Did you know that approximately 9 million US citizens live overseas? Some are living abroad for work, but many Americans take that leap for a change of pace or a lower cost of living.
Have you thought about how to move abroad but aren’t sure where to start? Let’s take a look at seven things ex-pats wish they knew before they put down roots in another country.
1. You Still Pay US Taxes
The United States is one of only two countries that taxes its citizens’ income when they do not live in the country. The other country is Eritrea.
You’ll be taxed on your income but you may qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. This exempts you from paying federal income tax if you earn less than $112,000 per year. But you still must pay into Social Security and Medicare and you may need to pay state taxes as well.
2. Banking Can Be Challenging
If you’ve traveled abroad you’re likely aware of the ATM fee sticker shock. Most US-based banks charge high foreign transaction fees at ATMs.
You’re also required to maintain a US address to keep your US bank account open. And foreign banks are often reluctant to open accounts for US citizens because the bank must report all transactions to the IRS.
It’s a hassle many foreign banks don’t want to deal with.
3. Culture Shock Isn’t Always Shocking
Many would-be ex-pats worry about adapting to the culture in their new home. But many of them also find the new culture to be anything but shocking. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll adapt to new customs and rules.
Oddly enough, some ex-pats report more culture shock when they return home!
4. Don’t Live in an Ex-Pat Bubble
When many new ex-pats arrive in the country they immediately seek out people from home. This is a good way to make friends but you’ll learn more from people who were born and raised there.
Building relationships with locals will also help you improve your language skills.
5. It’s Not a Vacation
The first few days in your new country can feel like a vacation but the reality is anything but. You’re not a tourist anymore so it’s time to get to work.
You’ll need to tackle practical tasks like how to find the best supermarket, researching foreign real estate and registering your children in school.
There’s also work related to your visa or residency status, some of which must be done immediately upon arrival.
6. Language Skills are More Important Than You Think
More than one billion people speak English around the world but only 379 million are native speakers. You can get by with English in most parts of the world but learning the language in your new home is a vital part of learning the culture.
It’s also a sign of respect. Even if you only know a few words and phrases, use them. People always appreciate that you’re trying.
7. You’ll Wonder Why You Didn’t Do It Sooner
Despite the challenges and red tape, many ex-pats wonder why they waited so long. Many Americans think about moving abroad but not all of them do it.
The entire world is open to you. What are you waiting for?
Living Overseas Is the Adventure of a Lifetime
Are you ready to learn more about living overseas? Check out our other articles about how to move abroad and make your ex-pat dreams a reality!