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What You Need to Know about Living Abroad

By Eric Hammer - 2011

With the world changing all around us and unemployment in the United States remaining extremely high, more people than ever are considering the possibility of living abroad in order to find work and build a life for themselves. However, living abroad is not for everyone and does require quite a little bit of adjustment in order to deal with the experience. Here's what you need to know:

Expect the Unexpected

This simple axiom will save you an awful lot of grief when you choose to live abroad. Different cultures have different ways of doing things. Even moving from one part of the United States to another (from say New York City to Columbus, Ohio) can create a certain amount of culture clash because people have different ideas about how things should happen.

For example, in the Middle East it's considered rude not to sit down for coffee with the proprietor of a store whereas in the United States, we would find it extremely odd to be invited by the owner of a store to sit down for a cup of coffee and may wonder if there is an ulterior motive involved.

Learn the Local Language

Even if you are moving to another country where English is the local language, it's important to familiarize yourself with local slang terms and to begin using them rather than the words that you currently know. For example, if you were to ask for the elevator in Great Britain, most people would know what you want, but would also think it is quite strange since the British generally refer to it as a "lift."

If you are moving to a country where the local language is foreign to you it is all the more important to learn the local language. Even if most people do tend to speak some English, you'll find yourself excluded from cultural and social events if you can't speak the local language since these events often happen in the local language. People who insist on only speaking their own language (usually English speakers) also tend to find themselves enshrined in a bubble where they hang out almost exclusively with others who speak their native language. While this can be comforting, it doesn't help you to integrate into the local culture.

Getting a Job When Living Abroad

Another issue is getting a job when living abroad. Unless your company has transferred you or you have applied for a high level job with a multi-national seeking someone with your specific skills willing to move to a foreign country, you'll find it's very hard to land a job without physically being there. Most foreign employers will want to meet you face to face before they'll hire you and they'll also want to know that you're not going to back out at the last minute, when they've already reserved the job for you.

Therefore, if you are planning on living abroad for the long term and hope to land a job where you'll be living, plan to support yourself for a few months until you can find a job, or plan to take a very menial job which none of the locals want to do.

Remember, You're an Immigrant

Finally, when living abroad, it's important to remember that the people you live and work with didn't come to your country and try to fit in. You came to their country and that means you need to fit in with them. Things may seem backward to you in the way other countries run their affairs, however if you want to fit in and actually make a life for yourself, it's important to try to understand the local culture and to adapt to that culture rather than trying to force the locals to adapt to your culture.


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Houses Under Fifty Thousand | Living Abroad