Living in another Country
Distinguish between, in order of increasing commitment:
- a tourist
- a traveler
- a temporary resident
- an ex-pat
- an immigrant
A tourist stays at a Marriott Hotel and eats at MacDonalds and Subway in every country. Takes guided tours.
A traveler stays around natives exclusively, though only for a few weeks or months. Stays in a local hotel and eats where the locals eats. Tries to learn a few words of the language.
A temporary resident has a work or education-related project, often an expense account. Lives in a short-term rental or sublet. Eats at home. Relates to natives through the project.
An ex-pat has a rental contract and pays taxes. Is learning the language and culture.
An immigrant has a job, home, and family. Is learning the language and culture. Is going through the formal process to become a citizen.
That’s ex-patriate, not ex-patriot. Ex-patriots used to love their country, regardless of where they live. Expatriates live in another country because of retirement, work, or school. Their location says nothing about their patriotism one way or the other. However, a great way to feel very American is to be the only American in a room full of foreigners speaking English as a second or third language.
According to a recent UN report, not counting active-duty military personnel, about a million native-born American citizens — that’s 0.3% — live in other countries, about half of them in Europe. In contrast, about 6% of native-born Dutch citizens live in other countries. About 25% of Irish do.
The Spanish web site Just Landed has information and forums for all of our countries and an extensive guide for most of our countries.
- professionals working abroad, often on limited length assignments
- lifestyle migrants
- economic migrants
You might want to start hanging out in a foreign county online, that is, listening in on the conversations of people who are doing what I’m encouraging you to think about doing.
ExpatExchange – a world of friends abroad
Expatriates.com – the community web site created for and by expatriates and internationally minded people everywhere
Transitions Abroad – Since 1977, a pioneering travel resource for meaningful work, living, and study abroad
Forums, aka discussion boards, are often hosted by sites with lots of interesting information, links, and ads.
AlloExpat.com – the meeting point between the expat communities and the professional expatriate service providers. Get the latest offerings for relocation, real-estate, financial planning, leisure, lifestyle…
ExPat Forum – the largest community of expatriates on the internet. We now have over to 100,000 members who have either moved abroad or wish to emigrate, with 100′s of new members joining up everyday.
InterNations – Connecting Global Minds
Blogs are great sources of information from people a few steps ahead of you. Try a Google Blog search for < expat [country] >. Blogs can be very insightful. For example, here’s Tasty Thailand’s on teaching in Thailand.
If you find a blog you like, see whether there’s old postings going back to when the writers first came to the country and note the adjustments they had to go through. If you’re reading their blogs, then they are the ones who at some point in their lives were exactly where you are today, who made the leap, and who adjusted successfully. Or not.
As you can see, thousands of expatriates live in every country and hundreds of them are talking to each other online. Fortunately, English, often broken English, is the common language. Needless to say, these people get together “for drinks,” as they say, all the time. The great thing for you is that you get to eavesdrop on their conversations before you have to buy a plane ticket. The blog writers can usually be emailed directly if you have questions. By the time you get there, you will have already started participating in those discussion forums. You will know when is the first time after your arrival that everyone will be meeting for drinks. You have Google Maps to show you how to get to the bar, and probably Street View to show you the front of the place. With a little online effort on your part, you will have a support network of people before you even leave the States.
Conversation partners are the best way to begin.
Here’s another idea. If the culture you are interested in has a distinctive cuisine with a restaurant in Buffalo, go to the restaurant during a slack time, like mid-afternoon. For the price of a meal, I think you could have an interesting conversation with the waitress about that country. Tell her what you’re thinking about doing, and ask whether she would mind talking to you about it.
Whether it’s a waitress or one of Medaille’s international students, ask her advice about where she thinks you should go to teach in her country. Are English teachers really needed? What about the city where she came from? Where is that? If you take with you a printed-out map of the country or have Google Maps ready to go on your phone, she can show you exactly. Can she recommend any resources in Buffalo where you can learn more about her culture?
The absolutely best thing you can do is learn a simple sentence in the native language, such as “Can I ask for your help?” and butcher the pronunciation. She will be thrilled that you tried and be delighted to correct you. Try hard a few times to get it right, until she’s satisfied. Great ice breaker.
If you go to Google Translate, you can type in the English and get a phonetic pronunciation of several hundred languages.
And a final word from Henry Rollins.