A Guide For American Expatriates Living Abroad

 

U.S. citizens living abroad for an extended period of time have the unique benefit of experiencing a new way of life. Whether you set out as a young adult for an educational opportunity, live the digital nomad life or retire to a tropical oasis to enjoy your golden years, you’re bound to have an incredible adventure. To receive maximum enrichment from the expat experiment, there are some specific responsibilities you should consider.

 

 

Open an Account With a Local Bank

As an American living abroad, using your stateside bank to make foreign transactions can get expensive rather quickly due to ATM and other fees. Consider opening an account at a bank or credit union with a physical location in your town or village, so you avoid paying unnecessary costs. Additionally, if your banking institution is local, you can speak face-to-face with a representative if you have any money issues while living overseas.

 

Reach Out to Other Expats

While the idea of global citizenship means immersing yourself in another culture, you’ll likely benefit from the help of those that came before you. Finding a community of expatriates who understand the processes and challenges you’re facing can be a great way to avoid common mistakes and enjoy a smoother move. However, don’t get so comfortable in your expat community that you forget the reason you decided to move in the first place. Remember to be brave, make new friends and try new things while living abroad.

 

Learn the Language

One of the best ways to endear yourself to your new hosts is to learn their language, or at least attempt to speak it. English may be considered universal, but that doesn’t mean you can assume every waiter, handyman or bartender speaks it. In fact, in many places, initiating a conversation without politely asking if the other party speaks English won’t get you very far at all.

If languages aren’t your strong suit, do your best to master the most common phrases, like “hello”, “goodbye”, “may I have a coffee-to-go” and “where’s the toilet”. In most cases, your effort to communicate in the local tongue will only benefit you as you start to build rapport and relationships.

 

Eat the Local Cuisine

Sustenance is very important to your expat experience. If you move somewhere where you don’t like the local cuisine, you likely won’t enjoy your time there. In nearly all cultures, food is something that brings people together. A fussy eater may not be as open to trying new things as a true adventurer. Plus, in some cultures, hesitation or refusal to eat your host’s cooking can be interpreted as an insult. Don’t spend your time stuck in your flat waiting for your shipment of Cup Noodles to arrive from the States. Head out to the local eatery and find something you love.

 

Embrace the Culture

Just the fact that you’re even considering moving to another country means you’re open and excited to dive into a new culture. However, even though you’re adventurous, you still may experience culture shock when you land in a place that operates very differently from your homeland. Many expats report feelings of homesickness or depression for the first few weeks or months, but the best way to overcome this is to jump into a new way of life feet-first and try new things. Start trying to fit in by adopting the common clothing style, drinking the local brew or learning lyrics to popular songs. Be willing to learn and don’t isolate yourself.

If you have an unbridled curiosity and a passion for adventure, the expat lifestyle may be right up your alley. If you’re a responsible traveler and follow the advice set out for you here, then you’ll reap untold rewards from your time abroad. Life as an expatriate comes with a whole new set of challenges, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it hard to turn back.