Expat Guide: Is Expat life for me?

Before you jump in the deep end and book our one way flight to a foreign city, you should first ask yourself a few realistic questions to consider if this is the right move for you. Becoming an expat is an initial investment (especially by way of flights, short term accommodation before you find a property, and setting yourself up from scratch), so it’s important to first ask yourself: Is expat life for me?

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Ask yourself: Is Expat Life for Me?

Am I scared or excited by the idea?

If you answered ‘both’… that’s a good thing! Completely normal. If you’re leaning more toward excited than scared, then chances are you’re ‘cut out’ for the expat life. 

Can I afford it?

Maybe an obvious question, but an important one nonetheless. Consider your cost of living in your chosen city – rent, bills, internet, phone service, food, transport… the list is endless. Compare and contrast the cost of living in your current city compared with your desired city. Realistically answer the question and determine whether you can afford it. 

Can I afford to live the way I’d like to live?

Before you brush off the affordability question, stop and think a little deeper into the question. A likely scenario would be to have your heart set on living in Paris, doing your research and concluding that you can afford to live in a cheap neighbourhood and catch the subway each day into the city. But is this the way you really want to live? Be sure not to convince or kid yourself and think about the question more realistically – will you enjoy the way of life you can afford? Be honest with yourself. If you find yourself leaning towards a ‘no’, consider other (and more cheaper) cities to live in.

What is the job market like?

Just as importance in the finance realm is going to be your determined income. A good idea is to consider your traditional career opportunities and then to branch out and consider any other similar or related fields, should they be hiring more so than your original plan of action. It’s now easier than ever to determine what the job market is like with a quick google search and a few hours of light research, so be sure to allocate an evening to considering your options.

Do you know anyone who lives there?

Perhaps you want to completely start afresh in a new city where no one knows your name, or perhaps you would prefer to know a friend or two before you arrive. Think about your options – do you know anyone who lives in a foreign city? What about your preferred foreign city? Can you meet people before you make the move? Consider searching online for expat communities to see what is available in your city of choice. Again, google is your friend.

What is the transport system like?

If you don’t plan on driving a car in your new city, you’re going to want to do a little research into the public transport system to which you will rely on before you go. Be sure to factor this into your expenses plan and consider whether this is feasible. Also consider other alternatives like paying a little extra on rent for a central location or purchasing a bike and riding to work each day. Cities like Amsterdam and Berlin are perfect for making the daily commute, but not all cities are as bike friendly.

What are my expectations?

I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase ‘culture shock’… and believe me, it’s real. But it isn’t always a bad thing – even if you anticipate one coming. The fact of the matter is that you need to seriously consider your own personal expectations and see if these match up with your city of choice. All of the above considerations are just starting points to consider before making the move… but the real question to ask yourself is what do I expect out of becoming an expat? If you think you can pinpoint the answer and reasonably consider finding what you’re looking for in this new city and new experience, then go for it. Accept the challenge and take the plunge!

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