How to become an expat…
First published 20 Sept 2017
Updated 24 April 2020
One of the most common questions I get asked is, “How can I be an expat?”, or “How to become an expat”.
The first time I was asked, it stumped me a bit! Surely the answer is move abroad, expatriate your home country…? Some expected me to give them an instant job abroad, but they were in the minority, thankfully. (No, I can’t do that for you, sorry!)
When I stopped to think about it though, I realised that people were asking a much bigger question with a much less obvious answer; not so much about the physical meaning of expat life as about expectations, opportunities and risks.
Settlers and nomads
Going back to our prehistoric ancestors, there were several different types of people. Settlers, who built and populated villages to make a home for themselves and their families, warriors who fought fiercely to protect those villages from predators and invaders. And nomads, who had no fixed abode but moved from village to village offering services and trades in return for food and temporary shelter. It seems to me that in this respect nothing much has changed except the way we look at it.
There are still settlers – those who are content to live and work in their own town or city and have no desire to move. There are still warriors – those who fight tooth and nail to keep families together and ward off the big threats that come with change.
And there are still nomads. Some people are just born with itchy feet and a greater sense of adventure; they want to see the world and don’t feel quite sure where they might eventually call ‘home’. Backpacking, travelling and sightseeing are all smaller forms of nomadic lifestyle but those who truly feel the itch are the ones who want to be expats.
Being an expat doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll move from one country to another and then stay there. It may mean that you choose to live and work in several different countries over a period of years, often without returning ‘home’ for any prolonged period. Or you may want to emigrate to another country permanently.
Create your own opportunities
If this lifestyle appeals to you, then the key to achieving it is learning how to create opportunities and mitigate risks.
There are 5 main ways to become an expat, and which you choose will depend on several factors such as your age, experience, profession and even self-confidence.
- Being a foreign student.
- As a part of a government service, such as Military or Diplomatic Corps.
- Finding and applying for a private job in a different country and moving when you’re successful.
- Being an accompanying partner and following your partner abroad.
- Taking a leap of faith and only deciding what happens next when you arrive.
Moving abroad as a student is probably the easiest pathway and the one which carries the least risk. After all, as a student you will be looked after, opportunities will be provided on a platter, you’ll have a ready-made social group and you won’t have to stress about where you’re going to live and how you’re going to pay your bills.
Similarly, if you have a government job that involves overseas postings much of the decision-making process is taken out of your hands so you can be an expat without feeling any of the anxiety that comes with deciding to move.
Applying for a job overseas
Most of us aren’t that lucky and the decision to expatriate comes with some tough choices and some considerable risks. However, it’s not as complicated as people seem to make it out to be. If you’re going to look for a job in a different country, then you have the luxury of choosing your location and taking your time to find a job that’s right for you.
To make this work you need to possess a very strong skill set and be qualified in your chosen field. In some locations – such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia for example – there are strict rules governing who can and can’t live and work there, but throughout much of Europe, as long as you have the skills to hold your own in a competitive employment market, there’s no reason why you can’t apply.
Many online job sites, such as Monster and Indeed, feature overseas opportunities, the Telegraph and the Guardian have International listings and there are even dedicated websites – OverseasJobs.com as an example. Make sure that you have a good level of computer literacy as applications will be online and interviews may be conducted via Skype instead of face to face. That’s not always the case though, so set aside some funds for an interview visit, just in case!
Perhaps the bravest and most spirited move of all is the ‘no safety net’ kind. Some people have such a strong desire to relocate to another country that they just up and do it, trusting that they’ll find accommodation, jobs etc. when they reach their location.
It works too – if you’re not overly fussy, if you don’t mind starting at the bottom and if the location is more important than the initial lifestyle then taking a leap of faith might be the way forward. Just make sure you plan some basics in advance; access to your funds via a suitable international bank, a list of hostels and cheap accommodation that can put you up until you find your feet and some ideas of what short term employment opportunities might exist. Also find out if those opportunities are seasonal. There’s little point in planning your location around vineyards without researching the picking season first!
Once you’ve made your decision and decided on your location, the rest is a matter of planning, researching and preparing your friends and family for your departure – remember those warriors that will go to any lengths to protect the family unit? Expect some resistance!
You’ll find all the information you need on this site, whether it’s the fundamentals of what to pack and how to arrange your finances, or advice about researching schools, work places and preparing your loved ones for a change. If you have children, there are some great tips for making their transition easier and there’s even a great (and free!) moving overseas checklist to make sure you’ve thought of everything well in advance.
So, how can you become an expat? Simple – research, decide, prepare and do!
Get your expat life off to a great start
If you’re currently rethinking and reassessing your life, and thinking of moving overseas for a better life and lifestyle for you and your children, I can help you!
Making decisions of this magnitude can be overwhelming, especially if your choices affect other people. It is never too soon to start making plans. Being properly prepared for expat life means you’ll settle quickly into your new lifestyle.
Do you need advice and help from someone who has been there and done that – several times? Just an hour chatting with me will help you gain the reassurance and clarity you need to make a well-judged plan of action. Book a one-hour consultancy call with me to share your plans and I’ll give you personalised guidance on your potential next steps.
I’ll help you put an action plan into place, that works for your family’s specific needs to help you move confidently towards your new life abroad. Dedicated to helping you build the foundation for a happy and successful life abroad.
Book an hour with me, your own expat expert, today!
Want to talk about YOUR potential move?
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“If you don’t mind starting at the bottom and if the location is more important than the initial lifestyle then taking a leap of faith might be the way forward.” <— This is so true! Thank you for sharing this guide though, it's very helpful and helps get rid of the jitters before you're moving overseas.