For Americans who decide to say goodbye to their homeland and decamp to a new country with a new culture; real estate laws; language, political, and education systems; and economic structures, life can be difficult to comprehend. Cameron Swain spoke to a few expats about their experiences living abroad for the fall 2017 issue of Elliman Magazine. They offer some candid advice here for anyone considering relocating outside the U.S.
Try Not to Take Offense
When Meghan Lynch, formerly of South Hadley, Massachusetts, moved with her husband and three sons to Thailand in 2014—a place whose seasons she describes as “hot, hotter, and hottest”—she had a rather jarring welcome. It was an experience the writer, who now blogs about her expat life, would certainly never have had in America: “In Thailand, you can be called fat, even when, by any standard, you are not. You may even be called fat when you are pregnant! Try not to take offense.”
“One of the first things that strikes most expatriates trying to settle in France is the incredible amount of bureaucracy involved in any undertaking, be it registering for a school or renting accommodations,” says Jacqueline Taylor, editor of Paris-based Expatriates Magazine. “Obtaining any official documents can be a long and tiresome process.” Likewise, making friends can take longer because the French don’t welcome strangers into their homes readily. “This is just a cultural issue,” says Taylor.
Know What you Need to Live in a New Country
Jennifer Sager, an American-born relocation and real estate expert now living in Berlin, heads Relocation Berlin, which helps newcomers to the city clear the many hurdles they’ll encounter when moving to Germany. “Make sure you know what you need to live in a new country before you book your one-way flight,” Sager says.
For example, if you want to stay in Germany for more than three months, Sager points out, you need a residence permit and possibly a work permit. If you are self-employed, you will need to show proof of sufficient funds. In order to obtain a residence permit, you need to be registered with the local authorities. This means you need a rental contract. You also need proof of health insurance. Once you’ve found a suitable apartment you’ll need to submit a formal application in German, with passport copies, proof of employment in Germany, your last three salary pay stubs from your last job, your credit history in Germany, and a brief note from your current landlord. “And always keep your sense of humor!” Sager says.
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