Monday, 2 June 2014

School boy errors: three things to remember for first-time expats

Few expats manage to make the move with complete grace but aside from all the admin, thousands of check lists and boxes of possessions, there are some things which you just can’t afford to forget. Here are our top three.

Creative Commons / Steve Ryan
The importance of knowing the culture
A little paranoia is natural on your first weeks away from home, but if the locals all seem to be giving you a wide berth, perhaps you’re unknowingly committing a faux pas. Finding yourself short of dinner invites in China? It might be because you’re in the habit of finishing the whole meal, rather than leaving a little food left over, which is a polite custom. Our guide to expat faux pas can give you a head start but there is no alternative to doing your research.

Tie up loose ends
Ever had the nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something? Normally it’s not too hard to pin down but once you’ve relocated your entire life across continents, it’s much harder to be sure exactly what it might be. No one wants to be hit with an unexpected bill so the first step is to get your financials in order. There are more important things in life than bills. Maybe it’s a pen friend who will need your new address, an old love you want to say goodbye to or even the local newsagent you’ve spoken to every day for the past year. When you up sticks and move on, more people will miss you than you realise – so remember to say goodbye, and more importantly, stay in touch!

Remember Mum’s Birthday!
The easiest mistake of all. We’ve all done it, forgotten Mum’s or a friend’s birthday and compensated with some last minute petrol station flowers. Starting up in a new continent might be stressful, but that’s no excuse for forgetting about a big day that’s part of life at home. Keeping track of the things important to friends and family back home is much harder once you move abroad and the answer is organisation. It’s no good shooting off a card when that Facebook reminder comes through - international post can take weeks. Give yourself at least fortnight to prepare for special occasions and set reminders on your phone or calendar so that you stay in the know! Christmas, Diwali, Birthdays, Easter, Hanukkah all require much more time to prepare for but, as many expats will tell you, international and religious holidays like these are likely to become much more important once you head abroad.

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