I’ve been an expat pretty much since I graduated from college. I got my first real job got an apartment and realized that the working 9-5 going home pay my bills and do it all over again life sucked. Freedom is what I wanted! The desire to meet new people, learn new languages, and eat new foods experience new men was strong!

That’s the story I like to tell and its mostly true.  But there’s another side. Another reason I don’t publicize often is because my social skills just weren’t that great. It just felt like I didn’t fit into American society that well. The gays I knew just wanted to blow their paychecks at the local gay bar  on Friday & Saturday night and my straight friends were all getting married and busy with their families. Despite earning about 62k a year as a salesman I just didn’t feel like there was a place for me in the United States.

Maybe if you are reading this there is a chance that you feel that way too which is why you are considering moving abroad. This is a tough decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. While living abroad was the right choice for me it does not mean its the right choice for you.

How do I know if I should live abroad?

If you want to know whether its right for you to live abroad consider taking extended vacations. Sorry Sally 2 weeks a year isn’t going to cut it. In order to experience what its like to live abroad I recommended a minimum of 1 month abroad and not in a hotel either.

Successful expats understand that living abroad means humbling the lifestyle.

Rent a condo in a place you could see yourself living. Go grocery shopping, use local transportation, try to meet locals, and most importantly set a budget and see how well you can stick to it.

If you really want to know if living abroad is right for you ask yourself these questions:

How open minded are you? 

Are you willing to accept things that you may not agree with? Some expats may be uncomfortable seeing two men kissing. If that’s the case then Mexico City, for example, may not be the right place for you. Some people may not like the idea of men dressing and acting like women. If you’re one of them then pretty much stay out of all of south east Asia. Unless your plan is to become a missionary you’ve got to be open minded if you want to be successful abroad

How adaptable are you?

Living in the developing world is a lot different than many people think. Things we consider basic such as hot water, decent cell phone service, indoor plumbing, functioning internet are often a luxury in the developing world. This is why extended trial trips are so essential. It is nearly impossible to accurately describe in English how vastly different a two week vacation with tour guides and smiling hotel staff is from actually living in a place .

Successful expats know how to bounce back

Despite all the smiling faces and warm welcomes you may get you’re going to get cheated at least once. It’s natural to some people to take advantage of ignorance and no matter how many books you read when you move abroad you’re still going to be ignorant. Expect to be cheated at least once. Count on being cheated multiple times whether it be a landlord, a small business owner, a taxi driver, or a lover.  Understand nine times out of ten your old recourse will be to have learned your lesson.

How disciplined are you?! 

The absolute number one reason I’ve seen expats fail and have to return back home is because they didn’t have discipline!

Discipline with money

A lot of westerners get fooled by the cheap housing and cheap foods. They think they are millionaires and can just spend willy nilly.  It doesn’t work that way. Cheap housing is a trap. Doing things that you’re used to in the US are often more expensive abroad not less. In the the developing world due to lack of competition in many countries cell phone service is more expensive than in the US.

Cell Phone Rate Chart

CountryRate in US cents per minute
United States1
Nepal12
The Philippines15
Uganda27
UAE10

source

 An example a pair of large size 12-13 sandals costs about $15-$20 for a good pair in the US. Well in the Philippines finding sandals that size is next to impossible. I thought I had some sandals but they broke. It take forever to find some that fit me. In fact I had to travel to Manila in the Mall of Asia . In the end I ended up spending $70 on a pair of mediocre sandals! Maybe if I had shopped around more I could’ve gotten a better deal but still that’s outrageous. The thing is I didn’t realize that 3068 pesos is about 70 bucks.

That’s another reason expats spend too much money. Our brains are trained to think in dollars so when we see prices in another currency sometimes we get confused and end up spending way more than we intended to

Successful expats set a budget and stick to it!

Sorry you’re not a millionaire so if you want to be successful living abroad you’ve got to learn to say no to your desires sometimes.

Here’s a typical budget from the Philippines 

ItemCost in Philippine Pesos
Rent/Housing 3800
Food2000
Cell phone loads1000
Male Prostitutes3000
Church Donation500
Miscellaneous3000

 

Successful expats don’t make investments right away

If you come to the Philippines or any country in south east Asia chances are good you’ll be asked to invest your money in a business. Don’t do it! Many countries have restrictive laws on foreign investments especially when it comes to owning land. Chances are good if they screw you over there won’t be a damn thing you can do about. I belong to several expat forums and one story broke my heart. A man came on and told a story of how his ‘friend’ approached him to put an ice cream machine in her pharmacy. It seemed like a win win situation. He’d have a nice business and she’d get more sales. Well–and I think you know where I’m going with this–the ice cream machine started outperforming her pharmacy. The ‘friend’ told him she would take the machine as ‘payment’ for the increased electricity costs. She told him if he tried to stop her that she would cry rape. He was there alone so not only was his ego bruised but he lost a few thousand dollars.

Discipline with dating

One thing a lot of expats, especially male expats, don’t seem to be prepared for is dating abroad. If you’re in a developing country chances are good you’ll go from a nobody to a super star with the touch down of an airplane. Guys or girls that wouldn’t give you the time of day back home will be throwing themselves at you. You’ll have more sex in a month than you did in the last 10 years back home.

Sorry to break your heart but unless your a super model  with 90% of those people its not you that they’re after its your wallet.  Even if you know that and just try to ‘play the game’ you’ll still end up broke.

Successful expats are disciplined with dating

There are some good guys or gals out there who genuinely want a relationship based on love and nothing more but chances are good those won’t be the first to approach you and they won’t be the people you meet on international dating sites either.  That doesn’t mean become a dick to everyone that talks to you. It does mean to be cautious and truly accept in your heart that you cannot buy love. It’s priceless.  When it comes to dating TAKE YOUR TIME! 

Should you live abroad or not?

Living abroad is really nice but with some tough challenges that many are not able to supersede. So long as you have discipline as mentioned in the article living abroad should be a wonderful choice and you won’t regret it! After all you can always go home if it doesn’t work out!

 

 

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