There are tons of ways you can travel! You can do a student exchange program, volunteer in a developing community, backpack independently, or you can become an expat – just like me.
You may be wondering … What is an expat exactly?
An expat (short for “expatriate”) is someone who resides in another country outside of their citizenship. Nowadays, it’s usually a term used to describe someone who is working abroad temporarily and will return to their home country at a later date.
Being an expat can be really tough sometimes. Here are some DO’s and DONT’S for making expat life and work abroad a tad bit easier!
DO know which visa to apply for.
Do you need a business visa? An employment visa? An entry visa? Note that depending on which visa you are applying for, it might take forever and a day to process. Feel free to call the General Consulate or a Human Resources professional at your company to confirm which visa you should be applying. Generally, there is an online application form of some sort you need to fill out, then they will give you a list of documents you need to send out by mail. Everything is pretty self explanatory once you’ve googled “(insert country of your choice here) visa application”. Don’t be afraid to make some phone calls if you need help!
DON’T book any flights until AFTER you’ve received your visa!
Be smarter than me and try not to get so excited for your trip that you end up spending money on non-refundable flights before you’re even sure you can enter your host country. Sometimes, the Consulate will ask you for additional documents before they can proceed with the issuing process. Take snail mail into account, and you might end up pushing your start date back a few months!
DO know the terms of your income.
What is your salary? How often do you receive it? In cash or check? Talk to your company about setting up a bank account, as most companies have their own salary accounts set up for expats-to-be like yourself. Knowing all of this will help you create a weekly and monthly budget so that you don’t starve before your contract is up.
DON’T forget about time zones!
Trust me, you will be making a ton of international phone calls in the first few weeks of working abroad. Mostly to unblock credit cards (even though you’ve given your bank multiple travel notifications) and to let your mom know that you’re still alive and your flight was awful.
DO plan to arrive a week early before your first day at work.
What’s the best mode of transportation from your home to your office? You might be surprised that in some countries, taxi cabs or Ubers are not only a more efficient (not to mention, safer!) way of getting around, but also more cost effective. Don’t assume that taking public transportation such as the metro is always the cheapest option. Ask your company if they can arrange pickup from the airport and drop-off on your first day at work.
Dedicate your first week to filling out any foreigner registration forms and acquiring a local SIM card for your phone. Keep in mind that you may need to unlock your phone before it will work on foreign service provider networks!
Arriving a week earlier than your start date gives you enough time to learn how to navigate the city in the best way possible. Walk around your neighbourhood. Familiarize yourself with the sights and scents of your locality. Try some street meat while you’re at it. You will feel at home in no time!
DON’T plan to attend too many social gatherings until you’ve settled in.
Keep in mind that you will have lots of time to go out with your newfound friends and explore nightlife, markets, shopping malls, and cultural events that your host country has to offer. Believe me, famous landmarks like the Taj Mahal will still be there even after you’ve settled into your brand new place. In fact, most governments pump a ton of money into maintaining famous landmarks so that expats, exchange students, and independent tourists alike can appreciate their beauty even after you’ve left the country. Remembering this fact definitely helps me beat the FOMO!
AIESEC played a massive role in helping me settle into Mumbai. Read about why you should seek an international opportunity through AIESEC here!
Are you an expat? If so, where are you situated and what are your best tips for working in a foreign country? Share them in the comments below!
More details on my fashion marketing internship with Roposo to come! x