Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Guest Post: A Beginner’s Guide to Living Outside the USA

Editor's Note: The following is a submission by a guest writer calling herself Caroline Secure Thoughts.  I have been contacted by people, Americans, who have an interest in moving to and living in a foreign country. Caroline submitted this article for possible consideration as a guest post.  Because of the information contained here, and the quality of her writing I have posted it.  I think it will be helpful to those considering a move from their home country to Taiwan.  Thank you, Caroline. - Chris

Living outside the USA is an exciting adventure. You will have the opportunity to explore new parts of the world, try new food, and experience a different culture. However, a big move like this does not come without its challenges. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of living outside the USA:

Keep an Open Mind

This is a great rule to keep in mind always, but especially when deciding to live outside the USA. Wherever you live, it will definitely not be exactly like home. By going into your new living situation with an open mind, you will better able to handle culture shock and adapt to your new environment.

Some places may be harder to be open to than others. But, if you try to keep an open mind, slowly your view of the world may broaden and change. You will start to see the world from a whole new perspective.

Learn a New Language

One of the largest obstacles faced when living abroad is a different language. You might be able to get by some places with English, but it will greatly enhance your experience if you learn the local language.
However, this is of course much easier said than done. Once, you are in your new country, it is great to learn by jumping right in, and trying to speak the language as much as possible. However, this can be intimidating and overwhelming at times. Thankfully, there are many free resources that can help:

Best Free Language Learning Resources

1.       Duolingo
 A fun and easy way to learn a new language. They also have an app to help you learn on the go, and are continually expanding the languages they offer every year.

2.       BBC Languages
 This is a great resource to learn some of the basics of almost any language. Each language page also provides resources to radio and news stations in the language of your choice.

3.       Movies and TV Shows
 Watching movies or TV shows is one of the best ways to practice your abilities of understanding the spoken language without having to leave your house. Try putting subtitles on in the language you are learning so you can practice hearing and reading the language at the same time.   

Staying in Touch
When moving outside of the USA you may expect to face challenges like learning a language, or getting used to a new culture. However, one of the most unexpected challenges is often keeping in contact with those you left in the USA. Time changes and iffy internet connections are just some of the obstacles you may face when trying to stay in touch with family and friends.
Staying in touch with those back home requires dedication and time on your part, but, thankfully there are plenty of free resources out there to help make it little easier and without extra expense. Here are a few of my favorites:

                        3 Best Apps and Websites for Staying in Touch Abroad:
1.         Skype
This one has been around forever, but still works great.  Also, many people already have Skype set up, or are at least familiar with it. So this is a great one to use for those family members who don’t like downloading new apps. This is best used for voice calling while using Wi Fi.
2.               WhatsApp
This app is most popular for texting overseas. This is also a very famous app, so makes it easy to keep in touch with many friends and family members.
3.         Wi-Fi Finder
Depending on where you are living, finding a Wi Fi connection can be a huge problem. There is nothing worse than having a call drop on you every 10 seconds. With the Wi Fi finder you can find the closest and strongest Wi Fi connections around you. (But, if you decide to live in Taiwan, you will be extremely happy to find that they may have the best Wi Fi options in the world. Almost the entire city is a giant hotspot).
These apps will make it easier to communicate with those at home. However, what makes staying close to those at home the most challenging is that you are not sharing your everyday lives and experiences together. But, with a little creativity, you can find many alternative and unique ways to not only stay in touch, but stay close.

                        Alternative Ways to Staying Close and in Touch Abroad:
1.         Make a Blog
It is hard for friends and families to relate to the new life you are living. One of the best ways to keep your family informed of what you are doing without making a bazillion phone calls is making a blog. It will help bring friends and families a little closer to you, while saving you from repeating stories again and again.

2.         Watch the Same TV Shows Together
You may be living on other sides of the world, but you can still share some things together. Try picking a couple TV shows that you can watch together. You can easily access many TV shows on websites like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. If you are living in a country that denies access to these kinds of websites, this is not a problem. You can use a VPN to trick your computer into thinking it’s in the US.

3.         Send Care Packages
Sometimes it’s the random little things you miss, like peanut butter or your favorite shampoo brand. Have a family member or friend send you a package of some of your favorite things from home. In return, send back to them a package of things from your new home. Can be anything from a new candy you discovered, to a pretty scarf from the local market. Regardless of what you send, these little packages will help bring your family, friends and yourself closer to each other.

Go out of your comfort zone

Moving outside of the USA will provide many opportunities to go out of our comfort zone, but it is up to you whether you take these opportunities or not. It is in our nature to gravitate towards the familiar, whether that’s similar food or people that speak our same language. But, if you continue to stay in your comfort zone, you might miss out on a lot.

If you’re nervous about venturing away from your norm, there is no need to worry (they call it a comfort zone for a reason). Pick one or two things a day to take on. It can be anything from saying hello in a new language, or finally trying that strange looking stew. Slowly, you will go from saying hello and strange stews, to full on conversations and fried chicken feet (which is actually pretty tasty).

At times living outside the USA can be intimidating and overwhelming. But, hopefully after reading this article you feel ready to take on whatever comes your way. As long as you follow a few steps and rules, living abroad can truly be a life changing experience. So pack your things, and get ready to embrace all that your new country has to offer. 

Article Printed by Permission
Photos:  Royalty Free


  1. Learning the new language is everything. FB video chat is another good way to stay in touch. I like the watch tv together idea too.

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