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November 03, 2013
Living Abroad: 5 Common Mental Mistakes Expats Make
by Courtney - Viva Tropical
If you’re considering living abroad, then I’m sure you’ve heard this story. Guy goes to Costa Rica on a surfing trip. He falls in love with the place. What was supposed to be a long weekend turns into two weeks. While he’s there he starts scoping out a place to live.
Guy goes home and collects his wife. They sell everything and buy a house near the beach in the tropics for forty grand. They move to paradise. He makes a living teaching gringos how to surf. She opens up a cafe in a beachside cabana. And they all live happily ever after.
Sounds great, right? Right? Wrong.
That’s not to say that the above scenario can’t happen. Apparently it did for that guy. It’s just that it isn’t the norm. In fact, it’s quite the anomaly. Hence the reason so many marketers like to tell that story, to make you think you could be next.
Unfortunately, though, thousands of expats every year live out stories that more closely resemble this one…
Guy gets tired of working behind a desk 50 hours per week. He’s sick of watching his taxes increase and his freedoms decrease. Guy says, “Honey, let’s move to the tropics!” His wife says, “Um…okay?”
Guy researches countries on the Internet and settles on one he thinks they’ll like. They pick a city in Central America and plan a trip down to visit. They stay at a local resort, sip piña coladas, and think “This is the life.” So they buy a little house and relocate their family.
Fast forward a few months. It’s the rainy season now, so it rains every day. The roof leaks, and they can’t find a single contractor who’ll finish the job. His “get rich quick” scheme is taking a little longer than expected.
The place they’ve moved has few expats, and they’re having trouble making friends. She’s sick of the weather and bored out of her mind. Frustrated, she announces that she’s moving back to the States. Alone.
While this second scenario is a much more accurate picture of many couples and individuals who try their hand at living abroad, it doesn’t have to be.
This couple just missed out on the next, and ultimately the most important, step in the whole process.
They may have picked out dishes and curtains for their new place. But they overlooked a lot of more crucial issues like how they were going to meet people, what activities were going to fill their newfound free time, and how they were going to cope when they encountered difficulties.
These and other considerations are all part of the mental preparation for moving abroad. Just as important as choosing a location, packing your belongings, and getting your paperwork in order is the need to formulate a shared vision for what your life will look like in your new home. And a carefully drawn plan of attack for you to implement once you arrive.
There are a lot of reasons that people cite for why they didn’t fare so well in what they thought was going to be the destination of their dreams. But almost all of them share the same underlying lack of sufficient mental preparation. Here are some of the most common mental mistakes expats make when living abroad, along with our suggestions of how you can avoid them.
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