5 Things to Consider Before You Even Think About Moving Overseas

National Beer

Chuck Bolotin

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Should you move overseas?

Would you benefit from the potential lower cost of living, an improved lifestyle, and richer, more rewarding life, or will your experience increase your stress and make you unhappy?

More than 400 expats answered questions related to this issue on Best Places In The World To Retire, and another nearly 400 expats participated in a survey that also addressed this topic.

These experts said that you need to consider the following five steps first before you do anything else.

1. Ensure You and Your Spouse Agree… Fully

If only one of you wants to go, when stressful situations arise (and they will), they will most likely cause problems in your relationship. Few things are worth that. However, if you have a good relationship, we moving overseas can strengthen bonds.

One married, semi-retired American woman in the 45-64 age group described moving abroad as a “leap of faith” that requires “self-confidence and confidence in your partner/spouse.” The woman has lived in Nicaragua for more than two years. “You are often each other’s sole support in your new home,” she said. “The adventure, fun and experiences are all the more wonderful when you can share them with a loved one or significant other.” 

2. Consider How You Would Cope With Moving To Another Area In Your Own Country

If you had to move today from your home to another region within your own country, would it stress you out? Is finding a new dry cleaner or the location of the bank something that fills you with anxiety? If this is the case, you will be even more unhappy moving overseas because every place you’ll move will have these issues, plus many more.

A number of expats emphasized the need to conduct a brutally honest self-assessment. How well do you deal with a different culture and way of doing things? Are you eager to understand and experience new cultures with an open mind, to find what is good in them and accept the rest (even if you don’t agree), or do you tend to judge how good or bad everything is based on the standard of what you’re used to? The honest answer to this question will largely determine how well you do overseas. 

3. Remember “Wherever You Go, There You Are.”

It’s unclear if the above quote is from Confucius or the movie Buckaroo Banzai. It illustrates that if you are moving overseas because you believe that by doing so the move will cause your life to be different, you’re likely to be disappointed. Moving overseas provides a wonderful chance for reinvention, but only if you’re pre-disposed to reinvention and will do what it necessary to make it happen.

Darrell Bushnell, whom Best Places In The World To Retire considers among the most interesting expat interviewees, moved from Charlotte, N.C. to Granada, Nicaragua in 2006. Bushnell said that he cherished “the ability to reinvent” himself “and pursue what is more important.”

The survey and interviews underline that reinvention doesn’t happen to you, it happensfrom you. That is, you have to receptive to change. Moving overseas just provides the platform and opportunity to make reinvention more possible and fulfilling. 

4. “Run to Something, Not from Something”

Mike Cobb, who is well-known and respected among expats, likes to use this phrase. It reflects his optimistic spirit — one that any potential expat would be wise to adopt. Cobb started a bank in Belize, and his real estate firm ECI sells and manages properties in Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. He has spoken hundreds of times at expat conferences.

Cobb says that people shouldn’t move to other countries out of anger or frustration, but rather for the benefits of being an expat. “At many conferences I see that focus on anger at the American system, big government etc., where the folks are looking to run away fromBig Brother and Big Government,” Cobb said. “Instead, they should run toward a great life overseas. There’s just so much that is awesome about living overseas. The ones who do this are the happiest folks and make great neighbors and friends.”

5. Weigh Your Attitude Towards Disparity

Many low-cost locations overseas have lots of poor people. Consider how this would affect you? Best Places In The World To Retire has interviewed people who become annoyed and even depressed about this, and other people who have built beautiful lives helping others. This latter group marvels at how people with so few material possessions can be happy. 

This stimulates their own personal growth and enhances their perspective.

If you’re comfortable with your answers to these five checks, you can now do the most fun part of the exercise. 

Pick your paradise.

You’re probably ready for it.

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