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How to Make Your Expat Expectations Realistic & Achievable

Anyone who ends up living abroad has usually initially dreamed about one day living in their definition of paradise on earth.  We all hanker after sunny weather, lazy days and a laid back pace of life after all – and some of us then go out and see if we can make our dreams come true by moving overseas.

Only those expats who have realistic and achievable expectations can find happiness overseas however, and all too often we have feedback from readers who just haven’t found the life they were looking for abroad.  When you dig a little deeper, you discover that the life the person in question was seeking was just not attainable or achievable anywhere though – and therein lies an important message!

If you want to live abroad and have a better life, it is perfectly possible – you just have to identify your priorities, ensure you can match your expectations with reality, and then you can venture overseas safe in the knowledge that you are well prepared for the adventures ahead.  If you want to make sure that your expectations are realistic, read on to ensure you don’t have too high a hope or too unrealistic a dream.

Some people fall into their new life abroad – they move on a relative whim, or are relocated or find work abroad without having really planned and decided that expatriating is exactly and specifically what they want to do.  Surprisingly, from personal experience, I have found that many such individuals thrive better in their new environment than those who have over-thought their relocation.

However, that’s not to say that moving abroad with no forethought or planning is a good idea!

The fact of the matter is, those who don’t have too high an expectation of their new life’s standards are much more likely to adapt to fit into their new life abroad, and love their new life too.

Others who have a very specific dream of what their life will be like, perhaps based on books they have read or a holiday they once enjoyed in their proposed new location, can come a real cropper when faced with the day-to-day reality of living in their new destination.

If you want the best chance of success however, your path should lie somewhere between the above highlighted two approaches.

A certain amount of dreaming and a good dollop of research ahead of a move are important.  You need to be excited about the prospect of relocation ideally, and it really helps if you’ve visited your destination before, know about its laws, customs, people, way of life and even the weather.  All of this preparation will enable you to begin picturing yourself in your new destination – an essential part of the adjustment process.

It’s important not to place too much hope on your dreams alone however, because no matter where you go in the world you will still have to deal with the day-to-day minutiae of the daily grind – from commuting to paying bills, from finding a handyman to fix a leaking pipe to queuing at the ‘wrong’ supermarket checkout line!  And this is where ‘realistic expectations’ come in to play…

It is realistic to assume that not everything about your new life will be perfect.  It is realistic to assume that your new life abroad will present you with some bumps and hurdles as well as some exciting opportunities.  It is realistic to know that many things will change, but you yourself will not fundamentally change just because you’re in a new location.

To help you work out whether your own ideas about moving and living abroad are realistic and achievable you can do two tasks…one of which is very easy, one of which requires a bit of time and effort.

The First Task…

Get a pen and paper, or open a word processing package on your computer and begin a list.  On the left hand side note down the fundamental facts and expectations you have and believe to be true about what your new life will be like, and what your new nation will be like.

When you have finished you can take some time to read back over your comments and see if you are perhaps setting your goals and desires too high, or whether you truly feel each point is accurate.

The Second Task…

With your list in your suitcase you need to visit your new nation ahead of your relocation – and you need to see whether your listed points stand up to closer scrutiny!

So, where you have written that your life will be better because the weather is better, look around and see whether this appears to be noticeably the case for locals and expats alike in your new country.  Then, why not ask an expat whether they do feel that their life has improved just because of the weather!

If you’ve stated that your living conditions will improve abroad, your reconnaissance visit will be your chance to look around at property purchase and rental prices, and to perhaps even visit a home or two to see what standard of accommodation your budget will afford you.

You Don’t HAVE to Write Lists!

Of course, the list is not essential – what is critical is taking some time out to visit and stay in your proposed overseas destination of choice ahead of your permanent move.  You need to stay out of season if you can, and get away from the tourism angle of the resort or location because when you’re living full time abroad, you are no longer a tourist.

Look at the commercial offerings, the schools, medical facilities, the banks and supermarkets – these are what you’ll be needing day to day in your new life.

Find expats to speak to, get a handle on what daily life is like – ask them specifically what they miss about home, and then grill them on how their lives have changed and improved since moving abroad.

This will do two things – it may identify aspects of your current life that you enjoy but take for granted and which will alter when you relocate.  This may force you to rethink your move or at least be prepared ahead of your move.  It will also enforce any ideas you had already about how your life will change for the better if you do move, or introduce new and positive aspects about your chosen country that you can now focus on.

Ultimately I want to protect you from having unrealistic hopes and false expectations about your move abroad – but I can’t!  Only you can do that – and you can do it by taking the time out to visit your new nation, speaking to fellow expats and looking closely at essential day-to-day aspects of life.

Dreaming is lovely, and it is important to generate the excitement you need to fuel your plans to relocate – but a big dollop of reality is essential if you want to be truly prepared and succeed in loving your new life overseas.

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