Preparing To Be an Expat

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You have decided
to become an expat. Or, in some cases, someone else, like your employer
or spouse, has decided that you should become an expat. In either
case, congratulations! You are in for, at the worst, a great adventure
in which you learn a lot of things about yourself and the world,
and at the best, the most amazing time of your life. But once the
decision has been made, now what? Where do you even begin to start
with preparations for the big move abroad?

First Things
First

My advice from
personal experience is to do nothing until you buy yourself a heavy
duty pair of earplugs. Once you make the announcement about moving
abroad, oh how the naysayers seem to come out of the woodwork. And
funny they are always the ones who have never once traveled outside
the country….But they will come like attack dogs, telling you
how it is not the right time with the markets, the economy, international
security, your kids, the kids you haven’t even had yet, (but
whose lives you will somehow screw up by making this move abroad),
blah blah blah.

Make Contacts
in Your New Country

Which brings
us to the second thing that I would advise you to do – make
some new friends. Quickly. Preferably in your new country or hometown.
Get online, join chat groups, read expat blogs, search Twitter,
Facebook, and Linked In, and do not be shy about introducing yourself
and asking many questions. Expats, in general, stick together and
love to help other expats. Plus it is a great feeling to get on
a plane knowing that you at least have some contacts in your new
place.

Find out the
real scoop from people living there about the cost of living, things
like safety, the job and housing market, schools, etc. Make sure
that the people giving you the information have no vested interest
other than helping another expat. I have seen too many people get
told by the Realtor, who speaks English and who had an amazingly
helpful website, that the prices he is quoting them are normal,
going rate. But for example, the house that I rented in Patagonia
for 800 pesos directly from the owner was at the same time listed
with a Realtor in town for 2500 pesos a month. No one pays 2500
pesos in this particular town for anything, except naïve gringos
who provide countless entertainment for the locals. So ask around
to many people to try to get a feel for the real story of what you
might be getting yourself into.

The Stuff,
The Dreaded Stuff

Then comes
the reality of having to deal with your possessions at home. Do
you sell, rent, give things away? The biggest factor to consider
is if you are planning on returning, and if so, in how long. If
you are moving abroad for work for a one year stint, then it probably
makes sense to try to rent your house or line up a caretaker for
that short time. If you foresee being gone for at least a few years,
that’s a different story. From personal experience, I can tell
you that no one in the world was as in love with their house as
I was with the one I had in the US. I cried the day I found it because
it was so perfect for me and it was the place I envisioned, at the
time, raising my kids. It was one of the hardest things to walk
away from when we moved. Now, only a year and a half later, I could
care less. If I moved back to the US, I am such a different person
through this expat experience, that I would never want to live in
that house again. It is way too big, way too inefficient, way too
expensive. Travel has changed me, and I am very happy to not have
to be dealing with that house still. I can be completely here in
Argentina, physically and mentally.

Cars? My opinion
is to sell them at home and use the money to buy a new one abroad.
You may even find that you do not even need a car, especially if
you will be living in the city. The cost to ship a car is hefty,
and in many cases you will have a hard time finding parts for your
car if something happens to break on it abroad.

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the rest of the article

August
21, 2010

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