Monday, 21 July 2014

5 Common Expat Mistakes

 
I've been living in Scotland for 6 and a half years. When I moved here there weren't blogs or books to read on moving to Scotland. I didn't know anyone who had moved abroad and so I learned everything the hard way. These are mistakes I have made myself but also I have seen expats make these mistakes time and time again. I want to help you be a little more prepared than I was. I don't want your transition to be as rocky as mine was. If I was to make this move for the first time (knowing what I know now) these are the first things I would do differently.

1. Not Doing Enough Research. You should be researching everything about your new country. No question is too small. No question is to silly. No  question is stupid. It might be to the people who know the answers but they know them because they've lived it. Go ahead and ask. No aspect of your research is too small. I've seen expats come and go here in Scotland that are fined for not paying council taxes and for not having a TV license. Why? They didn't even know about them. Research the customs in your new country as well as the everyday things. Learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power. Especially when you move abroad.

*In the UK, a TV licence is an annual tax that must be paid by any household that uses a TV to watch or record TV shows as they are being broadcast. The revenues are used to fund the BBC.

2. Unrealistic Expectations. It goes without saying (I hope) that you will be excited about your move abroad. Who wouldn't be?! What an exciting adventure! Until you get here and you relize that living abroad is very different from visiting on holiday. Be aware that it takes several months to start feeling more comfortable. I didn't say at ease or even comfortable. Just more comfortable than when you arrived. Everything will be much different than you pictured. There is a period of time you need to give yourself to come to terms with your new life.

3. Getting bored. Seriously. This happens. Before I moved here I had an Eat Pray Love experience pictured in my head. What I got was sitting in my pj's and watching TV for most of my first year. Really. Make yourself a list of things to do and things to see. Slowly check off items on your list. Make sure you keep yourself busy. Give yourself something to do.

4. Comparing Cultures. This is one of my pet peeves after living in Scotland for 6+ years. I absolutely hate it when expats move here and all they seem to do is compare their new life to their old one. They can't help it. Everything is different. But instead of using the word different they use the word weird. I don't like that word. It's just different that's all. Most expats come over here expecting to have an American experience in Scotland. They want the feelings/experiences you get on holiday. Sure you can have that but it's just going to be different because you live here. You aren't on a break from your life back home, you are living it. Stop comparing and embrace the differences. Can't find your favourite ingredient? Try a new dish with ingredients from your new country. You're going to have to live a little differently because you are indeed living in a different country. Stop comparing. Move on. Embrace the differences.

5. Restricting your social interactions with expats only. I'll go the other way too and say restricting yourself to socializing only with people from your chosen country isn't a good idea either. You need a balance. It's nice to have a few friends from your home country to converse with and know they understand what you're talking about but also it is important to make new friends and you never know, that kindred spirit could be just around the corner. You've just not opened yourself up.

There are oh so many mistakes expats make when they arrive in their new country and I'll be sharing more of those in the coming weeks. If you're an expat what is one mistake you made?

12 comments:

  1. Great post!! I also hate hearing things are weird!

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    1. What is it about the word weird?! I just cringe. It's different.

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  2. Enjoyed your post. I can hopefully talk about the mistakes I made in a couple of month. ;)
    Right now I can say: comparing cultures can be really frustrating, espcecially when you might not like certain things the way they are done in your new country. But, if you move to a different country, you must expect that things are done in different ways! If you don't like it and don't want to accustom yourself, you souldn't have moved. After all, don't forget youre the immigrant. (Speaking in general) That's my opinion.

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    1. Comparing cultures is so hard not to do! I've done it myself. Hindsight shows me that it really kept me from fully embracing my new life and learning how life is here. Now when I hear others do it, I actually cringe.

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  3. I used to be an American expat, having lived in Canada for 12 years before returning to the USA. I definitely can relate to the items you posted. You're definitely correct that living in new place is different from visiting there on holiday. You have to deal with things as a local. Dealing with utilities for phone, electric (or as they called in Canada - hydro), new tax systems, government medical insurance, new ways of spelling (Canada spells some things the British way, like colour and centre, but they spell some things the American way like tire and program), weather forecasts in Metric measures, new banking rules, the list goes on and on.

    Also, as you say, it's OK to compare the way things are done in your new country to how they are done in the US, but you need to remember that just because it's different doesn't mean that it's wrong. It's not wrong, it's just different.

    As a side note, I can understand the adjustments you've had to make. I have relatives in Scotland (my mother and three of my grandparents were born there) and I've visited Scotland and lot throughout my life, and there are significant differences, so I can imagine how much of a culture shock it was for you. But, I'm glad you enjoy it.

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    1. You know exactly what I'm talking about Stephen!

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  4. Love this! I love insight into living abroad...since I'm fairly certain I'll never be living it.

    And a TV license??

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    1. There is so much behind the scenes that you don't get to see about living abroad. Everything is different! Things you don't imagine would be difficult are. It's all a learning and growing process.

      See the explanation below on what a TV license is!

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  5. In the UK, a TV licence is an annual tax that must be paid by any household that uses a TV to watch or record TV shows as they are being broadcast. The revenues are used to fund the BBC.

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    1. Thanks for the explanation Stephen. I'll make sure and add it to the post so others know.

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  6. Hi Mary,
    I love your blog! For an American moving to Scotland how hard is it to find employment? I currently work in law enforcement and would like stay in that field. How do I go about finding a job so I can make the move?

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    1. Hi Jane! Thanks for reading! Under the Expat Tips tab on my blog there is a post about 9 Different Ways You Can Move to Scotland. I hope that points you in the right direction!

      I will say it is difficult to get a job in Scotland as an American citizen, but it isn't impossible. You just have to be ready to look outside the box. Knowledge is power and you should research everything you can about Work Visas and your chosen field. Good luck to you!

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