Working Abroad: Tips on Beginning Your Journey

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with France. My dad used to travel to Paris for business and bring me back souvenirs from the City of Lights, and I always thought that one day I would live as a chic Parisian, sipping wine and downing cheese at 11 a.m. While I have yet to translate my amour for all things Française into a career abroad, ChooseWhat’s administrative assistant Emilea Belaire dove headfirst into a chance to work overseas.

“I majored in international business, so I always wanted to work abroad somewhere and an opportunity in Costa Rica just happened to come up,” Belaire says.

While moving (and working) abroad can seem scary, Belaire has learned a lot from her own experiences. Read below for her tips on how to successfully move to another country.

What to Research Before You Go

While you can’t prepare for everything before you move, you should at least research the country you’re moving to—and visit first if you can. Belaire recommends reading as many books as you can. For her move to Costa Rica she read a book about retiring there that gave her plenty of pointers. Also, she had a friend who already lived there, which made asking someone questions incredibly easy. If you know someone who currently lives abroad, pepper him/her with as many questions as possible. You may not have all the answers before you go, but it’s best to be informed as possible.

“It’s definitely hard to think about all of this stuff before you go,” Belaire says.

During your research there are several key components of living abroad you should consider, such as:

Housing

Think about what type of housing you want to live in. Do you want the comforts of home, such as air conditioning, TV, and a washer and dryer? Or would you rather live as the locals do? Also think about where you want to live. Do you want to be near fellow countrymen or other work abroad types?

Transportation

What is the transportation like in your new country? How will you get around, especially from your home to your new job? Belaire recommends paying attention to the distances between where you will be living and the places you will need to go on a regular basis, such as the grocery store. You should also consider how much plane tickets from your home country to the country you’ll be working in will cost.

Belaire got around Costa Rica by taking the bus, renting cars, and even driving a four wheeler!

Money

It’s important to note the conversion rate from USD to the currency of the country you’re moving to.
Are ATMs available? Will your credit cards work? And, if the company you work for is based in the U.S., for example, you’ll need to still pay taxes come April 15th.

In Costa Rica, Belaire says that you can exchange dollars at restaurants and other businesses but that they give you a worse rate than through the bank.

Communication

How will you communicate with your friends and family back in the States? Can you get a cell phone and/or the Internet?

Belaire stresses that it is important to get a reliable phone. In Costa Rica, you have to be a citizen to get a cell phone, so she befriended a local who trusted Belaire to get a phone in her name. Otherwise she wouldn’t really have access to a phone.

Visas

Learn what the Visa requirements are. How easy is it to obtain a Worker’s Visa? If you don’t get a Worker’s Visa, how often do you have to be to leave the country? Will the company you work for pay these expenses?

Belaire says that the company she worked for, Surf Divas, was based in the U.S., but they did not offer her a Visa because the process is incredibly long in South America.  Without a Visa, Belaire was required to leave the country every 90 days for at least 72 hours.

Cultural Differences

Every country is different, and so are their citizens. Be aware of how people interact in your new country. What kind of lifestyle are your new coworkers used to living?

According to Belaire, Costa Ricans are known to live on “Tico time” and are very laid back and non confrontational. As the hospitality coordinator for Surf Divas, Belaire was required to inspect the hotel rooms of guests before they arrived to make sure they were up to standard, and often she found it difficult to get hotel workers to get their jobs done correctly.

“I found out that it worked if I helped them do their job so they knew I wasn’t just being mean,” Belaire says. “Plus, being very appreciative afterwards went a long way.”

Medicine

If you’re not going to get insurance through your company, you should look for insurance specific to your country. Some insurance providers have worldwide coverage; however, they may be pricier. Belaire found insurance that was specific for Costa Rica, but she says many people go without because coverage in Latin America is harder to find than in Europe. Do your research before you go.

Just Do it!

Moving abroad is a big step, but Belaire recommends you go for it even if you’re a little scared.  You’ll learn more in your first month in your new home country than you probably would if you read dozens of books.

“Even if you don’t have all the answers, just do it!” Belaire says. “It’s more exciting that way.”

Chances are that you will have the experience of a lifetime and come away with many important lessons. Belaire says that Costa Rica taught her “how nice it is to slow down, enjoy life, and just get away from it all!”

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  1. Joan

    Super informative writing; keep it up.

One Comment

  1. Joan

    Super informative writing; keep it up.