Expat checklist: five simple steps to help you settle in
When you choose to live abroad, you know it will take time to truly feel settled in your new country. But some people adjust faster than others.
Certain steps you can take are straightforward. Others require a little more research (like learning about your new healthcare system) or a lot more patience (did someone mention mastering the language?).
The Local, in partnership with international insurance broker ASN, offers five essential tips to help you feel at home in your new life abroad.
1. Save and learn emergency services numbers
You’ll never forget the emergency services phone number in your home country. But can you say the same about your adopted home? Finding the number, saving it to your phone and even memorising it will not take long.
If you live in the European Union, 112 is the European emergency number – free to dial across the EU from fixed and mobile phones. You can use it to ring for an ambulance, the fire brigade or the police. In some EU countries, 112 functions alongside other national emergency numbers, while in others it is now the only number to dial.
2. Learn local laws and rules of the road
The law is the law. Except, of course, it varies widely between countries and regions. Some bizarre old laws have never been repealed but seem unlikely to be enforced (we doubt, for instance, that frowning in Milan will actually land you in court).
But as an international resident, some areas do require your attention to avoid getting caught out – driving rules, for example. Find out whether you need to exchange your driving licence for a local one and familiarise yourself with national speed limits and road signs.
And remember that legal drink drive limits vary internationally. In Europe, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania all have a zero tolerance approach – while Germany does not allow novice drivers to consume any alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
3. Understand your healthcare coverage and choices
National healthcare systems are very different – in Europe and around the world. A good understanding of the local rules on social security and entitlement to healthcare could really boost your peace of mind.
In the EU, it’s your economic status and place of residence that determine the country responsible for your health cover – not your nationality. Make sure you understand the rules that are relevant for your personal situation.
You may want to compare what publicly funded healthcare covers with your options through private health insurance. Going private can offer far more comprehensive coverage, with access to the best hospitals and doctors.
With international health insurance, you can also add benefits such as dental, maternity, physiotherapy and alternative medicine. You also have flexibility to upgrade or downgrade your policy.
ASN offers tailored worldwide international health insurance through a range of partners. It also offers travel insurance – including emergency medical cover – lasting for up to 11 months and life insurance.
4. Learn the language – but beware false friends!
Learning the language of your host nation might feel like the biggest step to take before you can feel totally settled. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. And fluency will not come in a hurry either.
Finding a way to learn at your own pace – without too much pressure – could help you build your confidence. If you’re able to enjoy the challenge of expressing yourself in your new language, some of the worries associated with living abroad may gradually start to reduce.
Be on your guard with 'false friends' – words that sound similar to an English word but mean something very different. For example, the Spanish word 'embarazada' does not mean embarrassed – it means pregnant!
While learning, it’s important to be able to take care of personal matters in a language you’re comfortable with. ASN, which is based in Switzerland, offers global support in English, French, German and Italian, as well as access to 24/7 multilingual helplines.
5. Update your address
One final tip – and a simple one! It has never been easier to stay continuously in touch with friends and family wherever you are. But could this lead you to overlook the need to update your address?
Governments, banks, insurers and other institutions still require an up-to-date postal address. And knowing you’re not missing any important mail can help secure your peace of mind.
This content was paid for by an advertiser and produced by The Local's Creative Studio.