Have you ever wanted to commute to your office on Japan’s fastest commuter train, the Tsukuba Express, or unwind with co-workers at the Artcaffe, Nairobi’s hottest happy hour spot? With terms like “the world is your oyster” or “grab life by the horns,” many are now taking these idioms literally! Rising numbers have shown growing interest in exploring options across the globe and in diving into new cultures and a new way of life. Millennials are rapidly shifting the notion of the American dream and finding their dream in foreign lands. While expatriation is not an original idea or course of action, lately it has become a means to get a life yet desired.

Most dream of winning the lottery, packing all of their worldly goods and moving to a sunny tropical paradise. However, realistically, the folks transporting into different countries as expatriates are usually working-class. Prepping for work-life balance overseas and moving forward with an opportunity that caters to this new chapter in life is an adventure of its own. With that being said, searching for a career opportunity, pinpointing your talent, and sustaining in another country is crucial to your survival. Typically, when I consult with clients on their idea of expatriation, I always make sure that they check off on what I call “J.A.S.U.P” this is an acronym for Job, Arriving, Saying Goodbye, Understanding & Preparation (not listed in any particular order).

Job Search

A large number of expatriates tend to be either active or former military or in the field of education. However, these are not the only professions that are attracting eager job seekers. If you’re looking to kick off your career as a budding software developer, Sweden is ideal. Sweden, which is booming right now from a technology perspective, is a hub for international companies. This makes it perfect for an up and coming developer. While here in the U.S. we consider Las Vegas to be the adult playground, Dubai is known as the world’s ultimate play place for adventurists and the wealthy. This destination has attracted not only the most affluent to build their businesses but has also raised the need for experienced high-level executive assistants and administrative professionals. Traveling down under to Australia may be ideal for all of your culinary visions of becoming the next Aristos Papandroulakis. Australia’s diverse culture and daringly delicious food options wet the palate of any chef looking to reinvent “shrimp on the barbie.”

Whatever your current career is or if you’re looking to change occupations completely, start with ample research. Being realistic in your availability to interview and knowing your salary requirements are also critical to a successful transition. There’s a multitude of job options around the world. It is imperative to stay true to one’s inner happiness and arm yourself with the knowledge of what will allow you to prosper in this new realm.

Preparation

Now that you have narrowed down your job search and are packing away grandma’s fine China, keep in mind that this continental shift doesn’t come that easy. Without all of your ducks in a row, this can quickly become an international disaster. Before any international move, it is essential to be sure that all legal and other documentation is in order, which may be inclusive of their original copies. First and foremost, you must have an active passport, which is your government-issued document that verifies the identity and nationality of the holder and authorizes international travel. The next item you may need depending on the country and your length of stay is a visa, which is authorization by the government of your destination country that permits you to remain within its borders for a specified purpose and period. If your employer is relocating you then they may have already taken care of this for you. But in some circumstances, you must obtain a work permit independently. In most cases, you will need a work permit to begin employment in your new home country. Some additional items may include:

  • a power of attorney
  • will
  • medical directive (health care proxy)
  • children’s school records
  • a spouse/partner’s employment records
  • academic credentials
  • vehicle and home titles
  • loan papers
  • medical/dental records
  • financial records.

A huge point of advice would be to make certain that you bring multiple copies of these documents and to never pack them along with your household goods. Pack them in your carry-on luggage in an easily accessible area within your carry-on bag.

Arriving

You are finally here! This fantasy has quickly become a reality. So now what? That’s the biggest question because adapting to a new culture can be a bit challenging, especially if you choose a place where there may be a variation of religious practices, languages or customs.  Learning a culture is a dedicated decision and one that can impact your well being during your time in another country. Yes, there are some translation apps available to you – Rosetta Stone probably being one of the most popular, but having a sensitivity and appreciation of the culture is vital. Taking the time to slowly work your way out of the touristy areas and engulf yourself with the locals will help you embrace your new surroundings. Though there may be some language barriers, most international countries teach English in schools so there will be some basic dialog that you can engage in until you’re comfortable speaking the native language. Honestly, most locals understand that you’re trying and will help you along with finding the restroom or ordering a meal.

Understanding

Knowing the rules and laws could seriously mean life or death in some cultures. Here in our western culture, we find humor with the likes of the iconic Cheech & Chong or “Rolling down the street smoking Indo…” as sung by Snoop Dogg. The use or possession of marijuana is becoming more normalized and socially acceptable here in the U.S. However, if the country of Malaysia is your choice of residence, keep in mind that Malaysia implements a mandatory death penalty for anyone who gets caught with seven ounces of marijuana. This amount of the “sticky icky” will label you as a drug trafficker in this Southeast Asian country. If someone gets caught with less than this amount of marijuana, they will still be charged with penalties such as hefty fines or lengthy prison time. In Saudi Arabia, if you’re a woman, there will be limitations on what you can wear. As beautiful as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is, the country is still deeply rooted in laws stemming from religion and tradition. Some social rules, which mostly apply to women, are very stern. I wouldn’t take this as a deterrent from choosing these places, but it is a clear indication that you must be knowledgeable in the governing laws to keep you and your loved ones off of an episode of Locked Up Abroad!

Saying Goodbye

While this will be tough for your friends and family to say goodbye, it’s bittersweet looking forward to this new adventure in your life and taking a risk most could not imagine. As an expatriate, communication will be essential and informing loved ones on your exact whereabouts is also necessary. Now depending on where you choose to go, the distance may not be an issue, but in a lot of cases it is, and homesickness is very real and could cause some to slip into a depression. So take proper care to deal with those feelings when they arise as self-care is vital to your physical and mental wellbeing.

All in all, be free to live out your wildest dreams, whether this includes relocating your life to the mountains of Tibet or to the shores of Greece. Sometimes you have to “grab the bull by the horns” because “the world is your oyster!” Happy travels, adventurers! You deserve the life you want to have.

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