Not all expats have the luxury of choosing a new expat home. But for those of us who do have the option, the choices can seem overwhelming! I have lived in seven different countries (so far), so I am no stranger to this decision-making process. This is how I choose a new expat home, which I hope might help those of you in the same boat.
A Bit of Background
I am from the U.S., while my husband was born in Ireland. He grew up in Scotland, so Boston and Edinburgh are our two home bases for family visits.
We met on the island of Roatan, Honduras, after we each (separately) chose Roatan as an expat home. Well, to be fair, he chose Roatan for scuba diving and I chose it for a five-day vacation that turned into a three-year stay!
We have since chosen several expat homes together. I became an expat in his home country of Scotland and then we moved to Ireland together. While he was born there, we were both expats given that he moved away as a toddler.
We then moved to Malta together for some much-needed sunshine after so much time in the overcast UK and Ireland. We moved to the US temporarily, where my husband acted as an expat while I fumbled around as a “re-pat.”
Our life is a constant adventure!
How to Choose a New Expat Home
Since we move around so frequently, I feel like I can narrow down a few essential criteria for choosing a new expat home. We are looking ahead at another move for this summer…so I can even break this down in real-time decision-making!
For choosing a new expat home, you have several categories of considerations.
First, the Legal Considerations
You must choose an expat home where you can legally live. For an EU citizen (and his spouse – that’s me!), we have the entire EU to choose from. That opens a lot of doors.
We can also look into countries that grant residency to foreigners, but our options are limited there. We both work online, although my husband also works in scuba diving and in personal training, so we need a country that grants residency without a work visa sponsorship. Getting a work visa is a fantastic option if that suits your needs.
We also need a country that will grant us residency without proving that we are retired or otherwise not working. Being a digital nomad is a fairly new concept, and laws are not really keeping up.
Retirees often have a separate visa option, as do others who can prove they need not work locally to subsidize themselves.
When you’re choosing a new expat home, be sure to look into the legal considerations first. It is heartbreaking to fall in love with a place but to have no ability to live there long term.
Next, Financial Considerations
When you choose a new expat home, you are choosing a new life, yet your lifestyle will remain largely the same. Consider your hobbies and activities, how frequently you like to eat out, and any other costs that incur in your daily life.
Those costs will undoubtedly vary with a move to another country, but your preferences will most likely stay the same.
If you love to eat out and have a few drinks throughout the week, then budget that into your new expat lifestyle.
If you plan to do lots of outdoor activities in your new home, consider the costs involved (swimming in the sea is free, but scuba diving is not!).
Owning a vehicle or taking public transportation, wanting imported foods or adjusting to local labels, renting or buying real estate…these are all financial considerations when you choose your new expat home.
As you consider all the options, be sure to consider your personal preferences now and build them into your lifestyle there.
A new country will not change who you are at your core.
Then, Climate Considerations
Climate is a major consideration for me, but maybe it isn’t such a big factor for you. Having lived in very varied climates, I can recommend that you seriously consider your daily life and the way climate affects those activities.
If you like to be outdoors, then living in a perpetually rainy climate is not conducive to your activities. Conversely, living in a humid tropical environment might be too overwhelming and inhibit your outdoor time.
Consider your daily life now and what you want your daily life to include in your new expat home. You also need to consider how the climate affects those activities as you choose a new expat home.
Then, Regional Considerations
Consider how long it would take for you to get back home. Are there direct flights? Are there seasonal differences in connectivity?
You’ll want to consider the distance when you choose a new expat home. If you never need to return home, then that’s fine. But if you have family there, aging parents, adult children, or just a network of good friends, then you’ll want to ensure your ability to get back to them if need be.
That also goes on the reverse as you consider a new home: Will anyone come to visit you? The easier and cheaper it is to get there, the more likely it is that your family and friends will come to visit you.
If your intention in moving overseas is to limit those interactions, then choose a hard place to reach! But if you would enjoy showing your friends and family around your new expat home, then consider the region you’re moving to in relation to your home country.
Finally, the Compromise
No place is perfect.
I’ll just say that again: No place is perfect.
Remember this as you choose your new expat home. Whatever reasons you have for moving overseas, just remember that everything is a compromise.
There will be aspects of your new home that you absolutely love, and then there will be aspects that drive you crazy.
As time goes by after your expat move, you must remember why you moved there. Remember the compromise and make this expat transition work for you.
If you choose this expat home, remember that it is a choice. You can choose it again every single day, or you can move on with lessons learned.
Personally, we are choosing to move on again and again unless or until a place captures us completely. We have lived in and loved many places and have left small pieces of our hearts scattered in various countries. But we also love the adventure of exploring new countries and creating new homes everywhere we go.
How about you? Are you choosing a new expat home? Let us know how we can help.
by: Amanda Walkins