When you first move abroad, it takes a while to get in tune with the social environment and to understand what qualifies as a threat to your safety. Until you’re more familiar with your new home, you have to learn to continuously pay attention to your surroundings and keep your guard up. Here are six tips to help you stay physically and financially safe while getting to know your new country.
- Be careful what you share on the phone or in person. You may be a very open person with little that you consider “private” but when you move abroad you need to be selective about the information you share with others. Criminals can often pick out new residents and will try to take advantage of that using whatever information you give them. Keep your address private as well as any financial or business information.
- Stay aware of your surroundings. It’s natural to want to relax and let your guard down in your new home but that could be a huge mistake, at least in the beginning. Be ready to identify possible threats in your environment, whether they come from people, weather, insects or animals. Don’t forget to take cultural differences into consideration before determining that something is a threat.
- Get expat health insurance. Even if the country you’re relocating to is known for its inexpensive healthcare, you should secure expat health insurance. With the right health insurance policy, you can ensure that your coverage extends to treatment received when you visit your family back in the States. In addition, you can design your policy to provide protection for expensive services such as emergency remote transportation and repatriation of remains. Without this coverage, not only could your savings be at risk but you could leave your heirs with a legacy of bills after you’re gone.
- Find out the risks specific to your location. While universal safety tips offer help to many expats, nothing replaces the specific safety tips for the city, country or region you plan to move to. For example, AuthenticJourneys.info recommends that expats in Dubai be conscious of their water intake as heat exhaustion is common. MongolExpat.com recommends that expats in Mongolia take steps to avoid mugging with personal safety devices such as pepper spray. Each area around the globe has its own unique concerns and specific safety tips to address them, so research your new home to find out what these might be.
- Practice normal vacation abroad safety tips. As an expat you’re no longer on vacation, you’re at home. But that doesn’t mean that the same safety tips that apply to travelers doesn’t apply to you. Some of these basic tips include:
- Don’t carry lots of cash with you. If you carry cash for spending, don’t put it all in your wallet. Instead, keep a small portion in your pocket to prevent would-be thieves from seeing how much you’re carrying.
- Avoid wearing ostentatious accessories, even if they are fake. A mugger may not know whether your necklace is real, so wearing costume jewelry won’t stop a crime, in fact, it could encourage one.
- Stay away from unsafe or dodgy parts of town, even when you’re with friends.
- Limit your nighttime travel and avoid it completely when possible.
- Never speak openly about politics or religion, especially in countries with residents who are sensitive to those topics.
- Travel only in licensed taxis.
- Have a regular check-in time established each week or month with someone back in the States. That way, should something happen to you in your new home, the person you’re supposed to touch base with can notify authorities when you miss the call or chat time.
- Understand the public safety system. If something should happen to you, you need to know how to handle the situation in order to increase your chances of coming out of the experience intact. Knowing what numbers to call in an emergency is one way to do that. Collect all the emergency numbers for the fire department, EMS and the police and post them by your phone.
One of the best ways to secure your safety while you live abroad is to get to know the subtleties of your new culture. Doing so will not only teach you want to do and what not to do, but also how to better identify and avoid potential threats.