10 Tips on Adjusting While Living Abroad
It is simple to make plans for good times. However, to prosper, you must first survive. So to brace yourself for the nasty stuff, I will give you here 4 tips for living abroad.
The years 2020 and 2021 were full of surprises. But 2001, 2007, and at least a dozen other years in the previous century were comparable. More will follow.
I’m telling you this to emphasize why you should never let your guard down.
Perhaps the most crucial recommendation of all is to not anticipate normalcy.
(But this advice is not helpful, differently from the tips for living abroad below).
I’ll give you four tips in the following paragraphs. All of these are simple to implement, yet incredibly useful in unforeseen scenarios.
These living abroad tips will increase the speed with which you flee from a collapsing environment, minimize the expense of that same escape, or just avoid possible conflicts in your new location.
1 – Always have an escape plan on hand.
Assume you need to depart from the city. Now.
This is a valid situation, but most expats and digital nomads would rather not even consider it. Still, it happens, and they attempt to address it on the fly, even if it may cost many times as much as if they had prepared.
I’m referring to situations in which an emergency occurs and you need to leave the region promptly, within a couple of hours.
- It might be because of the death of a loved relative from your homeland.
- It might be because of a sudden shift in the sociopolitical atmosphere.
- Or even a chaotic sanitary situation, such as the 2020/2021 pandemic.
Regardless of the cause, you should be able to fly (or move) away as quickly as possible if necessary.
In my instance, I know that if a severe emergency occurs before 14:00 every day, I may purchase a trip to Amsterdam in the late afternoon and fly from there to Brazil. There is also an option through Paris, and both would let me arrive on the opposite side of the world the following morning.
Creating an escape plan has a beneficial side effect: You may also check the prices for buying last-minute tickets. For example, I found some time ago that last-minute flights to my parent’s state are on sale during certain times of the year.
Establish your escape route and keep it in mind in case of an emergency. And, if you need it, here are some more airport tricks to save money on airline tickets.
2 – Consider your options carefully before purchasing a vehicle.
Before we get started, let’s clarify that you don’t always need a vehicle. In certain places in South America or the Middle East, having a car (or living with someone who has one) is a must, but not in Eastern Europe. At least not in the major cities, and certainly not for the majority of the population.
This is one of the key arguments I make in my second book, Budget Travelers, Digital Nomads, and Expats: The Ultimate Guide: 50 Tips, Tricks, Hacks, and Ways. It is also widespread concern among my consulting firm’s clients.
I mentioned the Middle East in the previous paragraph because there was no underground (or subway, as Americans call it) in Doha while I lived there.
The oppressive heat for three-quarters of the year and the lack of sidewalks made walking a struggle. So driving to work was unavoidable.
But I still didn’t want to purchase a car. I wasn’t even sure I’d remain in Qatar long enough to recover my expense. What if I left months later and needed to sell the car quickly for a ridiculous price?
The answer to this problem was in the next door. Literally. I agreed with my roommate in which I paid for a portion of his gas and he drove me to and from work. I just utilized ride-sharing apps to go to other destinations.
The monthly cost of this arrangement was far less than the cost of purchasing an automobile. If you don’t have a roommate with whom to negotiate this kind of agreement, there are still options that will save you money.
The first option is to rely on ride-sharing apps and taxis. In Chile, I could walk to work, and public transportation was readily accessible, as it was in Poland.
So, when I needed a ride, I used any phone app to hire a driver. Because my use was intermittent, the cost was less than that of auto insurance. For this reason, using ride-sharing apps like Lyft or Uber will most likely save you money if you are not a frequent driver.
Another option is to just rent a vehicle (one of my favorite tools for that is RentalCars).
When you rent a car instead of purchasing one, you will enjoy several advantages that most expatriates overlook:
- Often there is no need to pay for insurance.
- Not paying for administrative processes such as document transfers or inspections.
- Not paying for repairs (unless specified in the rent agreement).
- Not losing with depreciation. After three years (assuming 16,000 kilometers a year), a standard vehicle will be worth over 40% of its original price. In other words, you will have lost around 60% of its value at a rate of 20% each year.
- When going on vacation, you may return the automobile instead of paying for rental during your absence. You may also sublet it if your lease permits it.
- Some rental businesses provide free tire and oil change.
- Some automobile rental firms pay the government taxes associated with car ownership.
- If you need to leave the area for an unforeseen cause, you don’t have to sell your automobile at a loss. This is often one of the most significant losses I’ve seen expats face while leaving the Middle East for unexpected reasons. If your employer completes your contract, you may have as little as one month to depart, which is sometimes insufficient time to locate a buyer at a reasonable price.
When someone states that paying for a vehicle rental is a waste of money, they often overlook all the preceding reasons. Renting, rather than purchasing, may save money in various situations.
3 – Prepare a basket for your “next visit home.”
If you already live abroad, you likely have a collection of miscellaneous objects that are worthless where you reside but necessary for your next trip home:
- Keys to your parent’s home.
- Adapters for power outlets
- International currency
- Passes for public transportation
- Cables and chargers
- Local documents, such as a health insurance card or a driver’s license.
Even if they aren’t helpful right now, it’s best not to throw them away. You will need them the next time you visit relatives and friends. To prevent losing it, make a compact basket or box containing everything you’ll need while traveling back home (or the place that was your home).
If you need to make an emergency trip, documents, keys, and cash are already assembled and quick to get to the airport.
4 – The first word you should learn in any language when living abroad.
Long-term travelers are classified into two groups. The first are individuals who never learn a single word of the idiom of their new country. They rely only on the assumption that people will speak English, and they believe that there is no need to say Thank You in the local language.
The second kind is individuals who just know a few words (or, for some brave and daring, more than a few). They often start with the equivalents of Hello, Bye, and Thank You. While the significance of those terms cannot be overstated, they are far from the most crucial item to understand at first.
Knowing how to say “Hello” in Russian (Privet) may not help you avoid a problem in Russia. It’s wonderful to know how to say Buenos Dias (“Good Morning” in Spanish), but it’s unlikely to save you from getting into a fight on the Mexican buses.
If you trip on someone’s foot or mistakenly touch someone else’s baggage at the airport, there is one expression that may save your skin. It is:
The amount of problems prevented when you learn how to apologize in your new idiom is astounding. In the subway, I saw folks upset because a pedestrian accidentally bumped them with a bag, realized what had happened, and then went without saying anything. He probably didn’t even know how to pronounce it, but…
First, learn how to say “I’m sorry.” It may already be beneficial at passport control when the border officer inquires about your lodging reservation and you realize you forgot to print it.
4 Living Abroad Tips: Conclusion
1 – Always have an escape plan on hand.
2 – Consider if renting is not more economical than buying a car, especially when you are not sure you will remain in the new country long enough.
3 – Always have a “next visit home” basket ready.
4 – Learn how to say “I am sorry” immediately after arrival, on your first day.
Levi Borba is the CEO of expatriateconsultancy.com, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Subscribe to my articles (for free) and receive (also for free) the ebook “The Blueprint for First-Time Business Owners”.