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American Expats Living Abroad | Expat Dream Team 6#

Ever wonder, ‘what life is like living abroad, and how do people become an expat?’ If so, you’re not alone. Many others have pondered the same thought. And some of those ponderers made the necessary moves towards expat living.

So, who are these adventurous people and what’s their story? The Expat Dream Team is finding out the answers.

I’ve asked a panel of lovely American women who have moved abroad and living in New Zealand, Portugal, England, Hungary, Bulgaria and Puerto Rico, to share their expat stories.

The Expat Dream Team is a series of group collaboration posts. Where expatriates, located in different countries, are sharing their experience and providing key advice on living abroad.

What I love about this series is the community. I learn so much and I’m so inspired by others and their journey. So why not share it? Read more about the Expat Dream Team.

How these Americans started their expat life.

When starting to figure out, if the expat life is right for you. Here are a few topics that you will want to consider. It’s adulting like no other.

  1. What brought you to move overseas?
  2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents & health care?
  3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?
  4. What was the process like to find housing and schools for your children (if any)?
  5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

Lara in Bulgaria

Expat Dream Team Lara

If you’re a foodie, or just looking for dinner inspo’. Lara’s IG Sonomatosofia will inspire your next dish. Learn more about Lara and her lovely life in Bulgaria.

Hi! I’m Lara! I was born and raised in a small, cute town in California, called Sonoma. I now live in Bulgaria with my husband of 3 years! We love our life here, and have no plans of leaving. It is a stunning country with a rich history and good comfort food! I’m all about the food! 6 years ago, I could barely point out Bulgaria on a map if you asked me, now it feels like home.

Fun fact about me: I grew up learning Spanish every week for one hour with a private tutor. This probably went on for almost 8 years! My mom was determined for me to be bilingual. Although I understand Spanish well, I can’t say I’m fluent. I now speak Bulgarian better than I ever did Spanish and it’s only been 3 years since I’ve been learning. I guess motivation is truly everything! Mine was love 😉

1. What brought you to move overseas?

”I moved to Bulgaria in 2017, when my husband and I got married. He was born in Bulgaria and has always lived here. We met while I was doing some traveling across Europe in 2015 and we fell in love pretty quickly. We had only spent 4 days in person together total but the chemistry was more real than anything either of us had experienced before. We continued dating long distance for 2 years. We decided pretty much from the beginning of our relationship that we would live in Bulgaria as opposed to the States. This was based on a few reasons. One being that the life in Bulgaria is much simpler than the US and we both appreciated that. We keep a simple life so that we are able to spend more time together and doing the things we love. Another reason was that as much as I love my hometown, I didn’t feel a need to stay there. I was ready to live abroad even if it wasn’t for having met my husband. As much as many thought I was CRAZY for picking up my life up and moving here, I did. And I have not one regret!”

2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents and health care?

Honestly, the Bulgarian immigration process can be pretty complicated but I was fortunate to fall into some really kind hands at the immigration offices. My visa was obviously based on marriage to a citizen. The process typically starts with applying for a long stay visa from your home country after the marriage takes place. Well, traveling back to the states for this right after our wedding wasn’t really an option, so fortunately we found a way to apply at the nearest consulate in Greece. After receiving this visa, I was then able to apply for long term residency. (different from permanent residency.) Between the time I received the long term visa and turned in my documents for long term residency, my passport was stolen from our home which also had my visa inside. This is where I was so grateful for Bulgarian Migration offices who accepted the copy of my visa that I had previously made. Every year after that, I have had to renew my long term residency, and every year there seems to be some kind of snafew that we run into. It almost seems as though nobody really knows the exact rules because I’m always asked for something a little different. But, again, the Bulgarian immigration has always helped me through it.”

3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?

”Do them! And if you can find a CPA familiar with expat taxes, I advise to consult with one. I think I will do that next year as this year was a real headache for me.”

4. What was the process like to find housing and schools for your children?

”Well we don’t have kids yet, and my husband already had a place when i moved here as he is a local. So this wasn’t something I really had to encounter. However, what I have noticed here compared to the States is that almost all apartments come furnished! Which is great if you’re coming and have nothing. On the other hand, the furnished apartments are usually just leftover furniture from the landlord’s grandma in communism times. So not really my style 😉 Also, the rent is extremely affordable if you’re coming from the US. Of course, it’s all relative for us locals, but you can get a one bedroom apartment in Sofia for $400-$600/month.”

5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

”My top advice is to be adaptable. Don’t constantly compare your old life to your new one. Try to integrate and make friends with the locals, not just other expats. This will go a long way. It will help you feel at home faster but also open up opportunities you may not have otherwise. For example, I can’t help but believe that my being able to speak the language helped me with my visa disaster mentioned above. Make sure you don’t have any traces of feeling like your home country is “better.” Sometimes the locals can have bad impressions of expats from your home country (i.e Americans) coming to their country trying to “help” or expecting everyone to adapt to them by speaking English. Just learn about their culture. Keep what you want from your own culture, as long as you’re not offending others along the way. You’re American but you’re not in America anymore. Another thing that helped me from feeling homesick, was to create a space in my home that feels like “home.” For example, if you love cooking, set up your kitchen exactly how it was back in your home country. For me personally, it was making my balcony beautiful with flowers and a bistro table. This will provide a calm space for you when you are overwhelmed with constantly feeling “foreign.””

Alexis Expat Dream Team

Alexis in England

Living amongst castles and beautiful landscapes in England is Alex. Alexis_AmericanAbroad will have you falling in love with epic landscapes. Learn more about Alexis and her life in England.

Alexis writes in, “‘I have been living in Leeds, England with my husband for almost two years now (come October!). I am originally from Illinois. Not quite sure how long we will be here as our journey has been an absolute adventure the last 5 years – including many surprises! So we are just happy to be together and see where life takes us. My first spousal visa (that I’m on now) is valid for 33 months so we will be applying for my extension around April 2021 (and that extension will be valid for 30 months). And at that time I would be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) which is similar to a green card. Meanwhile our future children are already entitled to both American and UK citizenships!

A fun fact about Alexis,

I am meant to have a “rare” personality type (INFJ) but believe that my expat lifestyle is the most interesting fact about me!”

1. What brought you to move overseas?

”In 2015 I swiped right on a gorgeous Englishman and that was the end of life as I knew it. Both of us were attending universities near St. Louis, Missouri. He had already been living in America for a few years on an athletic scholarship so thankfully he had become somewhat accustomed to the craziness that is American women (but he had never met a Chicagoan before).
Our six month dating anniversary fell on February 29th (Leap Day) and I proposed to him with a Ring Pop because he told me about an old English law where if a woman proposes on Leap Day the man must either agree or buy an expensive gift. Apparently I got both because he was proposing with a real ring less than two months later.

About five months before we got married, he was invited to present some research at the national conference for the American College of Sports Medicine. While we were there, he sparked the interest of a university near Savannah, Georgia. We moved to Georgia in August – which ended up being a bit of a flop. But not before the greatest high of our lives – getting married on October 4th, 2017.

By January 2018 – just three months later – my husband’s university informed him that they were no longer supporting the funding for his Master’s degree and that he could either choose to pay over $10,000 out-of-pocket for the next semester or return to England within the next two weeks. Reluctantly he chose the latter and we shared tearful goodbyes at the Savannah Airport. Meanwhile, I returned to Chicago to stay with family during the 10 months of preparing for my visa to join him.

(Or, to answer simply, my husband!)

2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents & health care?

”A lot of people assume that getting married automatically entitles you to the same residency rights as your spouse and it’s simply not the case. Before my husband and I could even think about applying for my spousal visa, we had certain requirements we had to meet. As the “sponsor” for my visa, my husband had to first prove £18,600 in annual income (shown in payslips covering a minimum period of six months – if one consistent employer, or 12 months if not), as well as documentation supporting that employment as well as that he would be providing accommodation for me and was of “good moral character.” I, as the applicant, also needed to display “good moral character” as well as English literacy proof (though I was exempt from this for having a degree from a US university), and biometrics (i.e. fingerprint data). Our relationship also needed to be deemed “authentic and genuine” in providing photo evidence and Facebook chat histories.

The visa costs totaled around $4,500; a visa fee of $2,026 (August 2018), NHS surcharge of $798, an extra $692 for priority service (we had already lost nearly our entire first year of marriage, we weren’t prepared to lose more), $100 to MAIL the documents, and $880 for the flight and extra bag (because you try moving abroad with only one suitcase). 

We applied on August 26th and I had my passport with an entry visa by October 8th (for those of you keeping track, just four days after our wedding anniversary). I left Chicago on October 25th and landed in England on October 26th. I cannot even begin to describe the relief I felt to finally be with my husband again. I think we made quite a few prudish on-lookers uncomfortable in the airport that day.”

3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?

”Most of the world, including most Americans, are completely unaware that we are one of two (but really the only one that can enforce it) countries that tax their expats! Generally most expats are exempt from actually “paying” any tax as they are not earning above the threshold of $100,000. Regardless, you need to file. I believe there is a “streamline” process that allows you to file every three year period if not done annually but I would personally feel overwhelmed looking over three years worth of financials. If even one year feels daunting, there are plenty of tax advisors that specialize in expat tax situations. The internet is a great provider of resources here!”

4. What was the process like to find housing.

”There’s plenty of housing options for both renting and buying but do expect that it may cost more than you are anticipating. However, you aren’t limited just because you are a recent immigrant so that’s definitely a plus. Just be prepared as well that hot water and cold water might come from different taps and air conditioning is rarely in homes!”

5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

”My biggest piece of advice for anyone wanting to move abroad is not to decide on vacation (i.e. “holiday” for my British friends). I first came to England in 2016 to meet my (then fiance’s) family. I was so enthralled in the experience and was viewing everything through rose-colored glasses. I didn’t understand what living in England would be like on a Wednesday afternoon in a stuffy, corporate office.

You also NEED to do your research about the legalities for your move. Just because you have a second cousin twice removed living in Switzerland does not mean you can pack up your life tomorrow and move. Immigration policy is changing daily so make sure your resources are current and reliable. I personally found a lot of solace in Facebook Groups when we were applying for my spousal visa, and since I’ve made the move.”

Denae Expat Dream Team

Denae in Hungary

Denaeaway is Denae, who can help you navigate your way through Hungary. From dating, choosing wine, to getting settled, Denae has you covered. Find out more about her and expat life in Hungary.

Denae writes in,After studying abroad in college, I knew I wanted to live abroad. So after taking a year to save up and work as a barista, I moved from Seattle, WA to Budapest, Hungary! I came to teach English for a gap year and now it’s been three! Ever since arriving, I love writing actionable and informative blog content to help people learn about moving/teaching abroad—especially in Budapest. I don’t know how long I’ll stay, but I love building relationships with my students and with the city itself, who knows?

1. What brought you to move overseas?

”After studying abroad in Copenhagen and London in college, I wanted to transition to a life working abroad. Finding a visa in Europe was tricky…until I considered getting a TEFL and teaching English! Some old friends from college were teaching in Budapest, and that put it on my radar. That’s why I came, but reasons for staying for three years had to do with Budapest’s affordability, the opportunity for ESL jobs, and of course, my handsome Hungarian boyfriend ;)”

2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents & health care?

”I decided to use a placement agency, CETP (Central European Teaching Program), which took care of my visa process. I mailed them basic documents before my arrival (passport copies, medical check, etc) and then they made me an appointment at immigration and came with me to make sure everything went smoothly. The agency cost $2500 the first year and then $750 each year afterwards. The price felt steep to me, honestly, but my program’s help was essential for navigating the visa process. Having no Hungarian connections and no Hungarian language skills would have made it otherwise impossible. However, now that I’ve built a network and can speak basic Hungarian, I’m ready to tackle the process using my own resources.”

3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?

”I actually make a low enough salary here (the one perk of a teacher’s salary) that I don’t meet the tax threshold, although filing is always important. It’s more necessary for me to file my freelance income since I teach English online to supplement my income here. Turbotax free file was very helpful!”

4. What was the process like to find housing?

My employer found housing for me the first year that I lived here. Ever since, though, I’ve found new apartments on my own. There are plenty of apartment-seeking Facebook groups here in Budapest, as well as the Ingatlan app, so I used those religiously. Great apartments get snapped up in the late summer/early fall, but it’s an advantage to already live here and have feet on the ground! Most landlords ask for a two months deposit, and you should bring it with you in cash when you view the apartment so you can sign the papers there! Places here go fast!

5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

How wonderful that you’re going on this adventure abroad! Definitely utilize Facebook groups of expats in your possible new home. It’s a good way to see what life might be like in your new country. It’s also a good way to anticipate common expat problems (the Budapest apartment seeking and immigration help FB  groups have really saved my bacon in the past!). And save, save, save money! Setting up a new life has a lot of incidentals, from apartment deposits to delayed first paychecks…you can reduce a lot of headaches by having a financial cushion. Also, give it more than a year if you can. Once the “gap year” feeling wears off, you’ll be able to put down roots in a city and really make it your home.’

Christa Expat Dream Team

Christa in England

Calling all equestrians, podcast lovers and wanderlusters! C.thedrive moved from Ohio and for the past two years she’s been thriving at the expat life in London, traveling and hitting the audio wave frequency with her awesome podcast.

Christa writes in, “I’m the co-host for a travel podcast called Nourish Your Drive, which features a different guest for each episode. It’s short format, 30 minutes or so, and we cover their favorite destination and tips for that location and chat about how travel has influenced their lives.”

1. What brought you to move overseas?

”At the time of my decision to move to the UK, I had been working for my company for six years and had traveled most of the United States. I was comfortable in my role, where I was living, but seeking a challenge and a different environment. The States just felt smaller after traveling it for three years as a consultant and constantly being on the road. I come from a family that has immigrant roots, and I have always appreciated experiencing new cultures. While in the Bahamas on a trip, I ran into a group of professionals from the UK, and in discussing travel, I came to realize how different our experiences had been. There was too much of the world left to see, and I felt like I was losing time “being comfortable” in Ohio. My worldview was still very narrow, and I wanted to expand it. 
I have always taken the approach of keeping a strong and diverse network. As a result, I was able to interview for a role within my company in London and received the sponsorship to make the move. When I set my mind to something, I take no prisoners. I made the choice to move to the UK at the end of January 2018 and was on a plane in May for my permanent move. I chose the UK because I was knew I would be best positioned to be successful due to knowledge of the industry, language, etc.”

2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents & health care?

”I did a lot of research before proposing the move to my internal leadership teams. I looked up what visa opportunities there were in the UK, what the approval process was like, and what gave me the best chance for success. The ICT visa (Intra-Company Transfer) was the best option at the time. I went through a through interview process, paying my own way to come and interview for the role in London, and once selected, my company sponsored my visa. 
Healthcare was much easier, but also still a process. When I arrived, I was given a National Healthcare System (NHS) number as part of my residency in the UK. You’re supposed to select a General Practitioner (GP) straight away, and I’m ashamed to say, that due to the process of having to go in and show my passport, permit, etc., that I didn’t actually register with a GP until 18 months into my residency. I ended up going with Babylon Health (virtual GP) because it was on-line. It was just a better fit for me. I would also recommend private health insurance if your employer offers it – it gives you the opportunity to “skip the queue” and get in with specialists very quickly. Overall, the quality of healthcare is very comparable to the states. Just like anywhere, you have your great options and ones that are a bit sub-par, but overall its been a good experience. ”

3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?

”Don’t try to go it alone. If you’re an expat, make sure you’re filing every year (as you should), so that you don’t get tax penalties that may come back to haunt you when you make your return to the states. In my first year, my company provided tax support. In my second year, I used H&R Block expat services. I am on a local contract (get paid in £), and in my first year I had to manage a house sale, multiple account changes, and more so having KPMG to file my taxes was amazing. This second year has been smooth as well. As a note – Unless you’re an international tax law expert, just swallow the costs and pay for someone to do it. Separately, I made the choice to use a bank account with HSBC which allowed me to have accounts on both sides of the Atlantic, which was a smart move for filing. If you can find a banking company that can do the same, I suggest it.”

4. What was the process like to find housing ?

”Housing was interesting. When I first made the move, I decided to find an AirBNB in the community of London that I thought I would most want to live in, based on online research and a walk around the last time I visited. I was grateful that I went that route, because I quickly realized that the specific neighborhood I was in, was NOT for me. I then made a move to another part of town to another AirBNB and used that as my home base while I searched for apartments. Make sure you really do your research and don’t jump into anything too quickly. My favorite advice is to jump on the train from where you think you want to live to where you will work and get off at each stop and “feel the vibe.” Commuting is a big part of the London experience (not as much now with COVID) and factoring that into your choice is important. 
In London, you can do a flat share or find something on your own. There are tons of sites that you can utilize like RightMove or Spare Room. Unlike the states, there are no realtor sites that post ALL the ads. You’re going to have to work with each letting agency (realtor) to find postings, since they can only show what’s listed with their company. Additionally, you’ll find in the UK, particularly in London, you can get in a bid war on apartment lettings (rentals) so if you find something you like, settle on it quickly. I’ve been in my place for 2 years, going on three and love it.”

5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

”I live my life with a no regret policy. If this is something you think you want to do, then get your “ducks in a row” and get it done. I believe in ensuring you’re financially stable, that you’re making appropriate choices that only positively impact you for the better, and that you put yourself in the best position to be successful. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t plan for everything, but assessing the risks beforehand is essential. There are personal sacrifices that you may make as part of the process, and if you assess those, and still find that making the move has more pluses than minuses, then go. Taking the opportunity to experience the world from outside The States is something for which I will be forever grateful and that I’ll never regret. I’m always happy to chat with anyone that is serious about making the move and has questions about what they should be considering.”

Kaitee Expat Dream Team

Kaitee in Puerto Rico

Kaitee_Queen is livin’ la vida expat in Puerto Rico. After traveling for an extensive amount of time. Kaitee quickly recognized she was ready to level up her life and move abroad. Super impressive if you ask me, especially since she started her expat life at 22 yrs old!

Kaitee writes in, ”I’m 22 born in South Dakota! I moved to Puerto Rico last September so I’ve almost been here a year, and I’m planning on a couple more years.” Fun fact about Kaitee, she’s never missed a flight (yet!). Learn more Kaitee and Puerto Rico.

1. What brought you to move overseas?

”After graduating college last May from Montana State in Bozeman, I took a 3 week summer vacation to visit some exchange friends in Europe and Egypt. I ended up cancelling my flight back home and backpacked day-to-day for another 2 months! I loved it so much and almost didn’t want to come back to start my corporate job. I decided to compromise and see where my company could take me. I asked for an opportunity and got an interview at that site.”

2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents & health care?

”You do not need a visa coming to Puerto Rico, you don’t even need a passport and can get in with simply a driver’s license like any other state. Healthcare (can other bills like phone coverage ect.) can often be handled from your same providers in the states so check before you switch.”

3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?

”My recommendation is to use a tax advisor, even if it’s just for the first year abroad. Once you know the process you could swap to do it in your own but it is difficult to research the proper info. My company files my taxes for me.”

4. What was the process like to find housing ?

”For housing, Classificados Online is the Craigslist of Puerto Rico. The website is terrible, outdated info that’s never taken down and if people don’t get back to you promptly I’d suggest to move on, but everyone uses it and you will have the most luck there. It’s common that each apartment in a building is owned privately, this can also cause large differences in price on the same floor so if you visit and like a location look more in that building. Things to look for include: security staff or gated apartment complex (this is standard in San Juan), oven in the kitchen (studios may come without one), a parking spot (can be rare to have one for free if at all).”

5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

”Puerto Rico is perfect for Americans who want to live in a different culture, but have only half the hassle of moving fully abroad! We us USD currency and, although there’s lots of Spanish, you could get away with all English in San Juan and a high-school level knowledge around the island!”

Megan Expat Dream Team

Megan in Portugal

Do you love the outdoors with amazing views? Me too! MeganmMitas‘s IG will have you adding Portugal to your bucket list or at least virtually exploring it with her.

Megan writes in, ”My name is Megan. My husband, our 1 ½ year old daughter, and myself are from Florida, USA. We are currently living in Lisbon, Portugal and have been here since here December 2019. We got here right in time before the pandemic started. Portugal was the first overseas trip my husband and I took together and we have been coming here every year since. We loved it and it became a goal of ours to move here! We plan to live here forever. For now we still do have our home back in the United States. 

Back in 2016 my husband and I traveled around the world for 7 months. We did 20 countries and even rode the Trans-Mongolian and the Trans-Siberian railway.”

1. What brought you to move overseas?

”My family and I choose to move to Portugal for the quality of life, safety, and the cost of living. We love the European lifestyle!”

2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents & health care?

”Healthcare was easy, no physical assessments, blood tests required etc.  We just had to find an insurance agent and discuss policies and sign up for what was best for our family. The visa documents were another story! Mounds and mounds of paperwork to cover income, birth certificates, marriage certificates, FBI background checks, asset statements, opening up bank accounts, Portuguese NIF etc. Many of the documents needed to be apostilled by official agencies. We had to have a Portuguese citizen provide copy of ID, invitation / recommendation letter for us etc. Last but not least, we even had to have proof of our lease. Which was a bit stressful to commit to before we even had our visa!”

3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?

”Have an accountant handle it for you. ;)”

4. What was the process like to find housing?

”Finding housing is tricky because they do not use an MLS service here, so not all listings are available in one site.  For example – ReMax has some listings, but if you go into a century 21 office you won’t see or be presented with ReMax listings. So you kind of have to get lucky and do a lot of searching on your own.  Also, we had to pay first year’s rent in full up front to make our offer more competitive.”

5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

”Travel abroad a lot on your own (not on guided tours). Lower your expectations and be open minded. Wander the small streets.”

Madeline Expat Dream Team

Madeline in New Zealand

New Zealand has always been a top fav’ country of mine (plus, the country is doing an impressive job at kicking covid’s butt!). More importantly, everyone needs a neighbor like TheBumbleMom and here’s why;

”Our family of four moved from Austin, Texas to Auckland, New Zealand in June of 2018, and we plan on staying indefinitely. New Zealand is an incredible place to raise a family! And a fun fact about me: I love to bake and have mastered such sky-scraping concoctions as the cherpumple, but I don’t actually like eating many sweets. Inevitably the kids and I deliver lots of baked goods to our neighbors so our hard work doesn’t go to waste. You need elasticated pants to live nearby.”

1. What brought you to move overseas?

”We were some of the crazy Americans who started crashing immigration websites the day after the 2016 election. My husband and I had toyed with the idea of moving abroad before, but that November it became real. We thought Trump was a symptom of much deeper systemic issues that weren’t/aren’t going to be fixed any time soon, and we wanted to raise our kids somewhere less volatile and more optimistic. We came up with three criteria and went shopping for a country: English speaking, good climate, and a good business environment. New Zealand quickly rose to the top of the list even though neither of us had ever been there before.”

2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents & health care?

New Zealand’s visa process is not for the faint of heart and most visas have a points system to determine if you are eligible. After reviewing the information online, we decided to hire an advisor to help us through the process because there were clearly some “gotchas” that we wanted guidance on. First we submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI). A few weeks later, right before Christmas, we learned that our EOI was accepted. Then we had to prepare a huge application with lots of supporting information that took months to do. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) asked for things like certified diplomas from our universities to demonstrate English proficiency. Then I had to get a certified translation of my diploma because it was in Latin and everything had to be in English. The irony of this situation was no lost on me. It felt like each time we tracked down one required document, four more were needed.

A medical is required to immigrate to New Zealand, and an approved physician is required to do the exam. We drove the whole family from Austin to Houston to the closest approved doctor for the medicals. Fortunately, the doctor’s visit itself wasn’t particularly long or difficult.

Once we mailed off our large package of documents, we waited. And we decided to make a trip to New Zealand to make sure we actually liked it. At this point, New Zealand was still sight unseen for us. Fortunately, we fell in love with the country by the time we queued up for our Air New Zealand flight and were head over heels by the time we made our way to Wellington and met with INZ. The day after our INZ meeting, our paperwork started processing. The total process took about nine months.”

3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?

”This is a tough one because it really depends on your situation. How much you earn and where your assets are can make a huge impact on your tax strategy. My biggest piece of advice is – at least for the first year – hire a professional.”

4. What was the process like to find housing and schools for your children?

New Zealand housing, and Auckland housing in particular, is notorious for being expensive and sub-par. There are lots of things that we take for granted in the US that aren’t a given in Kiwi houses, things like double glazed windows, lots of insulation, central A/C, and washers and dryers. Almost all immigrants to New Zealand will be renting at first due to newly passed legislation that limits who can buy property, and this means that the rental market is intense. Often there will be open houses that will only last 15-30 minutes and dozens of people will go through the property at once. If you’re interested, you need to be prepared to put in an application right away. With that being said, there are a lot of houses on the market because house hunting is practically a national sport here. It is intense, but completely possible to find a house that suits you.

Schools are zoned like in the United States and ranked by decile which is an indication of the socioeconomic status of the neighbourhood. While it isn’t an exact indicator of how good a school is, decile 10 schools are considered desirable while decile 1 schools aren’t. There are Ministry of Education reports that give data on all of the schools so we were able to determine which neighbourhoods we wanted to live in. School and house hunting go hand in hand.”

5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

Commit at least two years to wherever you are going. There is a concept called the Happiness Curve for migrants that says there is an initial phase of euphoria and excitement that quickly leads to a big emotional slump from months 6-18 after a big move. There were many times during that slump that I thought about throwing in the towel and moving back, but we made a commitment not to discuss repatriating until we were at the two year mark. Thank goodness we made that decision because right around 17 months, things started to improve.”

Expat Dream Team Advice

NoUglyDuckling is Tricia, who moved from California and has been living in Portugal for the past 2 years. Tricia has been featured in Lucky magazine as a “Marketing Guru” in the Beauty Spy section, quoted in The New York Times “The Goods” column, The Orange County Register front page Life section, and Marie Claire magazine as a top professional cosmetics consultant. AND a super fun fact about Tricia is, she recently wrote a book!

Tricia writes in,

I started my beauty career in advertising, working on the Procter & Gamble luxury fragrance business, Cover Girl, and Victoria’s Secret in New York City. It was then, I realized I wanted to hone in my expertise on the entire marketing strategy and I returned to school to get an MBA. Upon graduation, I worked for L’Oreal USA and helped manage the lip/nail/color cosmetic business, and exponentially grow the mascara business before I moved to Southern California to help launch the Revlon artificial nail business, Revlon false lash business, and Bio-Oil, a South-African skincare product, to the US market.

1. What brought you to move overseas?

”Check out my blog link for the answer: But in a nutshell, Ry and I wanted to live abroad and the timing was perfect because of our son’s schooling situation!”

2. What was the process like for preparing visa documents & health care?

”We dealt with the DC consulate since we were staying in Maryland (the state I grew up in) with my family after we did a cross-country trip from California to Maryland. The DC consulate was very helpful! We submitted all the paperwork and wrote a declaration explaining our reason for moving to Portugal. We also had a dear, Portuguese friend living in Portugal to help assist with our housing. As long as you submit all the proper paperwork, you should have no issues. It took a little over 3 months to be granted a visa.”

”The documents necessary are listed here.”

3. What’s your advice on managing taxes back in the States?

”We have two accountants – one in the US and one in Portugal. Portugal and US have a reciprocity agreement so we are not double-taxed on income. Both of our accountants have really helped us with taxes for both the US and Portugal.”

4. What was the process like to find housing and schools for your children?

”For schools, I used Google! Luckily for us, we found a fantastic International Montessori school 5 minutes away from our home, and it is through that school that we have made many of our friends. For housing, I used Facebook and looked at various Algarve groups to see what housing was available in the area where we wanted to live.”

5. What’s your top advice for others who want to move abroad?

”Just do it! You will figure it out as you go along. Nothing is ever set in stone and if your heart is yearning to live abroad, you must listen to its calling.”

As always, a big thank you to all these amazing American women! I’m truly grateful for your connection and thank you for sharing your expat, expert insider knowledge 🙂

Outdoor enthusiast thriving in the expatriate traveling lifestyle. Looking to connect with your sense of adventure.

52 Comments

  • Meki (Redefining Us)

    I’m not american but I’m there a little intriguing part on working abroad. I also want to know how it feels like living outside of your comfort zone but the thing is there are also a lot papers to work with before this happens. Lol

  • Kuntala Bhattacharya

    Good to know about their experiences and its helpful for people who are planning to become ex-pats. I have quite a number of my friends who are ex-pats. There are challenges but if you know the tricks, you will be fine.

  • Maysz

    I think living in abroad is such a big adjustment and home sick but when you starting to explore the place and learning their culture you will start feel the enjoyment awesome post!

  • Nkem

    I relate to a lot of what was said here as an American who has lived overseas for 3 years now in two different countries. The logistics can be complicated, but aside from those, if you like adventure and are adaptable, it’s a great experience!

  • Chei

    Living abroad is such a great idea i think. But i prefer to live on my own country. But i would love to see the world. I would love to travel with my family.

  • Blair villanueva

    Living abroad is quite tough and also fun. I’m also an expat here in Australia, and sometimes feels interesting living here and get to know the community, and have understanding of the whole picture.

  • Michele

    I never knew what an expat was. I kept seeing it on other blogs. Finally knowing what it is. This post just fuels my need for travelings and living somewhere else other than the states.

  • Monidipa

    I was planning to move to Italy this year, but this covid… However, all these experiences by the ex-pats are helpful for me!

  • Eric Gamble

    So the running theme is to have a tax advisor manage your taxes for you. I was a little shocked that Kaitee in Puerto Rico has issues since Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the U.S. but what do I know about taxes. Barely can manage my own in this foreign country known as New Orleans, Lousiana!

    I do love reading all the different stories about how americans become and expat. I know several who are loving their experiences in places like Prague, South Korea, and the Philippines! What I love too is that you didnt also just focus on the 20 something millennial bouncing around Europe or Southeast Asia. Several of those are moms with kids.

    Personally, I think my dream retirement would be to live in a foreign country for at least 3-6 months and just be home in NOLA for Christmas and Mardi Gras. What an amazing experience they are all having!

    • Sarah Emery

      🙂 Yes, there are similarities in every expat journey. But there are also unique and different side stories as well. One of the many things that I love about the Expat Dream Team series is the community and I hope by sharing other personal accounts that it will encourage more people to follow their dreams as well. So yeah, live your dream retirement goal. It’s super attainable 😉

  • Anne

    Lovely and inspiring stories! It’s really challenging to live abroad. I had a hard time moving abroad when I got pregnant , Because I was craving for our food and it was hard to get it here in my new town and still adjusting to cold as I am from warm country. But aside from that, I’m enjoying it to be in my new home.

  • Christianforemost.com

    It was a delight hearing the experience of so many different people. I have a plan on becoming an expat. I’m from the Philippines and with everything that happening right now, i would kill to just pack up and go. Lol

  • Scott DeNicola

    The whole concept of living abroad is intriguing to me but I’d be so concerned about the communication aspect in places like Bulgaria or Portugal. I’m sure as an American there is English spoken in these places and over time you pick up on the language. I’d wlecome retirement to a country like New Zealand for sure.

  • Luna S

    Lovely post, I like how you covered several different people and their experiences all in different places. I hope to one day visit Europe!

  • Stephanie S

    Very interesting. I love visiting different blogs, and just being able to learn something new each day is always so nice. I am sure that living abroad as an expat would be both challenging, and life changing as well. But like one person had mentioned under advice for those who want to move abroad was, “just do it, you will figure it out as you go along”. That is actually some great advice! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Melanie williams

    Very interesting post and good stories for sure. I have travelled a lot but can say that I will not be moving out of the UK.

  • Lene

    As an ex-pat myself (from Denmark, living in Canada for decades), is always interesting to hear the stories of other people who decided to leave their home country for another home country. Thanks for sharing the stories of these wonderful women and the wisdom they have to share.

  • Smita

    I love reading expat stories since I’ve almost become one and can relate to them so much! Loved Megan’s advice to travel on your own with lowering your expectations and being open-minded – feel that it would really make any holiday much more fun & memorable.

  • Ben Cross

    I was surprised to learn about the different expat experiences. Certainly the visa requirements vary but also make the same point of being prepared and thorough. I can imagine that living as an expat can be exciting and also scary at times, but if you are prepared to make the effort and adapt to a new country and culture than you can thrive!

  • Britt K

    This was so interesting to read. I have considered moving abroad a few times during my life, especially when I watched good friends move to New Zealand a few years ago. However, we were never far enough into the planning process to dig into everything that we would need to know. That being said, I wouldn’t write it off! We’re both adventurous people and love travelling. Reading through the stories of all the expats that shared in this post, I’m inspired to dig into the idea once again and start-up that conversation with my husband!

  • Kat

    How lovely to see several expats living in England, just like me! I guess it is one of the most convenient countries to move to, as you don’t have to deal with the language aspect. This post is super valuable for other Americans looking to start their expat life.

  • Subhashish Roy

    Loved reading the stories. Each one is so different when it comes to the experiences but they all have a common factor. We need to think out of the box, move out from our comfort zone and after some time life is so pleasant and rewarding.

  • Chloé Arnold

    Ahhh I’m always so intrigued by how others live and work abroad! My husband and I lived in Thailand and taught at an English speaking school, but I’ve always dreamed of living in Europe. It’s so fun reading all of these expats stories!

  • Erica (The Prepping Wife)

    What an interesting perspective from expats! I have always wondered about it and how the experience went, so this was an intriguing read, for sure. I can’t quite imagine just packing up and moving to another country, or several. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, it seems.

  • Kathleen

    I love this article but would be interested to know about women over 50 who have moved abroad. I am in my late 50’s (don’t know how that happened so fast) single and would love to live abroad.
    Looking for women of my age who have done so.
    Most articles are retired couples or younger women.
    Thanks for any information!

    • Sarah Emery

      Hi Kathleen – that’s such a great topic and call to action for me to research on. In the meantime, I suggest going onto FB expat pages and post that question. I hope you and yours are well!

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