7 Barriers to Expat Life—and How to Overcome Them—InternationalLiving.com

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The expat life—for many who dream of it—comes with a certain romance baked in: a beautiful backdrop, a naturally healthy lifestyle, and the thrill of adventure and discovery. Get beyond the dream stage, however, and potential expats sometimes feel overwhelmed by the prospect of a move. A new report from International Living explores seven of the most commonly perceived barriers to expat life—with an eye to debunking them.

When all is said and done, choosing the expat life is just the same as any other major decision in your life; there will always be obstacles standing in your way, and there will always be an excuse to delay or even to never make the change.

Exchanging your existing life for a brand-new one in another country is no small endeavor. For many expats, moving overseas provides a grand and wonderful adventure. It’s a way for them to explore new places, make new friends, and often dramatically improve their quality of life. (In the right places, the cost of living is so much lower than in the States, people find they can stop counting pennies entirely, lower their stress levels, and begin to enjoy life more. In other words: They can afford a life they’d only dream about back home.) But, there will be challenges along the way, and it’s best to be prepared for them ahead of time.

#1 – I’ll Miss my Family and Friends

This is a big one, especially for grandparents. But is this really as big a barrier as it used to be, even just a few years ago?

“Modern technology really takes the edge off,” says Marsha Scarbrough, International Living’s Spain Correspondent. “You can chat with your best friend every day on Skype, play with the grandkids on FaceTime, and celebrate special occasions on Zoom. WhatsApp is wonderful for sharing voicemail messages, videos, photos, and all kinds of things. There are many, many ways to keep in touch.

“I know it’s not the same as getting a hug, but when you really need a hug you can go and visit them. Planes will be flying again and they will so glad to see you. Even better, they can come and visit you. How great will it be to introduce a new culture to your grandchildren, to show them a new country, and teach them a few words of another language?”

#2 – I’ll Need to Learn a New Language

While it is possible to live in most foreign countries without learning much of the local language, unless you choose one of the English-speaking destinations (Belize or Malta, for example), or limit yourself to staying within established expat communities, you will find that it is important to learn to be able to communicate on some level with the locals.

But is this a barrier, or an opportunity? It really is not necessary to become fluent. You can get quite far learning the names for household items and the “kindergarten words”—you know, words like please, thank you, hello, goodbye, numbers, colors, and where is the bathroom, etc.

“In Spain, for instance, you can get by without speaking Spanish,” says Marsha. “Many expats never learn more than a few basic phrases in Spanish. If you are living in an expat community or a tourist area, most Spanish people are going to speak English as well. People under 30 here speak English quite well and a lot of Spaniards over 30 are learning English for business.

“But why not learn a little Spanish (or whatever the language is in the place you’re interested in settling)? It will help you deepen your connection to the locals you meet and make it easier to travel around the country. It shows a respect for your host country and helps you integrate into the culture.”

#3 - Will I Have Access to Good Healthcare?

This is an issue that will vary greatly depending on your target location, your current general health, and your lifestyle. However, it is surprising to some North Americans how good healthcare can be in other nations.

“In Spain, you will have better healthcare than you have in the U.S. and at a more affordable place,” says Marsha. “If you come to Spain on a retirement visa, the non-lucrative visa, you are required as part of your application to purchase private health insurance, which is the best of the best.

“For a healthy 64-year-old couple with Sanitas, the biggest private health insurer in Spain, you would be paying $296 a month. That’s for a couple. But the price does increase as you age. For me, at 73 and single, I’m paying $225 a month.

“After a year of residency in Spain, it’s possible to get into the public system for even less than that.”

When all is said and done, choosing the expat life is just the same as any other major decision in your life; there will always be obstacles standing in your way, and there will always be an excuse to delay or even to never make the change.

But remember that it is often true that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward.

#4 - "I Just Don’t Know Where I Should Retire.”

“Where should I go?” This is the question International Living’s editors and correspondents hear most often, and it’s one that’s nearly impossible for any of our editors to answer right off the bat. That’s because there’s no one-size-fits-all locale. And so what’s right for one person (given their budget, interests, and priorities, and so on) most certainly won’t be for another.

Every January, however, International Living delivers to readers a tool designed to help them sort through their best options all around the world. It’s IL’s Annual Global Retirement Index—and the 2021 edition marks its 30th year.

Inside, the editors rank, rate, compare, and contrast the world’s top 25 retirement havens across 10 revealing categories—healthcare, cost of living, housing, climate, and more.

The 2021 Global Retirement Index will be released in January. Learn more here.

The full, detailed report—7 Barriers to Becoming an Expat—can be found here.

Members of the media have permission to republish the article linked above once credit is given to Internationalliving.com

Further information, as well as interviews with expert authors for radio, TV, or print, is available on request. Photos are also available.

For information about InternationalLiving.com content republishing, source material or to book an interview with one of our experts, contact Editorial Director for Web Content, Social Media, and PR, Donal Lucey, dlucey@internationalliving.com.
Twitter: @inliving
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About International Living

Since 1979, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has contributors traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.

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