Expatriate Experience: Relocating Abroad
The rise of the expat
Living in another country was once something mist people could only really dream of – and while it was something that diplomats and highly skilled people such as doctors often did, for the rest of the workforce it was most often really just something of a dream scenario.
Over time, though, as the world opens up and gets more connected, there appears to be more and more opportunities for people to work abroad. Vast markets, which for a long time either simply didn’t exist for western businesses or hadn’t found critical mass, have now developed to the extent that they are predicted to overtake those of the west.
The main challenge for expats is often the language barrier. This obviously depends on where you go, but even if English is widely spoken in your destination country, it’s still important to gain some skill in the local language.
Culture and assimilation
Depending on where you decide to move to, the culture may be very different – and it’s important to do a bit of preparation before you go, by researching your destination and maybe seeking info from people who currently live there.
Take for example Saudi Arabia, which has strict rules on what people can and cannot do during Ramadan. Last year the Saudi authorities issued a press statement ahead of the month, reminding expats to ‘respect the sentiments of Muslims by “not eating, drinking and smoking in public places, including roads and workplaces” during the hours of the fast.
Education, health and accommodation
Whatever the state healthcare system is like where you go, one thing is certain: it’s unlikely to be like the one back home. It’s important to research this and also buy cover, since even in countries where there is a reciprocal agreement in place, there can still be charges for treatment.
In terms of education, if you have school age children then it’s going to be a major element in your research before leaving. Many people choose to enrol children in an international school, in other words, one that offers a curriculum suited to overseas students.
If you’re buying a house abroad, this is also something that will need a great deal of consideration. Given the differences in procedure and law from one country to the next there’s always the need to make sure that you are getting the best legal advice available, and of course this will also mean finding a lawyer that speaks high standard of English.
Jen Jones writes on international medical insurance and workplace wellbeing topics.