An expatriate is defined as someone who lives outside their native country. There is no denying we live in a connected, global economy where anyone can work with anyone from anywhere. New global technology communities have lead to the growth of expatriate employees, who travel abroad to experience expat life working in a new country.
Before becoming an expatriate employee, there are still things you need to know before picking up and leaving your country for a new job. Make sure you plan for the following to have an easy going expat life.
Have your paperwork in order
Passports are essential for expatriate employees to travel internationally. Renew your passport and/or make sure you have a brand new one. The last thing you need is to be an expatriate who gets stopped at an airport by immigration BEFORE you arrive at your location. This US Government website is very helpful at explaining how to apply and renew your passport.
Try and speak the language of your new country
No one can learn a language overnight, but there are great apps like Duolingo that make learning a language much easier. There are many expatriate employees in countries that have negative attitudes towards people who want to live in their country but cannot speak the language. Do some research and see if it will be a problem for you. Learning the local language will open up new doors for you.
Have money saved in a bank account in your native country
As an expatriate, this money will be your emergency money just in case something happens to the money you make in your new country. Aside from possible security issues that may arise with ID theft in a new country with new banks, you also want to make sure you know how much money you would actually make back home. Try using this currency converter.
Make sure your country plays nice with your new country
See if you have a job in one of the best countries for expats. Not all countries play nice with each other. If you have a passport stamp from a country that may be in conflict with the country you are supposed to work in, you may be denied entry into the very country you are supposed to working in!
To give you a personal example, I once had difficulty entering Egypt because I had a stamp on my passport from Israel. Why? Well, I did not ask. It was best I did not. Immigration saw I had just made a mistake, gave me a stern warning, and let me go.
Tip: If you are in that situation, you may want to apply for a 2nd passport. Here is a guide on how to do that and avoid any problems entering a country.
Investigate possible health and food issues
When expatriate employees go to a new country, they all say the food tastes different and it does not always sit right in their stomachs. As an expatriate, you may encounter new diseases or bacteria that your body never built up an immunity to in the USA. This guide is excellent for researching what health warnings countries are currently experiencing.
More so, remember that you are going to a new country that may not have the same level of healthcare you get normally. If you are on prescription medications, for example, make sure your new country carries it.
Make sure you are able to get International Health Insurance, as well. Costs of healthcare vary from country to country and the last thing you want is to get violently ill in a country that has no idea how to treat you.
Ask your company to assign you an ambassador
When expatriate employees are strangers in a strange land, they need someone familiar with the local cultures who enjoys teaching outsiders about all the things to be careful of or how to interpret local cultures. As an expatriate, it will serve you to be a student of their culture.
I had created several ambassador programs working for international companies over the last 15 years. Some fun things I still remember being told from visits to Denmark, Colombia, and Egypt:
- Colombia: You have to understand the way they tell you, “No”, because they do not like to use that word. Also, never slam a car door on a taxi. They see it as a sign you were unhappy with the ride. And don’t be fooled by the moderate temperature. The sun is really strong given the elevation of much of the country. Finally, learn Colombian Spanish. To the locals, that is the “real Spanish”.
- Denmark: The Law of Jante. This was explained to me as the reasons why people never brag in Denmark.
- Egypt: When shopping in a market, it is insulting if you do not haggle with merchants. Also, buy the meat with flies buzzing around it. If you do not see flies, it means the merchant sprayed it with bug spray. And, again, make sure your passport is clean of stamps from countries not viewed favorably.
There is always something new and the world is a fascinating place. An ambassador can help you learn why people reacted a certain way to your behavior. You will learn some street-smarts for your new country, which makes assimilating much easier. It is also a good way to not accidentally cause an international incident.
Have an exit plan
Have a plan for what happens if the job does not work out. It happens in every job; you get started and suddenly realize neither the company or country is a great fit for you. Or something happens that demands you head back. Have that plan in place for the possibility you need to be on the next flight home.