It’s no secret that some Americans visit a foreign country and quickly fall in love with it. Whether it’s the laid-back culture, sun-kissed beaches and adorable wildlife of Australia or the peaceful prosperity, beautiful landscapes and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities in Canada perhaps, many Americans dream of returning to a country they’ve visited and settling down there.
It’s been reported that there are nearly nine million U.S. citizens living abroad as expats today. While some cultural differences are to be expected, other items will likely surprise some new expats nonetheless. To help you prepare, here is a list of five things all would-be expats need to be aware of before boarding the plane for their new home:
Not being able to effectively communicate – or be understood – in a foreign country can make life difficult, to put it mildly. Not being able to receive assistance can be very frustrating. As such, it’s important for U.S. citizens living abroad to plan to learn at least the basics of the native language in the country they’re moving to, if it isn’t English of course.
Many expats believe they are ready for this task, having brushed up on the language and purchased a translation book, but regional dialects can often muddy the waters, so to speak. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for assistance or take a language class in your new hometown.
Most U.S. citizens living abroad expect that their income will be subject to local taxes, but unless they’ve done their research ahead of time, many are surprised to learn that they still must file taxes in the United States, too. America has a citizenship-based, rather than residency-based, tax structure, so no matter where you live around the globe, you must file Americans taxes abroad as a U.S. citizen.
The good news is that exclusions, tax credits and other programs are available to be claimed when expats file, so keeping the vast majority of American expats from paying any taxes to the United States. Tax exemptions are designed so expats are not double taxed on the same income.
While American culture has become more casual in recent years, in many countries there is still an acceptable way to dress and act in public and speak with others. Observe the body language and behavior of those around you so you don’t unintentionally cause any offence.
While big cities might have a familiar fast food restaurant or two, when you live in another country, you should expect to eat as the locals do. Don’t be afraid to try new experiences. That said, it’s always advisable to transition gradually to the local cuisine, to give your stomach time to adapt, depending on where you move to of course.