Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on May 02, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

The prospect of moving overseas to a foreign country can be a very exciting one. All the new changes in daily life, brought on by a relocation to a new land, can be so exhilarating that we form what I call “Adventure Eyes.” This is where we stay focused on the new stimulating experiences and imagine how great our life will be once we move. It’s a completely natural reaction to such an exciting opportunity.

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)

What Adventures Await?

But before we start asking questions about which country might be the best for us, or what kind of home do we want to own, or how much time we will spend golfing, fishing, reading, hiking, or relaxing on the beach, it’s good to start by asking ourselves some very basic questions to determine if we are, in fact, ready to live abroad. Taking time to consider how you will adapt to new challenges and a new landscape is really the first step in the moving process and will provide a quick handle on how easy the process will be.

Good thing there’s a simple and easy way to find out – take our quiz. If you have a spouse or partner, have them take it separately. If you are thinking about an investment vs a lifestyle purchase, take it anyway. While the moniker is, “Are you ready to live in a foreign country?” the reality is, “Are you ready to deal with stuff in a foreign country?” Submit your answers here and then read on. Below is a list of the questions and the scoring key to familiarize yourself.

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country?

This quick quiz will help you rate your ability to manage and adapt to a foreign country. Be honest! The results may surprise you.

1. Are you usually one of the first to try new things, new foods, and new experiences?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

2. Are you able to relax, willing to adapt to a slower, easier going pace?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

3. Are you a self-starter who doesn’t wait for someone else to get things done?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

4. Are you willing to learn the basic phrases of a new language?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

5. Do you make new friends easily?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

6. Are you an optimistic/glass half-full kind of person?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

7. Are you financially secure enough that you do not need to work?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

8. Are you open to new adventures, new activities?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

9. Do you have a hobby or interest you really want to pursue?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

10. Are you comfortable being a “visible minority” in a new country?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

11. Are you easy-going enough to deal with long lines/delays/bureaucratic delays?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

12. Are you genuinely interested in getting involved in a new community, joining clubs and activities?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

13. When faced with problems, are you creative in figuring out how to get things done?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

14. Do you respect different cultures and realize that you are moving to THEIR country?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

15. Are you healthy enough (both mentally and physically) that you do not need constant medical attention?

No/Below Average
Sometimes/Average
Yes/Above Average

OK. Now we’ll grade the test and you can see how you did. There’s also a more in-depth self-analysis tool that you can then use to further refine countries and locations that might be a good fit for your interests, needs, and wants. Click here to access the needs and wants analysis to dig a little deeper.

Grading: Go back up and assign the number value to each of your answers.

No/Below Average = 1 point
Sometimes/Average = 2 point
Yes/Above Average = 3 point

How did you do? The scoring is:

0 –  20 = STAY HOME!
20 – 29 = You may need to make an effort to adapt.
30 – 35 = You will cope and learn how to love your new country.
36 + = WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO!”

Did you score highly? If so, you’ll be transitioning with ease. Medium scores show that you may have some challenges adapting to the new ways of doing things, the culture, and the differences you’ll see each day. A low score means that you’ll need to focus on preventing culture shock and going into a meltdown.

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)

Most likely, if you are reading this article, then you did OK on the quiz. A low score isn’t a death nail by any stretch of the imagination, but it does mean that you’ll have to work a little harder to “feel good” living or being in the region you choose. Because as much as we’d like to believe that we can think our way through some of this stuff, the reality is that these points address hard issues and deep feelings about what is “normal” and the “right” way to do things.

Many of the quiz questions address issues far deeper than just the few paragraphs below and in the next 3 articles. In fact, if you are serious about a life overseas, the only real way I know of is to test drive the life for a few months. Six months or more is great. While I’m a huge fan of maintaining “Adventure Eyes,” also known as the honeymoon period, the reality is that after the shine comes off the newness, some of the realities won’t be things you like. 

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)

Rent a Condo on Ambergris Caye Belize at Baymen Gardens for a Nice Test Drive

The rest of this article, and the next three coming specifically, probe each of the questions a little deeper. The goal is to provide some insights into what this transition may mean for you. But again, nothing beats kicking the tires, so plan to rent for 3-6 months before you buy.

In the end, each person has a different tolerance for change; not only how much, but how often. In fact, it’s usually the “ankle-biters” that drive us to the edge of the “crazy stage.” The constant state of change before you adjust and accept is tiring. Know that going in. Expect it.

Also, a future article will be called, What to Do When You Hit the “Culture Shock Wall.” There, you’ll be able to read what other expats had to say about this question. What did they do? It’s a quick read full of real life answers from expats who’ve been there, faced it, and succeeded in climbing over, digging under, going around, or simply plowing through the wall.

But for now, let’s examine the first couple quiz questions in a bit more detail and see some insights and examples of what to expect when moving and living overseas.

Are you usually one of the first to try new things, new foods, and new experiences?

Living in a foreign country will be a change, a big one. It will place you in a new region, surrounded by new things. This is part of the excitement of living overseas. So many new things to do and foods to try.

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)Myself and a Young Amanda Eating Boa Constrictor in the Nicaraguan Highlands

So, think about your life as it is for a moment. Do you truly enjoy trying new things? If your answer was “no,” then moving abroad may be difficult for you – for there will be countless new experiences around every turn.

And not just food, of course, but activities, clubs, hikes, places to explore, and experiences to enjoy. Lots of fun for young and old.

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)

Emily Taking a Mud Bath in the Rio Perdido, Costa Rica

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)

Larry on a Zipline in the Cloud Forests of Nicaragua

If the prospect of so many new experiences excites you, then you are well on your way to enjoying a move abroad; and, what’s more, you’ll be getting the most out of your experience in a new place.

Are you able to relax, willing to adapt to a slower, easier pace?

Depending on where you currently live in the United States or Canada, the pace of life in, say, Latin America can range from a little slower to a lot slower. Your life may be transitioning from work to retirement, which can be a huge change from fast to slow.

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)

Bring your Dog and Enjoy Miles of Beach for Relaxing Fun

In fact, the specific transition to retirement, or any of the positive-spin euphemisms like “re-inventing, recharging, renewal, retooling” are going to double you up on the “relax and go slowly” factor. So be ready.

A supplement to the question above is, “Can you stand in a long line that doesn’t seem to move…at all?” Can you do this frequently? This is the real-world example where the rubber meets the road, south of the border. How do you feel now about waiting in lines? That’s how you’ll feel later, too. Be honest with yourself. It matters.

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1) Fresh Organic Fruits, Vegetables, Meats, and Cheeses Waiting for You

But please, also remember that the line you are standing in may be to buy the absolute best, most wonderful, organic mangoes picked ripe off the tree that day. Tradeoffs…ones that most expats feel are well worth it.

Pleasantly, for most people, the hustle and bustle of U.S. and Canadian towns and cities will be replaced by a much calmer atmosphere overseas. If you can make this transition, you will do just fine. Remember, if you’re living in a developed community, chances are that community will be designed specifically for leisure activities to enjoy.

Are You Ready to Live in a Foreign Country? (Part 1)

Enjoying Some Quality Time on the Gran Pacifica Links

Look for amenities, activities, and places of social engagement that exist right now, because you’ll have a lot of free time and want to have fun, meet new people, and get the most from this new slower pace of life. In the other articles here, you saw that the concept of “buy what you see” is addressed. Make sure that the activities you enjoy are there today, so that you can begin enjoying the new home and your new life overseas.

Now What?

Think about your answers to the quiz questions. What answer did you give most often? “Yes” or “no?” If most of your answers were yes, then you are clearly in a position to highly consider moving and living abroad. If they were emphatically yes, then what the heck are you still doing here? Move already! If you were on the fence for most of the questions or answered yes with reservations (or answered mostly no), then perhaps moving abroad is not for you – or at least it would be wise to dig a little deeper and know why you want to move, and if the challenges of change are worth it for you.

The purpose of this quiz is to ask yourself these questions before you start looking at the beaches, the beautiful affordable houses, and the golf courses that might turn your head before you have thoroughly thought through whether you are ready to live in a foreign country. These questions are the essence of how well you will cope with the exciting new challenges of life abroad. Being honest with yourself on whether or not you are ready to live in a foreign country is the first step on your way to a new life overseas.

Next week, we’ll examine another set of the quiz questions in greater detail. They are great indicators and we’ll add some examples and expand the focus a bit, so stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to pass this quiz along and have some friends take it, too. There may be some folks you’d like to drag along with you when you make the move.

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on May 02, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.