The Importance of Active Expat Communities for Choosing the Best Places to Live Abroad

Posted Moving Abroad / June 15, 2018
Blake Shaw

Bostonian and residential moving and packing expert. Blake Shaw enjoys bar-hopping, music, and writing insightful content.

Whether your move is due to professional reasons or just for the sake of exploring something unknown, finding expat communities can help you a lot in adjusting to the new environment. Besides different types of expatriates, there are also different ways of getting in touch with them. That’s why, when you move abroad, you’ll see how things can be more natural if you have the help, support, and experience of those who have gone through the same situation you are now facing.

The Importance of Engaging With Expat Communities

When planning a move abroad, people often overlook the importance of finding expatriate communities and focus on thinking about how to adapt to the local way of life. Yes, it is beautiful and essential to meet and get along with the locals, but it is also important to create a lasting bond with the other expatriates.

Engaging with expatriate communities is the easiest way to accommodate, as well as to learn as much as possible about the territory you are moving to. Experiences of others will help you break some barriers and adjust in the shortest time possible. As a bonus, when you’re surrounded by people with a similar background to yours, you likely won’t feel as lonely.

Which One of Four Different Types of Expats You Belong To

In most places across the world, there are a few different types of expatriates. From those who came for a limited period – it could be six months or ten years, to those who moved indefinitely. However, there is one particular group of expats living in their home country. So, let’s see what the main characteristics of some of the groups are.

  • Corporate expats – For years, corporate expatriates were one of the largest groups. Being a corporate expatriate means that a company sends a person to another country for an assignment. The chosen one was/is usually a top manager with significant business experience and specialized skills.

However, in the past two decades, it has become common to avoid sending employees overseas because it is much easier to find skilled local talent. Therefore, many international companies will probably hire local managers instead of sending their employees away from home.

Corporate expatriates usually come with very enticing expatriate packages, including a higher salary than at home, maybe a driver, and all sorts of accommodations. They typically have none or very little knowledge of the local language or culture but have detailed business knowledge.

  • Localized expats are a group of people that, while living overseas, have some connection to their host country. It means that either they studied the language at a university, have a native spouse, or simply were interested and drawn by the culture of their adopted homeland.

Even if they have extensive knowledge of the local business and market, they are usually paid like locals. Besides the local language, they typically speak other languages, which puts them in a better position than most locals.

  • Immigrant expats – a group that often gets a bad reputation in the modern world. Many do not consider immigrants to be “real” expatriates. However, immigrants tend to develop skills and become high-performing members of society. That’s why they should be regarded as expatriates as well.
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A Specific Type of Expats – Repats

Repats are a relatively new group. These are the natives of the country who were born and raised overseas. In countries like India, China, and Russia, there has been an increasing number of people moving back to the countries where their grandparents and parents were born and raised.

Repats are in a good position because they likely speak the local language very well, probably already hold citizenship and don’t need a visa, and some of them have an excellent professional background due to foreign education. Therefore, most of them quickly become top managers in the land of their ancestors.

Things You Should Do Before Becoming an Expat

No matter how exciting it may seem, moving abroad is a serious process that requires good planning. So, before you start making arrangements regarding all the fun things you are going to do, make sure that you are well-informed about visas and permits, the cost of living, and local culture and language. In that sense, the help of fellow expatriates is crucial.

Visa and Residency Permits

Keep in mind that going on a vacation is one thing, and relocating is something entirely different. Therefore, the most important thing to consider is how to get your long-term visa and/or residency permits.

In case you are being sent by your company or got a job before you have moved, your current or future company will, most probably, handle visa formalities on your behalf. On the other hand, if you don’t have a job, you can visit iVisa or connect with an expatriate community and see what visa and permits requirements are.

Use Reliable Online Tools To Calculate the Cost of Living

Before you move, you should find out as much as possible about what the cost of living in your destination country will be. With this information, you will be able to evaluate local job offers and figure out how to live in another country without worrying about finances. But also, don’t forget about moving costs, including packing services and international moving services.

One of the most reliable resources is a website called Numbeo. There, you can calculate the difference in the cost of living between your current city and the city you are relocating to. Based only on the data provided by residents of those cities, Numbeo is more accurate than other similar resources.

Local Language

Learning a new language spoken by the locals is usually not high on the list of priorities for those who are in the process of becoming expatriates. It is mostly because they think that once they spend some time abroad it will come naturally. Also, many future US expatriates rely on the fact that the majority of the world is English-speaking, at least to an extent.

Even if the society you are moving to is very open to outsiders, and English is commonly spoken, make sure to learn at least some most commonly used phrases and find out a little bit about the culture. However, there are places in which life can be difficult if you don’t know the local tongue. That’s why, before you relocate, find out from other expatriates what the language rules are and find the solution to break the language barrier.

Try to Find Several Expatriate Communities

It is quite refreshing to find someone who shares a similar cultural background and speaks the same language as you. Active expatriate communities often organize all sorts of activities, from hanging out in bars and restaurants to seeing a play or going to concerts.

It’s also common for active expat communities to organize celebrations of national or religious holidays. So, if you are into those things, you will be more than happy to be a part of that community.

Your First Expat Circle Will Probably Include Your Co-Workers

If your relocation is for a job, your first community will most probably consist of your co-workers. Many companies have employees from different parts of the world; therefore, all those people are more than willing and able to help.

Keeping in mind how much time you are going to spend at work, it is crucial to develop positive relationships with your coworkers, especially with those who share the same or similar relocation history and cultural backdrop.

You can ask your expatriate coworkers to help you get to know the city and show you all the exciting places. Also, you can organize interactive activities because it is always easier to go through some things when you are not alone. Sharing experiences and giving advice is something you are going to do in the future when another fresh expatriate arrives.

Facebook and Other Social Media Expat Groups Will Welcome You

Compared to a few decades ago, nowadays it is easier than ever to connect with people. When you move abroad, you can use the advantages of social media to find expatriate communities and read about their experiences.

By finding adequate Facebook groups, you can see what the activities of the group are and ask for help or advice when needed. Besides Facebook, online platforms such as Meetup, Twitter, Instagram, and Internations are ideal for finding the right expatriate communities.

How to Live Like Every Successful Expatriate

Try not to underestimate the impact that relocation will have on your emotions and overall well-being. It is a fact that moving will force you to revisit your feelings, values, lifestyle, and strength of will in order to adapt to an unfamiliar environment.

All the feelings you are going to face are natural, and you should not neglect them. However, there are ways to overcome moving stress, and having a supportive group of friends who understand you is one of them.

Be Open-Minded

Whether you speak the local language or not, it is inevitable that at some point, you’ll have to deal with cultural differences. The discrepancies between your current and the location you are moving to can be minor, but sometimes it will be difficult for you to fully understand them.

That’s why you should be open-minded and accept the habits and cultural norms of the society you are moving to. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate them into your everyday life or your home, but you should embrace them. The bottom line is: all those differences will help you upgrade your personality and, most of all, help you adapt.

Engage With the Locals

For those in the process of becoming expats, another great way to accommodate is by meeting and spending time with locals. It is also an opportunity for breaking language barriers and learning about the lifestyle and culture of others.

If you want to start feeling at home, ask some of the members of expatriate communities to introduce you to a friend or two. In most places in the world, locals are friendly with tourists and newcomers.

That’s why it should not be a problem to find local friends. Also, they will help you solve any problem, show you the city, the habits and the culture. Also, by knowing the locals, you will have more career opportunities.

The List of Best Countries For United States Expatriates

  • Canada is the second-largest nation in the world by territory, and many of its cities such as Vancouver or Toronto are favorite destinations of Americans looking to move up north. It is often cited as one of the best places for US expatriates.
  • New Zealand is also among the favorite places for US expats. It is safe, diverse, and has stunning nature.
  • Bahrain’s expatriate population outnumbers the locals. Therefore, it remains one of the best places for expats to live in.
  • Costa Rica is a prime place for those who want to relax and unplug. Here, expats have to adapt to pura vida, a.k.a. pure life, and that’s what makes it so appealing.
  • Taiwan is a mixture of modern society, tradition, and a rich heritage. If your motivation to live overseas is cultural immersion, Taiwan is your place.

Additional Fact – The countries with the highest American expatriates are: Mexico – 900,000, the EU 800,000, India 700,000, Philippines – 600,000 and Israel 185,000.

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