Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a dear friend of mine, Alicia. She is a bright young professional and after spending time working in DC after she graduated college, she and her husband made the leap across the pond to London. It’s been quite an adventure for both of them and a huge learning curve.
It’s one thing to dream about living oversees and quite another thing to do it. She has already learned so much and I’m excited she’s our guest blogger today to share her journey so far.
The expat way of life is becoming more common, with no signs of slowing down. Whether it is for work, family or pure adventure, individuals all over the globe are experiencing life abroad.
My husband and I moved from Washington, DC to London, a city home to 250,000 Americans. Our nine months in the UK have been an incredible time full of growth, challenge and enjoyment in our marriage, our careers and our community.
My top 5 tips for expats living and working abroad:
- Invest in a community. Our transition to life in London was a breeze. Okay, maybe that’s overstating it, but generally speaking, we found the adjustment quite easy. I can confidently say that this primarily has to do with our immediate investment in a community. In DC, we were used to being comfortable. We had our circle of friends and rarely put ourselves in situations where we knew no one. Well, that all changed when we moved to London. We had to say “yes” to everything. Together, we saw that being uncomfortable is okay, and moreover, it’s healthy. It brought us to some of our closest friends and made us feel a little more at home in a city of 8.3 million.
- Pay attention to the details. If you don’t have a Type A personality, then I hope your spouse does. If he/she doesn’t, then I suggest you become Type A, if only temporarily. From the visa process, which leads to various levels of headaches depending on where you’re moving, to filing taxes abroad and in the United States (yes, you still have to pay US taxes when living abroad), navigating the “admin” of working abroad is no walk in the park. As an expat, don’t try and take on the immigration or tax systems yourself. Hire a professional, even if it means shelling out the big bucks. It’s worth it.
- Stay committed to relationships back home. You have moved abroad and it is your duty to maintain relationships back home. With today’s technology this should not be too troublesome. From Viber to What’s App, and from Skype to Google Hangout, be intentional about keeping your family and friends close. Also, be sure to maintain your professional relationships. Remember that you likely will return someday, and when that comes, you will want to have family and friends close, and have a job!
- Don’t look back. We still do pinch ourselves, but on the whole we are past the honeymoon phase of our move. We have been very conscious about letting our time in Washington, DC remain in the past. We spent five or so years there, single at first and then married for the last two. We have some incredible memories, as I’m sure you do about seasons of life which are now over. It’s important to let them just that – over. Take the lessons learned, challenges overcome, and moments of joy – and treasure them always – but do know that you must move on and live into the season you are now in.
- Tread lightly in the beginning. The weight of expectations and assimilation when starting a new job is even greater when you’re working abroad. You may have a language barrier, or you may simply need time to understand their culture. Whatever it is, I would encourage one to tread lightly the first few months. Obviously you want to excel and prove results to your boss, but you also must attempt to learn and understand the way of life and common courtesies of the local culture. Americans do have a reputation as a people who think they know all and that everyone around the world should care about what he or she thinks. Whether you think this true or not, it’s the reality. And as such, we must listen that much longer before responding and be that much more courteous of those around us.