many.

      -Jeff

    • Jeff January 17, 2011, 11:40 am

      Sophie,

      I re-read that you’re French and in Vancouver. You must meet up with Emmanuelle Archer.

      Also French in Vancouver, I think getting together with Emmanuelle would be immensely helpful. She coaches expats professionally and I think you two would also do well together personally. I’ve Skyped with Emmanuelle numerous times myself and I recommend her 100%. But being in the same city, why not meet for a cup of coffee, face-to-face?

      Emmanuelle can be reached through her blog at:
      http://www.winningaway.com/

      -Jeff

      • Sophie January 22, 2011, 11:49 am

        Many thanks Jeff, I really appreciate your kind advice. I really like what you say about heroes (just for one day). It’s true in my years of expat life, so many friends have admired my lifestyle and risk taking, and I always want to say to them is well, it’s great but I’ve been financially unstable for most of my life. I’ve never had a mortgage, a lot of my friends own a flat and have job security.
        On the other hand I wouldn’t change anything or live differently. Expat life keeps things interesting to me.
        Anyhow, Ed had two interviews this week and fingers crossed. Our friends gave us enormous moral support and our brand new expat friends here have been wonderful.
        Following your advice, I’ve written to Emmanuelle, who sounds lovely indeed and we are going for coffee tomorrow.
        Ed posted a thread on British Expat retelling his experience and got more than 30 replies. It happens a lot unfortunately.
        This post-credit crunch emigration is different. The job market is definitely not what it used to be!
        many thanks again for your support!

        • Jeff January 22, 2011, 2:53 pm

          Good to hear about Ed’s upcoming interviews. Keep in touch with the news.
          Glad you’ll get to meet soon with Emmanuelle. Again, she’s a good friend and valued listener.
          Best of luck,
          -Jeff

    • Ariana January 21, 2011, 6:15 am

      Sophie,
      My family is going through a similarly difficult situation! We just barely got to Germany and are settling in, and my husband lost his job here. I think things usually turn out OK, but you can’t know for sure while you wait! We are hoping for the best, and looking for any opportunities that come our way. I have to remind myself that adventures like these have a set of risks… And that it’s usually worth it in the end. Wishing you both well!

      • Sophie January 22, 2011, 12:01 pm

        Ariana,

        I’m sorry to read about your situation in Germany. I really like ‘you can’t know for sure while you wait’. The waiting game is really unnerving. It’s our second time around, as we waited for Ed’s first job for 6 weeks at the beginning.
        I’ve read and heard of expats waiting for several months before getting a job. With time the main challenge is to stay positive.
        But you are right that things turn out ok in the end.
        In the uncertainty of expat life ,one tends to develop more esoteric beliefs of ‘what’s meant to be or not’. A friend says ‘if it’s a NO now, it will be YES and better later.’
        Thanks and good luck to you too!

  • Stephen G. Elder September 19, 2011, 1:40 pm

    It is all about the BLING…. BLING….

    Did you know?

    Uncle Sam is paying us to leave the country. O.k. you might laugh, but it is true, and it keeps getting better. Uncle Sam—bless his little tax purveying heart, is offering each able bodied earner (I believe to be accurate as of this writing.) this year $92,000 dollars before your first cent of Federal Tax.

    Now if that is not incentive to “Get the Heck Out of Dodge”, I do not know what is.

    Another thing…

    Did you know that you get an extra two months to sit on your hard earned tax free dollars to file returns on the paltry taxes you have remaining after the $92,000 “Get the Heck Out of Dodge” gift/tax deduction the Federal Government gives you for leaving.

    Allow me to leave you with this thought…

    If you are going for the Babes…. O.k., been there done that.

    If you are going for the Bling… Bling… and the truly life altering experience—go ahead, sit back on your laurels and be proud of yourself… Ten years of overseas living as an Expat is retirement territory on a prudent savings plan alongside the taxable savings gift from your Government…

    Savvy investments you have made along the way—will leave room for a future topic. The inside scoop on me, “I have dreamed of opening a European Factory for the longest time.”

    Stephen Elder, Chief Operations Officer –The Euro-Factory Guy

  • Cindy March 12, 2012, 1:08 am

    Hello, I’m 21 years old, female and am planning on moving to Rwanda after one more semester of college. I’ve never visited Africa before but I have traveled abroad. I am not fluent in French but I will have three semesters of it under my belt by the time of my departure. Any advice as to where to stay, recommendations of websites that may be helpful considering my destination choice, or just some important fyi’s you may know would be extremely appreciated!

  • Nad May 1, 2012, 8:19 am

    Hello hello!

    The comments look great! I would just add that it is good to keep a fixed contact: should it be a family member or a friend – just make sure that you do not burn all bridges behind you just because you are starting up a new life.

    And now a question that I have:

    I am Bulgarian, 23 years old. I did my management Bachelor education in the Netherlands for 4 years after which I worked for approximately a year in Spain. And here starts the exciting part :)
    In January I quit due to the financial crisis, I started working in the Netherlands again and in March my new company told me that due to my flexibility I will be sent to help setting up part of the company in Dubai.
    Although I feel generally ok with change, new cultures and setting up my life from scratch (I have done it more than once) I still have not lived outside Europe and I haven’t even visited the Middle East. Any pieces of advice on that? I will appreciate any sort of motivation or at least something that I can use not to focus so much on the change but to go for it. I am leaving there in two weeks :)

    • Jeff May 1, 2012, 9:01 am

      Hello Nad,

      Thank you for the kind words about the site and this post. And a good addition!

      As for your upcoming trip to the Middle East, my motivational advice would be to learn what you can before you departure in 2 weeks. Visit wikipedia for a few key words about the Middle East. My guess is your concern is not about the unknown ‘change,’ but really your concern of what you think you will find. You have travelled a lot in Europe, but then you feel like a new traveller just going outside of Europe. Would you have the same concern about going to Korea, Canada or India?

      My suggestion is, for the next 2 weeks, learn as much as you can in your spare time. But don’t forget to say all your goodbyes, pack well and plan for contingencies.

      Best of luck!
      -Jeff

  • Joey July 23, 2012, 11:19 am

    Thank you so much for this post Jeff. I’m moving to SE Asia in October for the first leg of my journey and this gives some really great perspectives from a lot of people I’v read from before. Great job.

  • Lauren November 26, 2013, 11:36 pm

    Greetings Jeff,
    I read the post while searching for articles about adjusting to living in another state. I am having similar experiences here in the USA, even though I moved from CT to Texas. Texas is huge and is like moving to another country. But I digress. Thank you for the awesome quotes.

    • Jeff November 27, 2013, 7:14 am

      LOL Lauren, I hear you! I got to spend a few months in Texas myself. Seems folks there would probably be thrilled to make it their own country!

  • Alberto January 7, 2014, 12:08 am

    Hi Jeff!

    I’m 23 y.o., came from Indonesia. and I’ll expat to Nigeria on the near January.
    I brace myself to comment on this after reading all your comments just to say hi and thank you for sharing such great things.

    thank you for the quotes!

    • Jeff January 7, 2014, 10:02 am

      Alberto,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m happy you took the time to write.

      I think yours is a great adventure, from Indonesia to Nigeria. Thank you for sharing. If you want to tell more of your story, I know we all want to hear it.

      Best to you and much success in what you do.
      -Jeff

Leave a Comment