5 Things to Do When Living Abroad: Expat Checklist
Oh the joys of ex-pat living! Many people tend to romanticize international living. They imagine white sandy beaches, private jets, jungle safaris and of course, a weekend rendezvous to Venice and Marseilles. No shade, the South of France is bae; however, that doesn't mean that fellow longterm ex-pats, nomads and wanderers don't also have to deal with the everyday happenings that may seem boring or just plain bothersome.
My first year (or two) in Spain was a whirlwind of red wine, freshly baked bread, insanely low-cost flights all over Western Europe, blissfully ignorant smiles, and presumptuous hair flips. What's not to love! Everything was shiny, new, and tasted delicious (there were also a few extra kilos I happened upon as well, but, let's leave that story for another time). I experienced a rude awakening in 2014 during a trip to the "homeland" (read: the US): I hadn't done diddly squat in terms of my health or handling business for two long years! Nothing! Perhaps I was secretly relying on my parents as a safety net, or I simply convinced myself that it was "out of sight, out of mind." Don't get so caught up in the now, that you screw yourself over in the long run. Although I had no intention of being a lifer in Spain, here I am, half a decade later living in the suburbs making lunch with my crockpot.
What's my point, you ask? I'm starting to ramble on like your drunk auntie at the family reunion, you say? The point is: life happens, and life doesn't stop because you decide to take 6 months to soul search in Bali, 1 year to learn French in Paris, or 5 years to perfect your tortilla de patatas in Spain. There are a few things that you cannot and should not turn a blind eye to, no matter how much fun you're having surfing in Australia, or learning to tango in Argentina. As millennials we have three settings: 1. Mom! Dad! Help! 2. Google. 3. Forget this, let's take a selfie! I know! And there's no judgment here especially considering my initial reaction to adulting isn't fight nor flight, but "Move *insert expletive of choice*!" We gotta do better. Ignore internet trolls. Do not ignore these things in your life.
Here are 5 things you don't get to blow off because you live abroad:
Uncle Sam and Aunt Sallie
They. Will. Always. Get. Theirs.
They will find you, and you will pay them! Before moving abroad for any extended period of time, check to make sure that your finances are in order. Don't be messy, really, it's not cute! Think about adjusting your payment plans and asking Aunt Sallie is your nicest voice to defer for a year. You'd be surprised how long they're willing to wait (and charge interest)! Do your research. Uncle Sam is about that life, and if you think you're safe in your cozy beachside cabana, girl, bye! Invest in online do-it-yourself tax software, hire an accountant, set an alert to remind you when to get your taxes in order. If you ever decide to move home, you don't want to piss these two people off.
Anxiety has no chill. By definition.
If you needed a therapist in the US (or wherever you're from) what makes you think that a 9 hour flight and a delicious, almost edible turkey wrap from the airport will be the magic cure! Find a therapist. Find an English speaking AA group or a mentor while you're abroad. Ask around for therapists that you can speak to in your native tongue! Take your mental health seriously, because if you're struggling with a mental health issue or simply need to talk, on top of the day-to-day misadventures of living in a foreign place, it may get to be too much. Asking for help makes you strong, not weak.
Don't Neglect Her
I'm talking about vaginas
You and your vajay are in this fo' life! Treat her right! I can't stress how important it is to keep up with your annual pap smears and doctor's visits! Yes, it's awkward, and some times expensive or even painful; but it's necessary. Find an English speaking community and ask the other women in the group to recommend a gynecologist and handle your business.
Wrap it Up!
What's that? You're in love? That's dope! But at the same time, you've known this person for 17 minutes! They don't use protection in _________? Cultural sensitivity be damned! Don't follow what they do there, take responsibility for your sexual health. Jean, Maria, Juan, Gabriel, Paolo, Estefania... they'll understand. Do you know the laws to protect you in the country you're residing? What if a child is involved? What are your rights? And more importantly, if you only have their Instagram handle and whatsapp number, that's not necessarily the most solid of foundations in terms of holding two consenting adults accountable. You can enjoy sex and be smart about it!
"Rob the jewelry store, and tell 'em make me a grill"
Red wine. Coffee. Truffles. Tea. Macarons. These things, while delicious, can take a toll on your teeth if you don't monitor your intake. Okay, I'll cut the crap. Anyone who has met me knows that I do none of the above: I love chocolate, and I eat it ever chance I get. You caught me! That first sentence was full of crap! All I'll say about oral health is floss, get your teeth cleaned every at least once a year, and if your wisdom teeth feel like they need to be removed, listen. Nothing puts a damper on a sunny picnic under the Eiffel Tower like impacted wisdom teeth that refuse to let you be great!
Who is this Danni? She usually writes about online dating and hair? I'm still here! It's just that my inner Grandma plus years of trial and (mostly) error want to spare you from unnecessary stress. Now, you can return to your regular diet of videos about cats dressed as humans and Donald Trump memes.
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.