Monday, 2 December 2013

Expectations vs. Reality for Expats



For many, expat life is an exciting prospect offering lots of new opportunities – many of which can often be daunting…!  Getting used to a new life abroad is a big adjustment and it’s normal to have highs and lows. For those who are heading abroad anytime soon, here are a few points to bear in mind which might help to keep your expectations in check with reality.

A launch pad for travelling opportunities
Many think of expat destinations as great launch pads for travelling around- whether it’s a life in Switzerland opening up opportunities to travel around Europe, or a posting in Hong Kong offering travel opportunities around South East Asia. However, once reality kicks in and you become settled in your new lifestyle, these travel aspirations can be easily forgotten. Whether it is too difficult to get the time off work, or you simply don’t have the time, this seems to be a common failing of expat expectations. It might be a good idea to plan your holidays in advance so that you can make time for such trips. Seeking hints and tips from other expats and being targeted about the places you want to visit may also help.

 Image source: Creative Common/NeilsPhotography 

New social opportunities

Whilst moving abroad can provide a network of new contacts, social and professional, these relationships are not forged overnight. It can take a while to get settled in a new community and often it takes longer than expected to find your feet and make new friends. It isn’t uncommon for expats to have feelings of loneliness. Clearly this differs from person to person but it is something to bear in mind so you can prepare yourself for such a problem and be ready to tackle it head on. A good starting point may be asking your employer for guidance, or you could use social media platforms to try and meet new people locally.

A perfect life abroad!
Commonly, expats that have unrealistic expectations of life abroad don’t find happiness in their new residence because they experience feelings of disappointment. It is important to remember that your new life won’t be perfect. It is easy for nostalgia to kick in and to forget that life back home wasn’t perfect either! To tackle this problem it might be a good idea to write down the reasons you wanted to leave home, being as critical as possible and once settled in your new home abroad get your list out and see if any of the negatives have been eradicated since you moved. This is a good way to get some perspective. 

An opportunity to make and save some money
Many expats are lured by the prospect of boosting their income, but the cost of living in expat hot spots coupled with the cost of airfares home, healthcare, rent, taxation etc. can sometimes mean that savings may not be as large as hoped. Consequently, detailed planning is crucial before you decide to make the big move. Doing some research online before you go, visiting the area or talking to locals about living costs may all help you get a better idea about the true cost of living abroad. 

Life as an expat can be as easy or as hard as you make it; with regards to expectations the most important thing to remember is to be realistic and take the highs with the lows…!

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