There’s a piece of popular wisdom that talks about how people with goals have a higher tendency to succeed in the long run, mainly because they know where they are going. This view has a certain amount of truth to it; having any type of objective, whether it is related to your personal or professional life, makes things a lot more interesting and keeps you on your toes.Expats, arguably, are more goal-driven than the average person – it takes a lot to leave behind the people, places, and culture you have always known and start a new life abroad. However, not all expats share the same goals, and not all of them achieve their goals by moving abroad. Unfortunately, too many people, expats included, believe that the things they want will just happen or come to them when the time is right. The truth, however, is that simply having an objective isn’t going to be enough unless you also know exactly how you are going to achieve it. Moving abroad may be a good step to take in your life, but in itself, it isn’t going to help you achieve any of your goals. For that, you need a more concrete plan, of which embarking on an expat life can only be a part.
Here are 10 common expat goals and a few suggestions on how you can go about achieving them.
Gain some life learnings from the experience
One of the best parts of leading an expat life is that you get to experience a different culture. This includes the language, customs, cuisine, history, and attractions of another country. However, all of this won’t just come to you – you need to go out there and explore your new home.
For starters, try to learn the language even before you make the move. The best way to do this is by signing up for a class. Today, there are also many mobile apps (free and paid) with basic, intermediate and advanced language courses that are very useful for beginners. You should aim to become fluent in the language over a period of time. This will help you settle in and communicate with the locals much faster. Knowing the local language is even more beneficial for professionals and businesspeople.
Settling down in a new place usually takes a significant amount of time, but make sure that you set at least a few days aside just to explore your surroundings. While visiting the tourist attractions is fine, try to visit some of the less popular sites that will give you deeper insights about the country you have just moved to.
Your discoveries need not all be external. As an expat, you will experience personal growth as well. Moving abroad alone for the first time is daunting for just about anyone, but most expats claim that it is one of the best things to have happened to them, as it helped them gain a lot of independence and insight into themselves.
Integrate yourself into local society
Being part of a new community is a common expat goal. Many people turn down great work offers in foreign cities simply because they are afraid to give up their social life and move to a place where they don’t know anyone; others look forward to such opportunities. Making use of them can however be a bit tricky.
You are bound to have some interaction with the locals if you’re working or if you have school-going kids. Introduce yourself to the people that you will meet on a regular basis. If possible, once you get to know some of them better, invite them out for a drink. Of course, first check if this is socially acceptable in their culture, and perhaps consider alternative hangout plans.
Subscribe to a local community newspaper to know about the various events coming up in your area, so that you can sign up for the ones that are of interest to you. This will also keep you informed about announcements, current affairs, real estate offers, and job listings.
If possible, join a specialty global community group, as their monthly meetings offer members an excellent opportunity to network. This will help you meet locals and other foreigners living in the same area.
Finally, the library isn’t just a great source of information and entertainment. Many expats, even those who aren’t big readers, make it a point to join a library as soon as they move to a new place, simply because it helps them meet different people and participate in a variety of activities.
Become financially stable
This is probably the most important aim for expats, and perhaps the main reason why many people choose the expat life. Unfortunately, not everyone manages to meet this goal, simply because of poor planning or overspending.
Even before you take up a job offer in another country, calculate the exact amount you will be making and spending. Do factor in moving expenses, monthly expenditures, money you need to send home, contingency allowances, a few luxuries, and anything else that you can think of. Unless the amount left over is substantial, you may want to rethink your decision to move. Remember that substantial savings in a foreign country may amount to peanuts after conversion, which is what will matter when you move back home.
When starting a new job, many of us plan to save a percentage of what we make but don’t really do so because of our expenses or social life. The only way you can really start saving is if you have a part of your income go directly into a savings account or an investment that you cannot touch for a while. Once you are used to living within a certain budget you will be in a better position to control your spending.
Open an account for your “retirement fund” and make sure that you contribute at least 10% of your earnings towards it each month. If possible, set up an automatic debit for this amount on the day you get paid.
Credit cards are great for getting people to increase their debt, but if you do rely on cards, try to clear them as soon as possible.
Start a business
If you are passionate about something or have an idea that can make you money, why not consider starting your own business? Contrary to what many people believe, being an international entrepreneur isn’t very difficult. To do this, you need to:
– Conduct thorough research into the market
– Ensure that you have the required funds
– Network to identify your potential client base
– Develop your business plan and test it on a small target group
– Look for partners, suppliers and employees
– Get started with the paperwork (register the company, apply for a tax code, etc)
– Market your business to build your brand and work towards expansion
Starting your own business in a foreign land isn’t free of risk of course. You may have to engage a local partner and agents, and take into account many other local rules and regulations. This is an idea you should therefore consider only after having lived in a particular country for a number of years. Also bear in mind that on average, a business takes about three years to break even, and it could be another couple of years before you start seeing any profits. Make sure that you are financially secure before you take such a step.
Lead a more healthy life
This isn’t just a goal for expats; everyone should take steps towards a healthier lifestyle. However, many people hope that moving abroad will make them healthier. While this is often mere daydreaming, a few simple steps can indeed make your life in a foreign city even better:
– If you work close to home and your city allows it, walk or cycle to work everyday
– Join a health club or consider playing a sport a few times each week to get some exercise
– Avoid eating outside food; cook healthy, nutritious meals at home, using local produce
– Explore the outdoor activities available, like trekking, hiking, canoeing, mountain climbing, etc.
– Get involved with a local sport
– Sign up for yoga classes and, if possible, meditate for a few minutes everyday
– Make sure that you have immediate access to a hospital, doctor and dentist (set up regular appointments)
– Lead an active social life
While the lifestyle changes above are quite easy to incorporate, most people have trouble sticking to some of them. Get some company for better motivation and maybe even some healthy competition.
Plan for your future
Moving abroad is often part of an attempt to plan the next few decades of your life. Unfortunately, too many people don’t really plan much further than the next year, beyond which all they have are pleasant hopes and expectations. If the expat life is part of a long-term plan, you need to work out the long-term details too. Think about where you would like to children to complete their schooling and how. It may be a good idea to purchase an apartment or house in whichever country you want to settle down eventually. Even if the plan is to live there permanently only after several years, owning property could work as an additional source of income in the long run.
Calculate how much money you will need in order to lead a happy, comfortable life when you retire. It may be a good idea to continue working and saving till your retirement fund looks substantial enough to support that lifestyle. Consider the tax implications and the viability of living off your pension.
Simply having a house and funds isn’t enough to lead a happy life. Make a list of the things you would like to see and do in the future, and choose the place you want to retire in accordingly.
Retirement doesn’t mean that you should do nothing. With a little planning you can keep yourself busy even at that age, by taking up classes, teaching, painting, or simply traveling.
Write your book
Spending time overseas has been an important source of inspiration for many novelists. You don’t have to aim to write the next bestseller; just pen down various aspects of your new life as well as your thoughts and emotions. Go into detail while describing various aspects of the new culture or even every everyday obstacles and how they made you feel. If nothing else, maintaining a diary of your experiences will be therapeutic, and in the future, reading about the various challenges that you overcame will make you feel great.
In today’s digital age, many expats begin writing by posting personal tweets and blogs about their lives and adventures. Some simply write emails to share their experiences with their loved ones back home.
You don’t have to publish what you write unless you want to. However, the sense of accomplishment at having completed an entire book gives most people enough of a confidence boost that they feel ready to share their work with the world. Do bear in mind though, that writing a book is much easier than getting one published. There is of course the option of self-publishing, but the chances of reaching a wide audience are quite slim here.
Volunteer for a cause
Giving back to society is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, and many people feel they need to move abroad and work in communities where the need is greater than back home. If you do this, be sure to do your research and choose a place, a cause, and an organization where your passion and your skills will be most useful and where you will have the most impact.
Of course, for many people, this isn’t the main driving factor, but simply one of many goals. If other factors have drawn you to the expat life but you still want to have some social impact, don’t be afraid to start small. Even spending a few hours a week chatting with senior citizens in an old age home or reading to children in an orphanage can help.
There is plenty to do for people who are willing to volunteer. One way to sign up for charity work is by offering help at your nearest hospital or public school. Alternatively, check online for various charity groups in your city and give them a call to enquire about signing up.
Bring other expats together
Once you get settled in and are a part of the local community, how about extending your help to other newcomers? Many expats feel very lonely when they first move to a new city and have a lot of trouble in making their transition.
If possible, set up a website, blog, or online forum with information on how people can adjust to the new place and settle in sooner. It would also help if you could initiate monthly meetings at a nearby coffee shop to help other foreigners connect with one another. Publish fliers about your forum and events on bulletin boards located at supermarkets, libraries, social clubs and museums.
For single expats, the chances of romance in a foreign land are always a big draw, even if they’re not the main goal. Traveling to a new country often brings hopes of romance with an exotic foreigner to those who are single. Of course, this comes with a lot of risks, the most obvious one being heartbreak of course. However, in addition, there is always the chance of being robbed, cheated, or assaulted.
If you are looking for romance though, the safest option is making friends with as many people as you can (both locals and expats) and asking someone out after getting to know them for a while. Today, there are also several social apps that can help you meet new people and even hook up with someone you may be interested in. If these options aren’t very useful, you could try signing up with a well-reputed dating agency.
Do you have any tips for achieving your expat goals? Let us know in the comments!