7 Things Only Expats Understand

by Sponsored Post on September 9, 2016

Becoming an expat shapes your personality as it takes you through a journey of life struggles and challenges. Every expat goes through very particular circumstances, but there are some things that almost all of them will have experienced.

Cigna Global, a specialist in expat health care, has gathered the list of the top 7 things only expats understand:

1. Immigration processes can be a nightmare

From understanding immigration laws, to getting a Police Clearance Certificate or sorting a full medical examination – the requirements and all the paperwork that may be involved in the process of obtaining a visa or work permit can be really exhausting.

Cigna Health Insurance

If you’re one of the many expats that have been through this, you probably wish there was an easier way to getting your visa renewal, or that a permanent residency didn’t take so much of your time waiting and filling forms. Not to mention the costs.

On the bright side, once you’ve gone through the never-ending immigration process and you get your papers, you feel an incredible sense of achievement – one that only expats can understand.

2. Your diet changes

Once you’ve left your home country, you start missing things in a way you probably didn’t expect. Food is usually one of these things. Finding your favorite food is almost impossible.

For most expats, and depending on their new location, it becomes a matter of trying some new questionable food, and learning to love the local cuisine. If you’re lucky, you’ll eventually find a specialist import shop that sells products from your home country.

3. Some routines can become big challenges

When you’ve just arrived in a new country, doing your grocery shopping is not anymore the easy thing you could do in your spare 15 minutes – not only can you be confused about where to go, but you may find yourself not knowing what you should buy. And once you’ve done it, you may realize you don’t actually know how to cook what you bought.

Expats living in a country with an unfamiliar language can easily find the simplest things considerably more complicated: asking for information, buying the food you want or finding medicine in a pharmacy; suddenly become very challenging tasks.

4. You value things differently

Expat life can make you change some of your priorities and value things differently – the more you move, the more you realize you don’t need to have so many ‘things’, especially when these things will involve extra packing and shipping. At the same time, you start to really value the simplest things, like the first time you managed to order a meal in your new language.

Similarly, while it wasn’t particularly a big deal before to see a close friend or family member – the day you’re abroad and anyone comes from home to visit you can easily become the best day of your life.

5. Healthcare is not to be taken for granted

Wherever in the world you are, ensuring you’re covered for healthcare is vital. Getting ill is bad enough, but when you’re abroad it can be 10 times worse – you can feel you’re dealing with a disease that you’d never heard about, or be conflicted about visiting a doctor that will not speak your language.  In addition to this, there’s the whole understanding of how the healthcare system works in your new location.

In many cases, expats opt for an international health insurance plan that can ease much of the stress; attend your queries in a familiar language, and ensure you can be treated whenever it’s needed.

6. People back home may see you differently

Try not to take offense; to the eyes of others, you may be really “blessed” to be living in some exotic destination, and the photos you’ve posted on your social network may be giving the impression that you’re living the good life.

Expats can be stereotyped and perceived as rich individuals or just extremely happy. But the truth is that everyone is different; a person can move to another country for many different reasons, and experience very different things. Expat life involves struggles and it can often be isolating. Moving abroad can bring a mix of emotions, cultural changes and paperwork, and it can take quite some time for expats to properly relax and enjoy life abroad.

7. At the end, it’s all worth it

Despite all the difficulties and the hard times you’ve been through in your expat journey, you may feel that you wouldn’t want it any other way – and that being an expat is worth the struggles. Settling abroad fills you with confidence and a great sense of achievement; it makes you a more adaptable individual and stronger towards change and future challenges.

Cigna Global offer a high level of care facilities for expats in over 200 countries and territories, with the flexibility to choose from three levels of cover and optional additional benefits, including outpatient care, medical evacuation, and vision & dental care. Visit Cignaglobal.com for more information on Individual Private Medical Insurance or to get a free no-obligation quote.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

MeerabFatima September 12, 2016 at 2:01 pm

very informative and usefull article. Thanks for sharing this. i just start reading it and i couldn’t stop myself to to read all.


Erin September 12, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Great article; I can definitely relate to many of this after being an expat in two different countries.

One thing about the health insurance that most people don’t realise (particularly for Canadians): be sure to read and thoroughly understand the small print around eligibility. Many of these policies only cover you if you’re still a resident of your home country and are qualified to receive government assisted healthcare. Depending on the country, if you have been away for more than 6 months or a year, you’re no longer covered. This means if you injure yourself abroad and haven’t been home (and paying taxes) for 6 months or a year, your policy won’t cover you. This doesn’t matter if you go home for even a visit; I had to purchase health insurance when I returned to Canada for a three-week holiday.

I know you can inform your government to get this coverage extended (at least in Canada), but not many people realise that they need to do this. Your next best bet is to purchase a policy in your new country that may cover you, depending on the type of visa you have.


Maggie September 13, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Absolutely love this article. I can identify with all the observations you made. For example, for point #1, the immigration process… it took me three attempts in as many years, a lot, lot of patience and the help of both lawyers and friends to finally get my temporary residency in Nicaragua. But, like you say, in the end it’s all worth it. 🙂


Linda Laddin September 13, 2016 at 3:47 pm

An interesting article. For first-time expats, it could be useful. However, I prefer a more positive approach which is often called Bloom Where You’re Planted. Of course, there are challenges, but there are challenges in our home countries too. Instead of hunting up familiar foodstuffs from home, experiment with local foods and join a group to learn how to prepare them. Turn the experience into an adventure, especially for kids, and learn how to see with fresh eyes. Everything is in one’s attitude to the new culture and a different way of seeing the world. I was an expat in Japan and Hong Kong for many years and now live permanently in France. I don’t miss the US – I sometimes miss Asia, but there is plenty to do and learn in France so every day brings something new.


Elena September 16, 2016 at 10:45 am

This is all so true! People in your home country definitely see you in a different way, they think I am super rich or something, and they say I am lucky. It is definitely not about luck, if you move to another country you need more than ‘luck’, you need courage! patience! personal strength! Yes we got through a lot to get where we are… and yes it is all worth it! 🙂


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