Take our word for it. No matter how much due diligence you’ve done… no matter how ready you are for the move… at some point, probably during your first year abroad, you’ll wonder what in the world ever possessed you to think this leaving home thing was a good idea.
Our best advice is to wait out the panic. It will pass. No place is going to check every one of your boxes.
In the meantime, to give you just a taste of the surprises you may expect to encounter in your new home overseas, here are some of the little things our expat staff and friends at Live and Invest Overseas wish they’d known before they took the plunge.
- English Is Not So “Widely Spoken”
Your guidebook may have said that everybody speaks English. But somebody forgot to tell the cable TV installer, the electric company, and the property tax clerk…
- Traffic Signals Are Merely A Suggestion
If a driver happens to agree with their placement—or believes the police are watching—he will usually come to a halt.
- A Loud Car Horn Is Essential
In many parts of Latin America, honking is the official language of the road. You’ll soon decode what your fellow drivers are trying to say based on the number of honks and their duration.
- Motels Are For Sex
Hotels are for sleeping in. One unsuspecting reader couple spent an entire night in a US$1-per-hour motel. (Witnesses were surprised to see them emerge looking so refreshed.)
- Prepare For Maid Hide-And-Seek
You thought you’d leave your reading glasses on your bedside locker? Your maid will have a much better resting place for them (one you’ll waste half a day trying to find).
- Never Pay Upfront
At least not in a developing county. They may just walk away laughing… with your money.
- It’s A Queue, Jim, But Not As We Know It
Yes, you’ll stand in line. Yes, you’ll stand there for hours. Yes, you’ll lose your mind. And, you’ll go back and do it all over again the next day (when they close up shop just before your turn)… and next week… and next month… just to pay your bills. Often, there is no line. Just multiple rows of people scrambling for service.
- Get Ready To Fake It
In Latin America, carnaval is a religion. No matter how much the noise and chaos may wreck your head, pretend to be excited. (A mask helps.)
- Never Set An Alarm Again
It won’t be apparent at first… but you’ll soon grow to love your neighbor’s rooster. He’ll start at 4.30 a.m.… and “sing” until late afternoon.
Forewarned is forearmed. Our on-the-ground correspondents give you the full picture of what to expect in a new destination every month in Overseas Retirement Letter.