It seems that most Americans are perfectly content with their home country and see no need to dip their toes into international waters. They let television and the internet suffice as the only learning tools needed when gathering knowledge and insight into foreign lands and various cultures. Only 42% of Americans hold passports, lagging behind other developed countries such as Canada with 66% of their citizens and 76% in the UK having passports. Developing skills, building relationships, hands-on educational experiences, and gaining perspective are just a few reasons to explore our planet and break free from the vastly skewed perceptions that t.v. and the web feeds us. Once given that chance to branch out and experience a rich, diverse world, you might even entertain the idea of moving to another country.
So you're probably already aware of the adventure and benefits of traversing the world, and the idea of moving to another country is firmly planted in your mind. Maybe it's relocating for the company you work for, or family living overseas that wishes you near. Quite possibly it's charting unknown terrain for the thrill and prospect of reinventing yourself and increasing "self-concept clarity".
Recent studies have shown that those who choose to live abroad have a better sense of self than those who don't. Whatever the reason, it's a big leap that requires preparing and educating yourself, so you're not struggling to make it work, but more easily transitioning into your lifestyle. Here are 5 important points to consider when moving to another country.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE MOVING TO ANOTHER COUNTRY
THE LANGUAGE BARRIER
English is the number one language spoken throughout the world with 20% of people worldwide being able to speak and understand it, which is helpful when moving to another country. There are 50 English-speaking countries where it's either the native or primary language, and if you're headed there, a language barrier is of no concern. If you're headed elsewhere, it's imperative to learn their native tongue or successfully thriving there will be almost impossible. Establish a good learning base before you depart with a reputable language learning app or websites like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, or Babbel.
Once you're there, seek out local language schools that host a language exchange or search for established ones online. Immersing yourself in the culture and getting to know the locals is a fantastic way to pick up on the native tongue and advance your fluency. However, you choose to go about it, don't let the fear of learning a new language deter you from where you really want to be. When done correctly, you can chat effortlessly with the locals in as little as 3 months' time.
Upon arriving at your new destination, there are certainly options for local hostels, hotels, or friendly couches to rest your head, but these are temporary and unsustainable. Make it a priority to secure housing so you can establish yourself as a local resident. Maneuvering this step in foreign territory is going to take a little work, but there are plenty of channels to navigate. It's been said numerous times and applies to almost anything you do when starting out abroad: talk to the locals. Especially in the area, you're planning to relocate to. Their insight and knowledge can be most valuable for helping you avoid scams of extra fees and gapping the language barrier.
If you don't know anyone yet and are uncomfortable going that route, real estate agents, classifieds, online searches, and speaking with other expatriates like yourself are all helpful resources to steer you in the right direction. Be sure to research the location thoroughly, read up on reviews, and possibly even entertain the option of taking in a roommate.
LEARNING THE CULTURE
Learning a new language when moving to a new country isn't the only educational venture you'll be embarking on. Learning and immersing yourself into the culture you're assimilating with is an ongoing educational process as well. It's fine to be the awkward foreigner at first and make mistakes; it's a great learning process. Letting your natural curiosity take over and stepping outside of your comfort zone will open you up to integrating with the community.
Everything from holidays, greeting people, customs, and sharing meals -- brush up on some basic etiquette and embrace this as one of the great benefits of living abroad. Volunteering your time, working with local charities, familiarizing yourself with the town officials and police force are some good ways to contribute and learn from your community.
Don't expect the adjustments to always be easy; this is a long-term process that requires an open mind and diligence in reshaping the way you live life and how you interact with others. All the hard work and dedication you put into opening yourself up to the world around you will bring greater life satisfaction with a more accomplished sense of self.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY BACK HOME
When moving to another country, along with the new faces you meet, you still have to maintain your relations back home. Don't get overly caught up in all the new; be sure to balance out new experiences with maintaining what you've already cultivated from back home. Expect many long, drawn out periods of time where you might not see old friends and family. But with today's technology, it's easier to remain close. With computer applications such as Facetime, Skype, and Snapchat, the ability to see loved ones while communicating with them has a comforting feel.
Of course, this all doesn't happen so effortlessly. Things to consider starting with the time difference. Be considerate and schedule these interactions out in advance to avoid reaching out at inconvenient hours. Have patience and understanding; you'll want to gush on and on about all of your new experiences, but don't monopolize the conversation. Coming off as arrogant about your recent move will easily turn others off, possibly making your interactions fewer and farther apart. Keep an even flow on what's happening from both ends.
WORK AND SCHOOL
Unless you have a sizeable amount of disposable funds, it's probably best not to start out with a high-risk venture such as opening your own business. A consistent, reliable paycheck should get you secured before you branch out and start toying with other options. Don't automatically anticipate cheaper living; do your research before making decisions on how to earn a living. Securing work before moving to another country should be a priority, and the options to do so are definitely out there.
If your current company has international positions, ask for a transfer. If that's not an option, but you've created a name for yourself, seek out competitor companies with offices in other countries that may be hiring. Telecommuting may be an option if you work with computers or on the phone. Check with your company's policies and work requirements to see if that's a fit.
If you're starting out fresh, online job sites and professional employment services are abundant and ready to assist you in your job search. And then, of course, there are jobs out there that allow you to live anywhere. Freelance and virtual contract positions are becoming more common with obscure yet flexible hours that you can set yourself. Regardless of the type of job, you'll find a way to make it work, and the experience is worth it.
When considering schooling for your children, referring to either your home national school in another country or an international baccalaureate program make for an easier transition. The language will be the same, your child will meet other children from common backgrounds, and the curriculum and teaching style will be similar. As parents, you will have an automatic community of peers with the same concerns about their children as you have, who are open and accepting of newcomers.
If you're more about giving your children a window into a different culture, consider the local schools. There, your children will have the opportunity to see how other cultures live, play, and learn while interacting with others. However you choose, it's a decision that should reflect your objectives for your children when living overseas, their grade, personality, and wishes.
Taking a leap of faith involving a dramatic life-changing event isn't easy. Comfort zones are predictable, safe, and secure, thus why it's plenty hard for us to abandon them. Certainly, many of us have waxed the poetic of international travel, being adventurous, taking risks, or reshaping who we are. The prospect of different cultures, interesting people, and exciting possibilities should be the motivating factor into internationally exploring our world. Whether it's a short-term living arrangement or a more permanent residency, the many benefits outweigh the risks or uncertainty you may be harboring.
Seeing the world provides an education that's absolutely impossible to get into school. Moving to another country teaches you economy, politics, history, geography, and sociology in an intense, hands-on way no class will. It will challenge you and shake things up, offering an eye-opening experience in helping you to learn who you are. In taking the right steps to achieve your overseas dream, the journey you take will provide you with the outcome you desire.