If you want to live a foreign life, dream of living an affordable and comfortable life in a foreign country, and providing attractive benefits, this is possible. This is not always straightforward and simple, but it is possible.
In addition to determining how you can truly stay in a country for a long time and what kind of visa you might need, there are a few other things to consider to help ensure that the process goes smoothly and the adjustment to life in the new country goes smoothly.
1. Learn a language
Yes, people all over the world now speak English. In 20 years of travel, I have never been 100% stuck and cannot communicate with anyone at all. However, this does not mean that you should not learn the language of the country where you want to live. It is important that you do this. This is not only a respect for your new country, but also allows you to better communicate, get to know more people, and gain a deeper understanding of the local lifestyle and culture, which will benefit you. Therefore, the life of foreigners will become more meaningful.
Starting from the basics, spend some time each week to expand your knowledge and focus on learning more benefits. For example, if you are going to Thailand, try the Simple Learn Thai app and use it to improve your knowledge, with more than 1,000 phrases at the touch of a button. There are apps in every language, so don’t rush for success. Take your time, learn a few more words every day, and you will see the results soon. Of course, taking professional courses and ensuring that you use your language skills through direct interaction with locals are also important steps.
2. Accept the surprise of expat life
Life in different countries sounds very attractive. However, there will always be unexpected surprises or aspects in life. In your new land, some things that are easy at home may become complicated. You must also adjust for cultural differences and unique customs. Overall, life will indeed be different, because you realize this in advance, the less stress you will have upon arrival.
Keep an open mind, learn as much as possible and appreciate the difference. This will help you adjust quickly without too much friction. It also helps to make local friends and hang out with other expats who have been in the country for a long time.
It is better to learn and integrate into the new culture than to shut yourself out. It may be difficult at first, but once you figure it out, life will be more fulfilling.
The key is not to pay too much attention to these differences. It is natural that different places will have different lifestyles, but again, all this will soon become normal.
3. Know your budget
Although it looks like you are moving to a cheap place, it is definitely worth it to spend some time figuring out how much you should spend. A realistic budget will take into account potential surprises that you may not initially consider when you move abroad (you can find out through some research).
An example is Playa del Carmen in Mexico. This great seaside town offers ideal expat life, beautiful apartments for less than $1,000 a month, within walking distance of the white sandy beach and the town center. You may also have a rooftop swimming pool with great views. However, most people do not realize that electricity costs in parts of Playa del Carmen are very high, especially in newer buildings.
If you use the air conditioner for 10 hours a day, you may end up paying more than $200 a month in electricity bills. This can greatly affect your budget, and if you don't know this before you arrive, it will be an unwelcome surprise.
In some countries, the cost of signing a contract to lease an apartment or house is very high. Public transportation options in other countries may be limited, causing you to take more taxis than usual and therefore cost more. There are various possible financial surprises and it is best to know them in advance.
The best way to get real information is to ask someone who already lives where you want to go. Facebook groups, reddit forums, etc. are all great resources where you can post your questions and get actual answers, which will help you figure out how you will actually spend your favorite lifestyle every month.
4. Earn an income
If you can live on savings or retirement funds, that would be great! However, if you need to work, you need to review the rules before moving to a new country. Generally speaking, obtaining a work visa that allows you to work for a local employer can be very difficult. You usually need a job offer to prove that the company cannot find any local people to do the job. This is difficult, and unless you are moving between EU countries as an EU citizen, the chances of obtaining this type of visa are low.
If you work online, that is ideal. In many countries, such as Portugal and Germany, you can obtain actual visas designed for those who work online and only want to live in their country as a resident. You can show up, continue your work and therefore avoid tax rules, so you can easily adapt to your expatriate life.
For other countries/regions that do not offer such visas, this may be more challenging, but it is still feasible. You just need to check local tax and employment rules and figure out how this might apply to you.
Whether you are teaching English online, designing a website, looking for a job on Upwork.com, or working remotely from a company in your home country, no matter where you end up in, it will be easier than you need to find a job in your home country.
Of course, if you do work online, even if you have a small one-person business, it is best to make sure that your operations comply with the laws of your country before moving abroad. This may involve having a proper business structure, tax number, bank account, and commercial insurance, which does not require huge fees, but can provide some useful peace of mind.
The allure of the expat life is real and these days, it’s easier than ever to make happen. What you don’t want to do is decide to move to a new country, buy a plane ticket and only then realize that there is much more to the process than you imagined.
From cultural surprises to unexpected expenses to visa rules to work eligibility and so on, being an expat can be quite frustrating if you don’t take the time to understand the situation before you leave.
It’s worth doing the research and being prepared in advance. This will certainly lead to a smoother transition from life in your home country to those wonderful expat dreams.