Everybody talks a lot about going and living the expat lifestyle. And, when you look at it on the surface, it all looks pretty glamorous. People living in foreign countries, interacting with foreign traditions and having grand adventures. While all of this is certainly true, to some degree, there are a myriad of things that get left out of those rosy pictures of life abroad. It is safe to say that living abroad and vacationing abroad are two completely different things.
In different posts I have touched on things like insurance, and limiting home-country bills so that you don’t have dead-end expenses. I would like to think that those are fairly obvious items to be considered. Everyone thinks about what they need to do before they leave. I would say that few people, myself included, think about what they are going to go through once they get there. In some countries it isn’t so bad. If you are headed toward the Middle East, I would suggest that you reach out to either someone that you know in the area or the company that you are going to work for. When you reach out to them, find out what is required to become a worker in that country and how to handle that process.
If you are lucky, as I was, the company that you are going to be working for will have a representative or subcontractor that is tasked with helping you navigate the myriad ministry and governmental institutions required to get your in-country paperwork completed. Unless you are fluent in Arabic and have unlimited self-restraint, I strongly suggest that you ask this question of your new employer, and not just assume someone will help you out. If you are left to your own devices when navigating the different ministry offices, you will want to get back on a plane and fly home. I have literally had to travel to three different offices, in three different parts of the city, to get one form taken care of. (Just so you know, there were several forms needing to be handled when I landed in-country.)
Depending upon the country you may be heading into, you will find that several differing items will need to be handled. I was in the position of having to change my visa from one vise form to another, get a civil ID card, sign Arabic versions of my employment contract, and acquire a local country driver’s license. Without the patient help of the Host Nation subcontractor representative our company employs, each one of these items would have proved almost impossible to successfully acquire with one outing. The Middle East is overrun with government and ministry offices that all have to be stopped at. Each of these different offices is usually located in a different section of the city from the next. Each one of these offices has different hours and prerequisites for visiting. And usually none of them speak English. It can be exasperating, at minimum. If it wasn’t for our Host Nations Representative, I would not have gotten any of it done. There is literally no way. The group that my company used as our Host Nation representatives were outstanding. Their helpfulness and usefulness CAN NOT be overstated.
If you’re planning the expat adventure, check with your new company and find out if they have someone to help with in-country paperwork. It will be a conversation you will be glad you had before you get there. And, even happier that you did, once you are there. For full disclosure, I did not do this. I assumed everything would just work itself out once I got in-country. DO NOT DO THIS. It’s not a good way to keep your sanity.
The sign behind the van. that’s the place where the official driver’s license photos were taken. Yup.
Don’t let the fear slow you down. Get out there!