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Making the Transition to Living Abroad

People move away from the U.S. for a wide range of reasons. Some relocate, temporarily or permanently, for their jobs and careers. Others leave the country to enjoy retirement, to take in new scenery and perhaps to stretch their retirement savings a bit more. Still others move away from home to pursue a romantic relationship, or simply to add adventure and experiences to their lives.

Whatever the reason for living abroad, and however exciting the possibilities may be, the initial stages of an international relocation are often incredibly demanding. Quickly you may find yourself in a community where you can barely make yourself understood and are unable to read something as simple as a restaurant menu or as necessary as the traffic signs. You may feel isolated, unanchored and unprepared. To top it off, you may find yourself making critical and costly financial errors because you don’t yet understand local tax laws and business customs. 

As challenging as this sounds, don’t let these obstacles deter you from making an exciting leap to a new country. Transitional challenges affect people to differing degrees, and it is important to remember they are transitional issues — they don’t last, or at least they don’t have to last if you take the right steps.

The infographic below, How to Survive Your First Year Living Abroad, is a helpful guide for anyone contemplating a move out of the U.S., or people who have already made the move and are struggling to gain a firm foothold on their new ground. 

To summarize the infographic, it could be said that the two most important principles for a life abroad are to stay busy and get informed. The more you interact with the local people, the more you expose yourself to the local culture, the more you see and the more you do, the less strange everything will be. And although the best way to learn is by doing, reading up and getting an education on tax requirements and other financial matters will be of great value in money matters large and small, from wealth preservation to setting the weekly food budget.

Perhaps the most comforting advice given in the infographic is to be patient. Very few people living abroad feel right at home the day they arrive, or even within the first month or two. Everyone is different: Some people thrive on the unknown and the unpredictable, but most of us do better when we have a sense of stability and familiarity with our surroundings. Acquiring those things naturally takes time, so give yourself the time you need to feel at home.   

For more tips and techniques for a fast and enjoyable transition to overseas living, please continue reading below.

Graphic created by Expat CPA.