The other day I came across a video about the best places to live, work, or retire abroad. While this isn’t the first time that I have seen these types of lists or compilations, this video really caught my attention. I immediately started to think “is there a such thing?”.
I know that best locations exist for individual expats or retirees. However, is there truly such a thing as a best expat country for the average person? I started watching the video to determine what criteria was used to rank the countries that were on this list. Within the first few seconds the narrator indicated that the list was derived from data collected from an expat survey that’s conducted annually. I only watched enough of the video thereafter to see the top 3 ranked countries.
Afterwards I thought how misleading and misinformed these types of lists can be for the average person who is considering moving abroad. There are so many factors involved in choosing the right or “best” expat location for each individual. What appeals to one person may be the complete opposite for the next person.
Though I don’t feel that any harm was meant by the title or information presented in the video, I do think that prospective expats should focus more on what matters to them. Expats may be able to find their ideal country by exploring such lists. However, these oftentimes very short lists are in no way representative of the global population.
This is why I typically steer away from presenting the “best” type of anything posts. I even steer clear of these types of conversations during my coaching sessions. Instead, I help my clients focus on what’s important to them as an expat. I first have them complete a comprehensive expat profile survey so that I can gain a better understanding of their overall personality. Then, I have a 60 minute meeting with them so that we can discuss their survey results in more depth. Finally, I customize a list of expat countries that I feel are suitable to their needs and desires.
It is important to keep in mind that we are all individuals with different personalities that can and do shape what best meets our needs. Therefore, it is necessary to approach your expat journey with these objectives in mind. You should effectively “know thyself”. Take some inventory of your own likes and dislikes, and needs and desires. Then, focus on the countries that readily offer the things that are conductive to your wants and desires.
Need more help planning your expat journey? Contact us so that we can get you on the right track.
The African continent has been getting a lot of attention lately by entrepreneurs. Many economic forecasters has pivoted the continent as the new frontier for growth in almost every sector imaginable. While the continent still has many challenges, it is growing and expanding in many ways. A number of African leaders are starting to implement polices that make their nations attractive places to do business.
Africa is probably home to the most fertile business prospects on the planet. The continent is trying to catch up with its more developed counterparts. Yet, many African nations still lag behind in infrastructure development. This makes the continent a goldmine for entrepreneurs who are willing and ready to contribute to the dynamic growth of the continent.
Almost every major market has untapped potential on the continent. Only a few business sectors are saturated in Africa. This also makes the continent prime real estate to sell quality goods and services. So for almost any business endeavor that you can think of you can probably find a dozen or more countries in Africa to do business in. Most African nations have fertile ground for sewing the seeds of entrepreneurship.
Low Start-Up and Overhead Costs
The cost of living in most African countries is much less expensive than the average developed nation. This means that it will cost much less to establish and maintain most businesses on the continent. It is fairly easy and inexpensive to lease or own property in many African nations. Salary and wages are also much less than in most developed regions of the world. This means that financing your entrepreneurship dream on the continent can easily become a reality.
Burgeoning Middle Class
Africa’s middle class is growing at a fast rate. On the other hand the middle class in most developing countries is experiencing slow growth or disappearing altogether. Africa’s middle class represents the rise in professionals and entrepreneurs that are taking the continent by storm. A number of African college graduates who left their home in search of a better life are migrating back home. Many others send money to their loved ones in an effort to help restore the economy of their home lands.
As this trend continues, more businesses now enjoy the ability to cater to more discerning customers on the motherland. Middle class and affluent Africans desire luxury goods and high quality services. This dynamic has created a growing demand for new businesses, especially those that are designed to serve westernized tastes. So now is the time to establish or relocate your start-up or franchise to the continent. Doing so can help you can gain more exposure and realize greater capital potential.
As I write this post, many African nations are undergoing drastic social transformation. The youths in these nations are not satisfied with business as usual. They are frustrated with the corruption and infrastructure issues that have plagued Africa for so long. And they are doing something about it.
The youths in a number of African nations are beginning to demonstrate against their governmental representatives. They are also beginning to hold these politicians accountable for their actions. They are demanding a better socio-political structure and the entire globe is starting to take note.
Thousands of people march to Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, to demand that the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, step down immediately because of his corrupt rule on April 7, 2017.
As governmental leaders start to rise to the occasion many of these nations are subsequently experiencing significant socioeconomic development. So if you decide to transition to this entrepreneur’s playground you can easily realize your vision. You can also simultaneously help many Africans realize the social change that they need.
Need more help developing your business plan for African entrepreneurship? Contact us and we will gladly assist you.
There are many things to think about when choosing an expat country. After living as an expat in three different countries there are many things that I wish I had considered before moving abroad. Although I tremendously enjoyed my experiences, I think very differently about moving abroad at this stage in my life. In fact, I have been diligently contemplating my next move overseas for quite some time now. Though I don’t plan to move right away I have started planning key aspects of my next expat journey.
Here are some things that I consider important when choosing an expat country:
Cost of Living
This is always at the top of my list. I like to live a comfortable life no matter where I am. So I choose destinations that will afford me the comfort level that I desire. It is important for me to move somewhere with a reasonable cost of living. I like having enough disposable income so that I can enjoy my leisure time.
Of course this is not the case for everybody. For some, the basics is more than enough as long as they are in their dream destination. And this is perfectly fine. But either way, cost of living is a very important factor in choosing an expat location. Cost of living impacts your overall quality of life in any given location. So you need to consider your budget and your living situation before heading to you expat destination.
As I have shared before in other posts, I lived in the Middle East for most of my time abroad. The cost of living in this part of the world is similar to that of areas like New York, California, and Hawaii. However, all of my accommodation and transportation expenses were covered by my employer. Thus, the cost of living did not adversely impact my standard of living. Therefore, I had more disposable income to enjoy my preferred standard of living.
If you have health issues that require special treatment or services you need to ensure that this is available in your desired expat country. If you are otherwise healthy and generally only need routine health screenings this concern is not as urgent. However, you should investigate the availability of preventative, acute, and emergency care services before you move abroad. Getting the right care when you need it can literally be a matter of life and death.
Health insurance is another factor, especially in high income countries where healthcare provision is absorbent. Employers generally cover such expenses for expats. However, you may need to supplement your policy so that you can access private care when needed.
Climate and Weather
Every time I think about this dynamic I recall a story about an African student who studied abroad in America. He was from West Africa where the climate is tropical and warm during most of the year. His study abroad trip was scheduled in December and his flight was set to arrive in Pennsylvania.
December is considered the dry season in his country of origin. The temperatures in that region are generally in the mid to high 70’s in December. So he packed his luggage and dressed accordingly. After arriving in Pennsylvania in shorts and a light jacket he encountered a very unpleasant surprise. He was cold, shivering, and did not have an appropriate change of clothes. Fortunately a stranger came to his rescue and gave him a jacket. Needless to say he learned a very important lesson that day.
Likewise, I tell this story so that prospective expats who have never traveled abroad can learn a valuable lesson. The climate and temperature is not the same all around the world. It is important to think about what type of weather you enjoy when choosing an expat country. You could be pleasantly surprised or deeply disappointed by the climate and weather in a given locale.
If you are religious you need to consider how you will practice your faith while living abroad. Some countries are more conducive to and/or tolerant of certain religious practices and belief systems than others. In general expat-heavy countries usually tolerate religious freedom among its expat population. But even in the most tolerant nations, there may not be many places for expats of diverse religions to worship.
For instance, the UAE is a Muslim nation full of mosques and other artifacts related to this religion. As an expat, you are free to adhere to any belief system as long as you don’t proselytize in the country. Even though people are free to practice whatever faith they believe in there are few places of worship dedicated to other faith systems such as Christianity or Hinduism. Usually practitioners of other belief systems congregate in malls, lounges, and other make-shift places of worship to conduct their religious services.
While you can practice your religion in some countries, you may not have easy access to a similar community of believers. Even more, it may be forbidden to practice your belief system in certain countries that don’t embrace religious tolerance. So you definitely need to do some research in this area if religion is important to you.
After the initial excitement of your move has worn off you are going to need a viable source of entertainment. Everyone is different so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. You may be fine with taking nature walks or going to the beach every weekend. Or, you may enjoy regular trips to the theater and performing arts shows. There are so many entertainment options that are suitable for different types of individuals.
So you need to think about what entertainment choices are important to you. You also need to research the types of entertainment that are available in the expat country. Depending on your purpose for moving abroad the availability of entertainment choices could make or break your expat experience.
This consideration if self-explanatory. Understanding safety elements in a given location is vital to your overall well-being. This is especially the case for solo female travelers. In general, international employers will ensure that their expat employees live and work in a safe area. However, they generally don’t control your comings and goings outside of work hours. Therefore, you need to be aware of the general dangers common in the locale.
Transportation is a major factor when moving abroad. In some countries you won’t be able to buy, lease, rent, or drive a vehicle as a foreigner. In other areas public transportation may not be easily accessible so you. Either way you need to think about the cost and availability of transportation options when moving abroad.
During my various expat journeys my family and I had a driver everywhere we lived. However, we also had our own vehicle so I drove myself around on occasion. While I enjoyed having a driver I also like the freedom and independence that comes with the ability to drive.
Chances are when you first move abroad you are going to want to communicate with your loved ones back home. Unless you are using a free calling app your phone bill can get quite expensive. So you definitely need to factor in the cost of communicating with loved ones abroad.
While calling apps are viable options in some regions, they are not in other areas. Some countries block calling apps. Other countries have such poor internet connectivity that it is difficult to rely on calling apps.
Another important facet of international communication is time zone differences. Your family and friends may be 8 hours or more behind the time that you are on. This means that you will have to plan your phone calls very carefully.
If you are moving with family members then you definitely need to consider their needs and desires when selecting an expat country. They may have preferences on the type of terrain, climate, weather, entertainment choices, etc. that they like as well. Choosing a destination that you all agree on will make the journey more enjoyable.
If you are traveling with children you need to plan for their education. You need to consider which options are available to them, especially in the early phases of the move. It is not uncommon for new expats families to have trouble getting their children enrolled in school at first. This is especially the case for those who arrive within a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. It can also be complicated for those who arrive in the middle of a school term.
Also if you are travelling with family you need to determine if your employer will pay for their relocation expenses. Some expat employers pay for round trip plane tickets for you and your family members to arrive in the country. They also give you annual round trip tickets (or cash in lieu) to travel back home every year. This is a great perk as it makes travel less expensive for your entire family.
On the other hand, there are some employers who only pay for employee travel. Even worse, some don’t reimburse for transportation to and from the country at all. This can make your journey a lot more expensive. So do your research to determine if moving to a specific country is a viable option for your family.
Proximity to Home
The last consideration that I want to share is the destination’s proximity to your home base. This may or may not present a problem for you. Some people desire to be closer to home so that they can have easier access to their sick or elderly loved ones. This way if they have to make an emergency trip it won’t take too long or be too costly. Other people want to be as far away from their home base as possible for a number of reasons.
Need more help planning your expat journey? Contact us so that we can assist you.
The sociopolitical climate in the U.S. has finally come to a proverbial and literal head. With racial tension brewing at every corner of the country many African Americans are feeling more disenfranchised than ever before. Not only has the recent death of George Floyd resulted in nationwide protests, it is causing many African Americans to wonder if the U.S. is the best place for their well-being.
Discussions about African repatriation have always been a part of the African American narrative since the abolition of slavery. Since this time the repatriation conversation has been the centerpiece of many pro-black dialogues throughout the nation. The aftermath of a series of recent killings of African Americans has only served to heighten this conversation.
If you are considering this as an option for escaping the systematic disenfranchisement and disparities in the U.S., be sure to consider the following before you make your move.
Ethnic identity is not an issue for the average African. Most Africans are very familiar with their tribal lineages and a number of them still adhere to the traditions of their tribal heritage. With the proliferation of DNA testing made widely available to the general public, a number of African Americans are also starting to learn more about their African heritage. As such, African repatriation can provide African Americans with the ideal environment in which to learn about, embrace, and practice their African heritage.
Some African Americans who have lived in an African country have reported feeling a closer connection with their roots. Present company included. Being on the continent has a way of making one feel whole or complete in terms of understanding who they are. In which case, African Americans don’t feel alienated or as disparaged when they are able to live among people who look like them.
On the other end of the ethnic identification spectrum is xenophobia, which is quite prevalent in a number of African nations. Xenophobia is effectively dislike of or prejudice against foreigners. In African this concept is most often displayed among black Africans from different nations. And it generally has to do with economic attainment.
It has become increasingly common for Africans from various nations to migrant to other parts of the world in search of a better life. This includes migration to other African nations. In which case Africans who immigrate to other parts of Africa may be able to secure better employment and other opportunities than the Africans living in the nation. This practice has resulted in tension, hostility, and violence against these immigrant Africans.
Conversely, the vast majority of Africans would probably welcome African American repatriates to their nations at first. However, it is likely that feelings of camaraderie among Africans and African Americans would soon diminish in the wake of economic advancement of African Americans living on the continent.
In many instances it is easier for African Americans to acquire better paying jobs and higher social status than Africans in certain African countries. If this occurs on a mass scale due to more African American repatriating in large numbers, it is likely that African Americans will also start feeling the impact of xenophobia in Africa. In which case, African Americans could experience the same disenfranchisement that they are trying to escape in Africa.
Most African nations are ripe with business opportunities since many of these nations are in the infancy stages of development. African Americans who repatriate to the continent will not face a shortage of ways to invest in Africa. Almost any business will be viable in many African nations because of the dearth of development across the continent. In this way African Americans could enjoy many rights and privileges as profitable business owners who are able to contribute to the economic growth of African nations.
Their service to the country would be greatly valued and they would most likely be greatly respected by individuals in the community. This is especially the case if their business provides job opportunities to locals.
While many African nations are perfect for business-minded African Americans, those without the economic means or the know-how to develop a business may not fair so well in Africa. In general, African Americans who desire to repatriate to Africa should secure their economic situation before moving to the continent as I previously discussed in my post about expat life in Africa.
Otherwise, they will probably find themselves competing with Africans for some of the better job opportunities in the country. African Americans must also keep in mind that the pay scale shifts greatly from the U.S. to Africa. It is unlikely that the average westerner will be able to maintain their same standard of living based on income generated from the African economy.
The exception to this general guideline is individuals who are able to secure employment with non-governmental organizations or multi-national companies. In which case many of these individuals remain in subordinate positions to western organizations, which are basically the same strongholds that they are trying to escape.
African Americans would have the opportunity to enjoy a natural, organic lifestyle in virtually any African country. Much of Africa is developing or underdeveloped in terms of industrialization. There are few manufacturing plants or large corporations that line the streets of any given African metropolitan area. Instead, there is plenty of natural beauty and untapped wilderness that often translates to a peaceful and nurturing experience for the inhabitants of such nations.
In general, Africans aren’t bombarded with the heavy burden of racism on a daily basis as are African Americans. While white privilege is still alive and well in many African nations, the vast majority of African nations are predominantly inhabited by black Africans. This means that though most African governments operate under colonial rule Africans don’t experience the same type of overt oppression as African Americans. In this way African Americans could possibly experience fewer health disparities related to toxic physical, mental, and emotional environments when residing in Africa.
While many African nationals enjoy a natural, holistic way of life they likewise suffer from infrastructural disparities. A number of discussions about the black experience in Africa often neglect the stain that colonization left on many African countries. Africa is not underdeveloped on purpose – this is purely by design.
African nations are not able to participate in capitalism in the same way as the rest of the world because few of them aren’t developed enough to do so. This means that they lack adequate housing, education, healthcare, and other essential systems to maintain a quality standard of living for the majority of their inhabitants.
While African Americans will probably be able to make more money than the average African while living in Africa, African Americans will still suffer the same infrastructural issues as the rest of the nation. African Americans will most likely have to travel abroad to seek out quality healthcare services or pay extra to live in standardized housing when living in Africa. In which case they will still experience similar lifestyle disparities as they did living in the U.S.
African repatriation is not a decision to be made lightly. Even more, it is not a decision that will most likely end the sense of oppression that the average African American feels in the U.S. African repatriation or relocation to any other part of the world is definitely not a panacea for racism, discrimination, and marginalization. Disenfranchisement exists at some level in every part of the world. And oftentimes black people are on the receiving end of such disparities.
However, when approached with sensibility and practicality African repatriation may be a viable option for some African Americans. As I have pointed out life in Africa has both pros and cons. There are many African Americans who can enjoy a prosperous, privileged life on the African continent. Though, this is definitely something that needs to be thought through with careful consideration.
Need more ideas about expat life? Contact us and we will gladly assist you.
When I first embarked upon my expat adventures, I had no plans of returning to the U.S. My goal was to perpetually live abroad though I wasn’t married to any particular country during that time. I simply loved the thrill that I got from exploring different parts of the world and I knew that international travel would forever be part of my life at the onset of my first expat adventure.
However, I was forced to move back to the U.S. in July 2018 due to some major health complications that my husband was experiencing at the time. So I reluctantly packed my bags and headed back home so that my husband could get the help that he needed. Fortunately, my husband has recovered and is doing much better now.
While I still miss being an expat, I realize that we came back home just in time. We had no idea that a global pandemic would hit less than two years after our return. Though, I am greatly empathetic toward expats who are experiencing precarious situations. My heart goes out to anyone who is suffering in any way due to COVID.
Being in our home country has many advantages in situations like this. One of the most important benefits of being home is that we are closer to our extended family and friends during this time of uncertainty. This gives us easier access to a support system that we would not have readily had access to if we were still abroad.
Additionally, we don’t have to worry about other nuisances involved in expat life right now. Since we are home, we qualify for and have access to job, business, and other forms of governmental assistance, if we need it. We don’t have to be concerned about passport, visa, contract, or other document renewals and/or fees during this time. We don’t have to worry about the possibility of being stranded outside of our home country for extended periods of time. And, we have access to a strong, viable healthcare system and healthcare insurance scheme among other things.
Don’t misunderstand me – I still wholeheartedly support expat life. Yet, as amazing as being an expat can be it also has its disadvantages during both good and bad times. This shutdown has just made me truly appreciate being home for these and many other reasons.
Being from a Developed Country
Until now nothing has made me more appreciative of the comforts, amenities, and luxuries that are available in the U.S. As my son and I were taking a stroll through the almost deserted walkway in the back of our house a few weeks ago, I began to marvel at just how clean and inviting the space was. This is by no means nothing new as our neighborhood is always immaculately clean and beautifully landscaped. Even more, our community is normally filled with the laughter of young children, the barking of dogs, the thunder of little bodies moving around the playground, or the peaceful quiet of daybreak.
But what dawned on me this day was not the absence of these sounds or activities, but instead the absence of such scenery in other parts of the world. I have lived in and traveled to some of the most destitute parts of the world where living in a clean, safe community is considered a luxury. The majority of the population in these countries lived in extreme poverty and in very depressing environments.
I am definitely not saying that the U.S. is always clean and safe because we likewise have poverty, homelessness, and crime. However, there is a stark difference in the everyday environment in developed versus developing parts of the world. And, it is heartbreaking. So in that moment I started to give thanks and praise for the many comforts that I have enjoyed throughout my life as a U.S. citizen living in America and abroad.
Being Able to Travel
As the saying goes, “you don’t miss your well until the water runs dry”. And indeed the travel waters have ran dry over the past few months. My family had a few trips planned for this summer that are now forgone wishes. Fortunately, we were planning to purchase our plane tickets the week after COVID was declared a pandemic but we weren’t able to because of the virus. So we didn’t have to deal with complicated cancellation or exchange policies. However, we are dealing with an impending thrills-free summer and possibly winter and spring too.
Though this is not the ideal situation, I can easily cope with it because of the many adventures I have had through my expat journeys. I have amazing memories and beautiful pictures of some of the most exotic places that I have visited around the world. These thoughts and images are enough to pass the time during the next few months or so.
Undoubtedly these cherished memories have given me plenty of reasons to be grateful for my past travel experiences on every level. Not only I am appreciative of the tangible benefits I have experienced by being able to live in and travel to different parts of the world, I am also thankful for the myriad of mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that I have reaped from my expat journeys.
Mentally, my expat travels have changed the way I view the world and how I think holistically. I am no longer an American citizen (except according to my passport) – instead I am a global citizen. I am concerned about how everything impacts the world at large because I know that the world is united by one common thread.
Emotionally, I am better able to cope with difficult situations because of my travel experiences. If you travel abroad enough, you will inevitably experience hardships and difficulties that you have very little to no control over. So you learn to cope – the sooner you learn to do so the better. At this stage in my life I can adjust to almost any situation. I didn’t even flinch when COVID was declared a pandemic. I simply started making plans to adjust and deal with our new reality.
Spiritually, I have grown and shifted in so many ways because of the things that I saw and experienced while I was living abroad. I learned so many things about religion and spirituality that changed my entire belief system. To dig into it now would be a disservice to my experiences so suffice it to say that I am immensely grateful for the spiritual lessons that I learned during my expat experiences.
Being with My Family
I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband and two amazing children whom I was able to share all of my expat experiences with. I always had someone by my side during my expat journeys so loneliness was never a major issue for me during that period of my life. However, as awesome as my family is I tend to take their compassion and love for granted at times.
COVID-19 has made me realize the value of having constant companions by my side through thick and thin. Unfortunately, there are many single people who have been shut in by themselves throughout this lockdown. While they may have family and friends, they live by themselves which can make being inside for weeks or months at a time very lonely and depressing.
So I am most appreciative of having my family with whom I can laugh, cry, giggle, scream, and simply just be with.
Need help planning your expat adventure? Contact us so that we can assist you.
African heritage tourism and repatriation have been hot topics among many individuals throughout the African diaspora over the last decade or so. In addition to these influences, there are so many reasons to travel to the vast continent. It literally offers every form of terrain that is present on the planet. Exotic wildlife, scenic views, and beautiful beaches are but a few reasons why living on the continent is so enticing.
I was fortunate enough to live and work in Africa about 6-years ago as I have shared in other posts. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me and my family that I will forever cherish. Every time I share my journey with others I am often bombarded with a host of questions about life on the continent. If fact, the other day one of my clients asked me a number of questions about expat life on the continent. This is a topic that comes up frequently in my coaching sessions.
So I have compiled a list of tips and suggestions for those who are interested in working and living in an African country. Keep in mind that these suggestions are for individuals who plan to seek employment opportunities before they go to the continent.
In general, I don’t recommend that anyone relocates to an African country before they secure employment, volunteer, business or similar opportunities unless they are financially independent. African nations, like many other developing parts of the world, don’t tend to have the same level of economic stability as more developed countries. Securing gainful employment is quite challenging in local markets for many African citizens and local pay tends to be significantly lower than that of westernized countries.
However, a number of multi-national companies, non-governmental organizations, and national agencies have had a presence in Africa for many years. A growing number of foreign colleges and universities are also establishing campuses in African countries. As such, there are a number of expatriate opportunities in many African nations for qualified individuals. Such opportunities tend to come with equitable salaries, and paid accommodations, utilities, transportation, and many other perks to expat workers.
So if you are thinking about joining the African expat workforce, here are a few things you should consider:
Visas and Passports
In order to legally stay in most African countries for an extended period of time you need a work, volunteer, business, or marriage visa. Tourist visas are generally only valid for 1-3 months at a time. Even extended one-year or longer tourist visas generally require visitors to leave and re-enter the country within 1-3 month intervals. This process can be very expensive and burdensome.
If you secure employment, volunteer, business or similar opportunities prior to arriving in your country of choice, you can generally start or finalize your visa before you arrive. Most organizations connected to employment and volunteer opportunities will handle this process for you. If you are starting a business, you may not be able to begin this process until you arrive in the country.
It is also very important to keep in mind that most visa issuing embassies require at least 3-6 months of validity on your passport from your date of arrival.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure that you have at least 1-year of validity as it may take a few months to process your visa. Also, you may not have time to get to your embassy of citizenship in the foreign nation to renew your visa right away – assuming that there is one in the country.
Transportation in and around most African nations is quite straightforward. Many African countries have bustling transportation systems that include commuter and motorcycle taxis, public and private buses and vans, rental vehicles, and the like. You can likewise purchase or lease a vehicle if you choose to drive while living in an African nation. It is a good idea to check driver license rules and regulations before you leave to ensure that this is a viable option.
Another consideration when driving in some African nations is which side of the road is used. The country that you choose may drive on the opposite side of the road than your country of origin. So it may take some time getting acclimated to the driving conditions and shipping your vehicle may not be a viable option.
Safety and Security
In general, most African countries share the same safety and security features as any other country in the world. Some regions have high-end, luxury, gated communities with 24-hour security on post. While other communities are riddled with crime, drugs, sex-workers, and the like. Still, there are other communities that have a mix of both of these dynamics. Typically expats are placed in more secure areas of the country, which means that they encounter few safety issues that adversity effect their stay.
Many people think about constant civil war, fighting, and unrest when they consider the safety and security of African nations. Yes, these things are going on in certain parts of Africa. However, few expats are impacted by them because they don’t tend to live in regions of countries where such activities regularly take place. There are many expats living full, safe, and protected lives in some of the countries where civil unrest, fighting, war, poverty, etc. is a constant facet of life. Even more, many multi-national corporations still have thriving businesses in some of these same areas.
Locally grown and manufactured products and goods are plentiful and easily accessible in most African nations. Such items are usually less expensive than imported products from foreign countries that are often available in most African countries. You will be able to find all your basic needs in the average African country.
Keep in mind that the quality and style of locally grown and produced goods may vary. Locally grow foods are usually fresh, organic, and of the highest quality. On the other hand, you probably won’t be able to find your favorite clothing brands or certain tech items in local markets.
But don’t fret – a number of African countries have malls and foreign-owned retail outlets packed with western apparel, electronics, and other goods. These items are usually more expensive due to import taxes and tariffs. So be prepared to spend more for them in Africa than you would in the country they originated from.
Healthcare is an area of major concern when living in an African country. In general, African countries don’t have the same level of technological capabilities to deliver the same quality of care often available in westernized countries. Also, there is a significant brain drain in most African nations as many of these countries lose top-tier talent to westernized nations that pay better salaries. This means that the physician to population ratio can be dangerously low in some regions.
On the other hand, most African nations are ripe with spiritual and herbal healers, sangomas, and the like. In my experience, I have found these practices to be more effective for the treatment of a number of disease states. However if you don’t subscribe to such medicinal practices, you need to seriously consider your healthcare needs before moving to an African country.
If you have a chronic disease that requires you to take prescription drugs, you should determine if the drugs are available in the African nation you are considering moving to. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you may want to prepare for delivery in your country of origin. If you have other major medical concerns, you need to do your research to determine which healthcare options are best for your situation.
Climate and Weather
While Africa is the hottest continent on earth, it has diverse climates and weather patterns. Many people believe that it is extraordinarily hot on the entire continent throughout the year. This is generally not the case for any particular region, though some regions stay warmer than others year-round.
West, central, and parts of east and southern Africa tend to have a tropical climate, which includes balmy summers contrasted by very wet rainy seasons. Northeast Africa has a dry, hot desert climate that experiences little rainfall. Many parts of the continent have cooler winters and it even snows in certain regions such as southern Africa. So also consider the climate and weather dynamics when planning to live and work in an African country.
There are many things to think about when preparing to live as an expat in an African nation. The culture, language, cuisine, and other elements may be quite different than what you have experienced in your country of origin. So plan and prepare for your journey wisely!
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I received this message from one of my career coaching clients the other day:
As you already know I have my CV and cover letter prepared to apply for a few positions in S. Korea. However, I was about to start the apostille process last month before this coronavirus situation. I was planning to do the process myself since I had plenty of time to finish it by the application deadline.
However, I go [sic] off track when I started preparing to teach remotely at my current school. I still want to teach abroad if it is a possibility any time son [sic]. Do you think I should continue to prepare to teach abroad in the midst of COVID? I don’t want to waste my time or money if I can’t get a teaching position in S. Korea.
My short answer to this question is “yes”. If you are preparing to teach abroad and this is still your desire even in the midst of this situation, you should continue to prepare for the process. There is a strong likelihood that travel restrictions may not allow expat teachers to begin positions in the upcoming fall term.
However, once the global economy is reopened a large number of expat teachers will be needed to start around January 2021. Chances are schools will be hiring more than double the usual amount of expat teachers during this time. As such, if you meet all other qualifications and have your paperwork ready to go you will have a better chance of getting hired.
Preparing for an expat journey generally requires a bit of groundwork in terms of obtaining passports, visas, and official documents. There is also an additional step that requires expats to get certain documents authenticated by institutional, regional, and national authorities. This process can take some time even in the regular course of business. However, there are currently significant delays in many government processes that could delay this process even further. So my advice is to start or continue the process now.
Working and living abroad also requires a certain level of mental and emotional preparedness. This aspect of preparedness is amplified by the current situation. You really need to consider the many possibilities that may be involved in an international move post COVID-19. You need to prepare yourself and your loved ones (those travelling with you and those staying behind) for the impact of this virus on the economic, social, and political climate in other parts of the world.
Chances are you are going to get a great deal of resistance from your family and friends about moving abroad now more than ever. You will need to have the mental fortitude to press forward if you truly desire to teach abroad in the coming months or years. So you need to properly prepare yourself for this aspect of your journey as well.
One last piece of advice I have is to not quit your current job. If you are among those who were blessed to maintain your current job and income during this crisis try to stick it out as long as possible. There is already a high level of uncertainty right now – adding additional challenges to the situation is not in your best interest.
As I was preparing to write this post my mind went back to the many wonderful adventures that I had as an expat educator. These are experiences that I would not have exchanged for anything in the world during that period of my life. The opportunity to work in a foreign country has many advantages and it is something that I still strongly recommend to those who have insatiable wanderlust.
However, right now things are a bit uncertain for a number of individuals in the expat community. Many expatriates are in very precarious situations as they navigate their way through COVID-19 work and travel restrictions that have left many workers vulnerable. I have been in contact with a number of my expat friends and clients who are experiencing various hardships that are unique to the expat community during this time.
This situation has thrown many people for a loop. However, it is in this hour that we must press forward and persevere as we encounter novel challenges that may require us to make some uncomfortable and possibly anxiety-inducing decisions.
As a former expat who worked in Qatar during the 2017 Qatar blockade, I am very familiar with the fear and anxiety that expats can feel during such times. During that period, Qatar cut off ties with a number of its former neighboring allies resulting in political, social, and economic instability in a large portion of the Gulf region. Many of the region’s expats were very unsure of what to do during that time.
After much thought and consideration I ultimately made the decision to leave the country and the region as a whole. That was the best decision for my family and I based on our circumstances.
As such, I have a great deal of empathy for expats who are away from home right now and are trying to figure out what to do. So I decided to dedicate this post to giving expats tips on how to prepare for the uncertainty that lies ahead. Here are my suggestions:
Save, Save, Save
This should go without saying, but you should save as much money as you possibly can right now. Try to spend your money on essential items only and get limited quantities of the things that you need at this time. I know that this advise is contrary to the general recommendation that people stock up on essential supplies during this pandemic.
However, expats are in a very unique situation. They are not in their country of citizenship and chances are they are on a limited contract subject to cancellation and non-renewal. This can result in unprecedented economic and other hardships for this segment of the workforce.
Thus, it is likely that some expats may have to leave the country in which they are currently residing so it is not the best idea to stock up on food. It may be better to purchase enough food and supplies for two to three weeks at a time. This way you will have enough resources for your immediate needs but you won’t waste your precious money, if you end up leaving these resources behind.
Expat employers are scrambling to figure out how COVID-19 will impact their organizations. Many sectors have already experienced a significant decrease in the workforce causing them to lay-off or terminate non-essential employees. Oftentimes in the international workforce, non-essential employees equate to expat workers.
Additionally, many of the economic relief programs in various countries are designed for citizens and permanent residents. Expat workers usually cannot avail these options like in the case of Korea. Some countries simply can’t support the economic weight of providing social welfare for every resident of their nations. So they are left with doing the next best thing, which is providing for their own citizens. And this is completely understandable given the circumstances.
However, this does not create the ideal situation for expat workers who may be on the verge of unemployment while they are away from their country of citizenship. Depending on their situation, these same expat workers may not even be able to take advantage of economic relief programs in their countries of citizenship while they are abroad. Therefore, it is in their best interest to hoard as much money as they possibly can right now.
Avail Emergency Fund Options
While some countries are shutting expats out of their COVID-19 economic relief programs, other countries like the UK are instituting measures to assist certain expats and other non-citizen residents in their countries. These types of programs usually apply to exceptional circumstances and are not generally available to all expat workers. However, such funds may be useful to qualifying expats who are experiencing economic hardships.
Additionally, many countries such as the U.S. and Canada have implemented financial assistance programs for their citizens and permanent residents. In many cases, these funds are available to citizens who are currently working, living, or travelling abroad.
If you filed taxes in the U.S. last year or if you own a U.S. based small business, you may qualify for a variety of economic stimulus programs under the CARES act. The good thing about the relief available to U.S. citizens is that it will be directly deposited in citizens’ bank accounts if their banking information is on file with the IRS. Qualifying small business owners can also apply for loans and grants online. So expats and other citizens who are abroad during this time can still access these programs.
Other countries have similar programs that expatriate citizens may be eligible for. So do your homework and research options that may be available to you through your country of citizenship or your expat country. Don’t miss out on these helpful opportunities as they can be very beneficial during this time.
Avoid Non-Essential Travel
Expat travel adventures during the COVID-19 crisis has led to some pretty interesting travel tales. Many expat educators were enjoying scheduled spring break periods when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. At the same time a number of countries declared state of emergencies in their nations that resulted in the implementation of some pretty austere travel restriction measures.
It is very common for expat workers to travel to other countries during extended break periods such as spring break. As such, a number of expat educators were globe-trotting as their expat countries were banning all non-essential travel in and out of the country.
Countries like the UAE banned the entry of all non-UAE citizens into the country for two weeks. This left many non-citizen residents stuck outside the country while their jobs, possessions, and, in some cases, family members remained in the UAE. However, the country has now started allowing essential expats back into the country.
However, a number of expats are still not able to enter the country. They have to pay extra money to stay at their vacation location (if a visa extension is possible) or they have to make plans to get back to their country of citizenship. Either way, this situation has resulted in expats spending more money and experiencing higher than normal stress levels in the midst of a pandemic that is economically and emotionally taxing for the entire planet.
This is one reason why it is extremely important to limit travel during this time. Expats have a lot more at stake in terms of job security and life continuity during this time so it is best to travel with caution and trepidation.
Repatriate to Your Country of Citizenship
Now I know my last bit of advise was about limiting travel, but if at all possible expats should try to repatriate to their country of citizenship. There are many air travel restrictions at present so this may not be a viable option for some expats. However, for those who can afford to leave their jobs and pay for transportation and lodging this may be the best option.
We are in a time of grave uncertainty with many predicting that this situation could continue for months. It is best to be around family and loved ones who can support you in your country of citizenship. Without viable employment, many expats’ visas will be cancelled or expire in the coming months, which can result in increased hardships for these displaced workers.
Even countries like Turkey have taken the initiative to bring their citizens back home from hard-hit nations like Kuwait and elsewhere. This shows that national leaders recognize the importance of their citizens being home during a time like this.
Now I know that this is much easier said than done for some expats as there is so much at stake. Some expats don’t have viable employment or means of securing economic relief in their countries of citizenship. Others don’t have a country of citizenship to repatriate to. Still others may not be able to afford the airfare to make it back to their country of citizenship. In such cases, it is best to follow some of the other guidelines listed above.
If you can’t make it back to your country of citizenship right now, be sure to save as much money as possible and research economic relief options that may be available to you. Above all, if you believe in a higher power pray and connect with that power as much as possible.
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