The Top 10 Concerns of Expats #3 – Defining Moves Version

6) Health Concerns

“According to HSBC 29% of all those surveyed had real worries about healthcare – i.e., the quality of it and accessing it once they had moved abroad. … Those who retire abroad also worry about the long-term affordability of healthcare, and then there are those who move to countries with an unsophisticated medical system who worry that they may not get the care or support they need, should the requirement arise.” (Shelter Offshore)

Ironically, the greatest issue that we have faced is not sub-standard care, but that of poor advance planning and fragmented healthcare documentation.  There are plenty of companies and organizations who provide high quality local and global healthcare, and reference resources online and in travel guides will give you an excellent basic picture. Once you have arrived in your new location, your embassy /consulate, international school and local network are all great sources of more specific recommendations, many of which may provide a better level of care than you already have. What you will need, however, is full copies of your medical records in advance, and a clear understanding of what healthcare needs can be met locally, and what will require either travel to another location or repatriation. You may also want to explore local health insurance coverage, as many excellent healthcare service providers are more comfortable dealing with a known insurer, and use global coverage for any issues that cannot be dealt with locally.

7) Cultural Adaptation

A quarter of all expats surveyed were worried about adapting to their new nation because of potential cultural differences – with expats in the likes of the UAE and Asia particularly worried about this issue.  Where religions differ greatly there can be huge cultural differences for example, and where traditions are so alien to your own it can be really hard to see how you can ever fit in.

I have always felt that there were four stages to my own cultural adaptation.  Stage one is full of uncertainty about the new location, the transition and how we will adapt. My personal coping strategy is to do as much online and book research as I can, so that it feels more familiar, I get a heads up of any issues that may be a problem and I know what questions to answer on a preview visit or during cultural orientation. I also start trawling the expat blogs to find local advice and information on where to locate anything from medical care to Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut chocolate..

The second stage is the actual transition, and is a strange mix of sadness, packing boxes, hilarious parties and the realization of the number of people who really would notice if you dropped off the face of the earth. You are kept from going crazy by the excitement of the new adventure, a few nights in a hotel where someone else cooks ALL the meals, and the sense of being on holiday. And as you only left your loved ones a few days ago, the reality of the move hasn’t really hit.

Sadly, in stage three, it does. The bloom has well and truly gone off the rose at this point, as you struggle with the complexities of getting electricity connected, children admitted to schools, your pets cleared through customs and your toilet unblocked, all in foreign language and without the benefit of hot water or a hair dryer. It’s the stage when you sit in a darkened room wondering what in God’s name possessed you to move, when you take a whole day to track down and purchase a loaf of bread, and when the Other Half arrives home and asks if you’ve had a nice day, it’s as much as you can do not to stab him/her through the heart with the single knife that made it though customs. The only thing that ever gets me through this stage is Skype, endless hours of rediscovering the funny side with the help of family and friends on the other side of the world, and a network of global expats who not only have been there, but have made an even worse mess of it. By stage four, you’ve finally worked up the courage and the composure to make it out into the world without breaking down into hysterics, and your life has assumed some amount of normalcy. The good news is that by this stage, you will be able to meet people and leave a more favorable impression, so your changes of a pleasant conversation (with someone who isn’t paid to listen to you) improve exponentially. Your group of friends will undoubtedly include a number of expats, simply because they realize that some level of insanity is entirely normal, but you will also discover like minded locals who are happy to view you as ‘eccentric’ or ‘exotic’ and bring you along as entertainment. Hopefully, they will either like you or be forgiving enough to ignore your gaffes and still provide you with  insights into local life, good food and general good behavior..




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