Life as an Expat: What You Need to Know and The Must-Have Apps That Help
Perhaps you’re thinking of where to spend your retirement years, and you’ve made the decision that you want to live in an offshore location. You may also be someone who can work from anywhere, continuing to save for retirement, as long as there’s a stable internet connection and power for your devices.
Whatever the case, there are a lot of places to choose from and many things to consider. Here are some key suggestions of what to settle and arrange before you make a move and a few ideas for apps that will help you before and after the move.
Preparing for Your New Life as an Expat
Becoming an expat is more complex than packing a bag and boarding a plane. There are several plans to make first. While not exhaustive, the following action items are essential if you want to get this new phase of your life off to a great start.
1. Identify Places Where You May Want to Live
Consider what sort of setting you want for your new life. Could it be that you’ve always wanted to live near a shoreline? Maybe it would also be helpful to have a home in the middle of a city where you can walk just about anywhere. Perhaps you’re the pastoral type who likes the idea of living near a small town and having space to grow your own vegetables. Maybe you’ve long vacationed in an international location and now want to move there permanently.
Make a list of what qualities, amenities, and services your new home setting must possess to be worth considering. That list will go a long way toward narrowing the list of countries that offer what you want the most.
2. Learn More About the Climate and the People
With several countries in mind, consider the climate of each very carefully. You like the idea of plenty of sunshine and not having to worry about expensive heating bills. Maybe being close enough to catch breezes off the water sounds perfect. At the same time, you might not mind a rainy season if the temperature allows you to wear light clothing most of the time, resorting to sweaters occasionally in the evenings.
Along with the climate, find out about the local people and how they interact with those born elsewhere. Focus your attention on countries with a reputation for welcoming and including expats living there. That’s the setting where you want to be.
3. Determine the Average Cost of Living
One of the chief motivators for many choosing to live abroad is enjoying a lower cost of living while not compromising on the quality of that life. Therefore, you want to look closely at nations with strong infrastructures coupled with affordable expenses.
To that end, take a close look at your monthly net income. How much can you reasonably expect to receive on a consistent basis? It’s not unusual for many nations to require proof that expats have verifiable sources of consistent income.
For those retiring soon, this can include sources such as disbursements from a pension plan or 401k, Social Security payments, and any other income that’s not likely to disappear any time soon. If what you have coming in meets or exceeds the amount needed to meet government guidelines and will allow you to live comfortably, keep that nation in the running as a viable option.
4. Settle on Housing Type
Some people can’t imagine living in anything other than a detached house with a privacy fence. Others are happy to live in condos or apartments. You may prefer to rent or like the idea of buying your own place. However, keep in mind that the options may be limited in some offshore locations.
Look closely at the laws about owning real estate. In some nations, there will be few, if any, barriers to buying the type of residence that you want. You may be eligible to rent but not buy in other areas. This is another factor that may help you refine your choices of potential places to live.
5. Consider Factors Like Culture and Language
How well will your habits fit in with the culture of the countries on your list? The goal is to determine if the culture suits you or if you will feel a little like a fish out of water. You want to make this part of your life the best yet, so consider opting for a culture where you feel welcome and can readily participate in holidays and other significant events for those who already live there.
Focusing on nations where the languages spoken are familiar will make it easier to become an active part of the community. North Americans will find many places in the Caribbean where English is either the national language or widely used. Spanish is also likely to be expected in those same areas. If you speak both, there are several nations where you will feel right at home.
6. Understand Your Rights and Privileges as a Non-Citizen
Depending on your choice of country, expats can enjoy most of the same liberties and privileges extended to citizens. Even so, there will likely be some requirements that must be met for you to remain in the country. For example, you may find it necessary to leave the country for a short time once or twice a year. That will continue until you meet the requirements for permanent resident status or become eligible to apply for citizenship.
Knowing what will be required before you decide to move is crucial. Obtain information from embassies as well as from government agencies. This will help you know more about your rights regarding employment by a local business, establishing bank accounts in the country, and many other important aspects of life as an expat.
7. Know Your Tax and Other Obligations
It’s not unusual for nations that actively court expats to offer excellent tax benefits. It’s not just about the privacy afforded to you and your finances; it’s often about ensuring that you can spend more of your income within the country and stimulate the local economy.
Even so, don’t assume that you will have no tax obligation. An accounting expert can help you understand what taxes you must pay to remain in good standing. Keep in mind there may also be specific fees associated with renewing visas or retaining privileges to remain in the country. Make sure you know them all and what they would cost each year before deciding where you will live.
8. Prepare Your Visa and Other Key Documentation
There are several documents needed if you plan on becoming an expat. A travel visa won’t be enough. At a minimum, be prepared to have a valid passport, a birth certificate, a work permit if you plan to seek employment after arrival, documentation about income, medical records, a marriage certificate if applicable, and qualifying forms of picture identifications.
More documentation may be required based on the nation where you want to live. This is something else you can find out from the government agency that oversees the entry of those who want to live there for the long term.
9. Establish International Bank Accounts
While you might be able to manage financially using your domestic accounts, it makes sense to set up offshore ones as well. Offshore bank accounts may allow you to manage purchases easily, enjoy better exchange rates when you take trips to other nations, and possibly even allow your balances to earn more interest.
To that end, consider setting up offshore checking, savings, and time deposit accounts to begin. You may also want to look into an investment account eventually. You’ll find that banks catering to offshore clients have staff who can help you choose the best accounts for your situation.
Apps That Help Before and After the Move
We’re fortunate to live in an era when digital communication makes many tasks easier to manage. As an expat, you will find many apps to help with your planning and come in handy once you’re settled in your new home.
Here are some ideas about the types of apps that you can put to good use.
Arranging to Pack and Ship Your Belongings
While you may have done well in selling many of your belongings, there might still be quite a bit that you want to pack and ship to your new location. Finding the right service can be frustrating, but it’s easier if you use an app that pinpoints movers who can ensure everything is in order.
Try an app like Packing Pro. Along with help arranging the packing, it will also provide suggestions of what to take along based on the climate and other factors.
Getting to Know the Areas Where You Will Live
It’s only natural that you will want to learn more about what’s nearby where you’ve chosen to live. However, you don’t have to wait until arriving to begin this process.
An app like Nearify will help you learn more about shopping, entertainment, and other venues close to your new home. However, don’t overlook the potential of using Google Maps to see what else is of interest.
?? Making Connections With Like-Minded People
Who doesn’t want to make new friends? You can use app versions of the primary social media services to connect with those who share some of your hobbies and interests.
There are also apps like Lianna and Meetup that make it easy to meet locals. Simply enter your location and some of your interests, and it won’t be long until you find people who would be happy to get to know you.
Breaking Down Communication Barriers
Even if you already speak one or more of the local languages, there can be differences in the dialect that make communicating a challenge.
To help you get started, try using a translation app like iTranslate, Google Translate, and TripLingo. It won’t be long until you pick up some of the nuances of the local tongue and begin to feel right at home.
Finding Places to Eat
Where will you decide to go when you don’t feel like cooking? Of course, you’ll also want to know where the locals like to eat.
Along with recommendations from local residents, apps like OpenTable and Time Out will help you find some great places to try.
? Connecting to Wi-Fi
What happens if your phone signal is weak, but you want to look something up? Hopping on an available local network is the most practical solution.
To find internet connections in your area, try apps like Wi-Fi Finder or Osmino to find the nearest hotspots that are free for use. These connections may be located in coffee shops or restaurants where you can also grab a bite to eat while you do some work.
Keeping Up With Currency Exchange Rates
Sometimes, learning a new country’s exchange rate can be tricky. For example, as you become accustomed to the local currency, you may wonder how the posted price compares to what you would pay in your country of origin.
You’ll find that apps like XE Currency allow you to make quick comparisons between multiple currencies, transfer money, and more. It’s fun to use and provides data based on the most current exchange rate.
Preparation is Key to a Successful Transition to the Expat Life
Leaving your country of birth for a new one is exciting but can be stressful as you work through the process. However, making the right choices and following through with the preparation will make the transition to life as an expat — and your new home — easier.
Remember to make the most of the resources at hand even after you arrive. It won’t be long until you settle in and feel like you’ve been a part of the community for years.
Featured Image Credit: Porapak Apichodilok; Pexels; Thank you!
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