Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Five Challenges You May Face as an Expat and Their Solutions

I have been an expat for the past 15 years in a non English speaking country. It hasn't always been easy, but after this much time here I've more or less gotten into the groove. However, my grasp of the language is far from perfect, even though I grew up in a household that spoke that language to some extent. I just joined a local whatsapp group where locals get to practice their English with English speakers correcting them and visa versa. 

When you move to a new country, I've heard it said, that the first year it's pretty easy since it's new and exciting so even though there are challenges you are able to navigate them because you are really motivated and excited. But the novelty wears off and the second and third year abroad can be really difficult and test your fortitude. However they say that people that are still around at the 5 year mark finally have things easy enough, figured out everything that they need, and are content with life abroad. But many understandably give up before then because of the challenges.

Here is a post from a reader elaborating on some issues that you may deal with as an expat and some solutions for these problems.

Living abroad is one of the most enriching experiences you can have in life. It can give you access to unique opportunities for professional and personal development. It can teach you resilience and adaptability. It can help you experience things that at home were unattainable. However, being an expat can be challenging. You may be dealing with a language barrier, a different healthcare system, unfamiliar social customs, and different climate.

Are you considering moving abroad? Or are you already an expat making your first steps in a foreign country? Read on to discover five challenges you may face and some possible solutions.

1. Job Hunting

Many people move abroad to advance their careers. However, finding a job as an expat can be an arduous task, unless your skills and qualifications are in high demand. Recognition of academic diplomas and foreign qualifications is not always straightforward, and it involves a lot of paperwork. Moreover, foreign companies are often reluctant to hire foreigners due to the additional bureaucratic difficulties related to visas and work permits. An effective way to avoid the challenges associated with job hunting is to search for a job before moving and only move after you sign a contract. Target international companies that have offices around the globe.

2. Access to Healthcare Services

Knowing that you have access to quick, high-quality healthcare services is essential for feeling safe and secure abroad. Most developed countries have a universal healthcare system that serves citizens and residents at a small or no cost. American citizens are used to paying for their medical expenses out of pocket if they don’t have private insurance. However, regardless of the healthcare situation in your home country, once you settle into your new country of residence, you depend on local healthcare providers. It’s crucial to research the local healthcare system to determine prices, quality, and accessibility. If the local healthcare services are expensive or have subpar quality standards, consider getting private healthcare insurance. Cigna International is an insurance provider that connects expats with highly reputable doctors and medical facilities from more than 150 countries.

3. Social Life

Moving to another country also means giving up on your social connections. Unless you already have family or friends there, you will need to build a social life from ground zero. Making new close friends in a foreign country can be challenging, especially as a busy adult. Language barriers often lead to social isolation, which is why many people who want to move abroad choose expat-friendly destinations. In these places, there are already communities they can tap into. To avoid feeling isolated and disconnected, learn the local language, seek expat hangouts, or join local clubs and activities.

4. Language Barrier

Unless you’re moving to a country where English is the official spoken language, you can expect the language barrier to be a challenge. No matter how well the locals speak English, you may find it tough to fit in if you have no fluency in the native language. The language barrier can cause social disconnection, especially if there isn’t a local expat community. Language learning should be thus your top priority. It will help you make friends, deal with authorities, hire services, and get an authentic understanding of the place and culture.

Learning a foreign language as an adult is not simple. To make things easier, try to combine various approaches. Download language apps like Duolingo and enroll in online classes. Consume media in the foreign language you want to learn. As soon as you have a decent vocabulary, practice by speaking with native speakers. By the time you move, you should be able to have basic conversations with coworkers, landlords, cab drivers, or coffee house baristas.

5. Legal Requirements and Laws

Being unfamiliar with the legal requirements and laws in your new country of residence can cause many confusing and frustrating situations. Unfortunately, if you don’t speak the native language, you’ll find it extremely difficult to educate yourself on various legal aspects related to work permits, rental contracts, work contracts, labor laws, taxation, and not only. Ideally, you should start researching these aspects as soon as you make your decision to move.

As an expat, the worst thing that can happen is inadvertently breaking the law and putting yourself at risk of deportation. For your peace of mind, consider consulting an English-speaking attorney, accountant, or foreign immigration officer whenever you’re in doubt about a legal requirement or law. Experts can give you valuable advice and help you avoid legal nightmares. Connecting with the local expat community is also a great way to get helpful tips and advice.

Becoming an expat can bring you a lot of personal and professional fulfillment, but start with realistic expectations. Settling into another country is a lengthy process that requires time and patience. Learn as much as you can about what to expect and prepare accordingly.

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