Four things I wish I’d have known before becoming an expat

Expat living, it’s definitely not for everyone. Moving away from your home country, where you have a base, a support network, know the language, the systems, the food even, is an upheaval to stay the least.

Add into the mix three children (born in three different countries), one employed husband, a freelance career and what can only be described as a boat load of random paperwork, it’s safe to say that leaving everything behind isn’t for the faint hearted.

Yet, here we are, nearly eight years after I left London, the most reluctant of expats determined I would be home within two years and back to my life swanning around Clapham Common at the weekend, racing for the tube in the morning. What I didn’t expect all those years ago was to find peace with this way of nomadic living, of meeting likeminded people on our adventures and having friends from all over the world.

If I could go back now and chat to old 29 year old Laura there would be a lot I would say to her, mainly to go with the flow and enjoy it, but there are some practicalities that you need to consider.

Marie Kondo your life

Six house moves later and I still have boxes that haven’t been unpacked from their first trip from Dubai. They just get shoved into random cupboards and forgotten about until the next move.

If it doesn’t spark joy now, it won’t spark joy there and if you haven’t used it you likely won’t!

Sell it, give it away, get rid of it – just don’t take it across the oceans with you.

Get your paperwork in order to live abroad

Obtaining resident permits in most countries requires a variety of official documents and forms, marriage certificates, birth certificates, educational documents.

Making sure you have all these to hand is essential – even more so when you no longer live in the country they were issued.

Some countries require that these documents are then attested by their embassy in the country of issuance, and then again when you arrive at your new country of residence. By having everything to hand beforehand and researching what you require you take out *some* of the stress of moving.

Get your paperwork in order at home

It’s not only the paperwork required to move overseas that you need to think about, but the paperwork at home.

Lots of expats become reluctant landlords as they leave their family home for their expat adventure, while a good letting agency can help with your tax requirement, tenant finding, tenant contracts and issues arising with the property it is essential that you have landlord insurance – and as with everything it is a good idea to compare landlord insurance available to you on the market.

Making sure you also let HMRC know you’ve left the country, stopped any benefits, such as child benefit, you may be in receipt of and worked out your tax liability is also good to do!

No one wants a tax bill chasing them round where the postal service may not be as robust as home.

Get Social

Building your support network is essential. Find the Facebook groups of your new local area – expats all love a Facebook group – get involved at school and community events (COVID times aside), ask everyone you know if they know anyone in your new destination – you’d be surprised at how small the world is (six degrees of separation anyone?!).

Hit the ground running, say yes to everything that is humanly possible and remember that a positive attitude helps A LOT!

this is a collaborative post

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