10 Rules of the American Expat
Most people are too scared to do what they want.
An American expat is not an uncommon thing. There are many people, in many parts of the world, living life on their own terms. Away from The Man. Unhitched to a mortgage, career track, or any real obligations.
Is it for you? For many it is not.
The only way to tell is to ask yourself: are you unhappy living Stateside?
If so, you owe it to yourself to at least look into it.
I’m not saying up your life and move. If you have family, debt, and more—a corporate job will give you the stability you likely need to succeed. That doesn’t mean you can’t reconsider becoming an American expat down the road. But be realistic.
Speaking of the rules of the American Expat—#1 is…
10 RULES OF THE AMERICAN EXPAT
#1: BE REAL.
To expect to make a million dollars within 6 months while working on a sandy beach in Thailand is absurd. Be realistic with yourself, depending on where you are coming from.
If you have an established and respected online business, aim to double it’s revenue within one year of making it your full-time endeavor.
If you have nothing and are going to live off savings, make it your goal to make your expenses within a year—to avoid dipping into those crucial savings.
How do you keep yourself grounded and realistic?
#2: HAVE A GOAL, AND WORK TOWARDS IT EVERY DAY.
Abstract, long-term goals rarely get done.
Saying you want to make $10 million dollars is too far out there, most cannot deal with that. That is a huge mountain to climb. Not to mention, no one ever writes how they will do it.
“GOAL: Make $1 million.”
Is it ever followed with a plan or a blueprint? Rarely.
But what about making ONE, SINGLE dollar? Far more realistic.
#3: FORGET THE HATERS.
There are always going to be people who don’t approve of what you’re doing.
Some of them think it’s bad that you like dating abroad versus marrying into the socioeconomic class you’ve been given domestically.
Other people think the finances of the expat are stupid. The only way to wealth is a 401k, a mortgage, and more. While I think office work and 401ks have their places (people with families), to say that it is the only path to success is simply ludicrous.
People will project their own image upon you. Anything that is not their norm is not something that is acceptable to them. Haters will flood your personal life, and if you have an online persona, they will come out in even greater force.
Ignore it all or be dragged into it. There is rarely an in-between.
#4: LANGUAGE IS CRUCIAL, BUT NOT NECESSARY.
Too many people get too caught up in whether or not they speak a foreign language. Let me tell you a story about a friend whom I met in Kiev, Ukraine last year.
At a young age, he went to Brazil—though I can’t remember for the life of me why he actually went there. He was young, and this was in the 1990s. The English levels were incredibly low there. He went without speaking any Portuguese whatsoever.
So what do you think happened to him?
He adopted, very quickly. He was speaking conversational Portuguese within 3 months of touching down in Sao Paolo.
He had no choice, it was either that or be completely isolated from human interaction. Now, unless you’re going to the outskirts of Africa—you’ll be okay. Most people speak English.
But the rule of a digital nomad and expat is that you don’t let this stop you from going where you want to go. You simply cannot.
Speaking of getting held up…
#5: STOP THINKING.
Other things along the same lines as the above English situation.
- Healthcare—get some emergency care and pay cash elsewhere
- ATMs—get a Charles Schwab checking account (they don’t charge foreign withdrawal fees and reimburse you if the international bank charges them)
- Visas—do the paperwork, don’t break any laws, and you’ll be just fine
- Dating—come on, how much worse could it get than Stateside?
There are so many situations, ideas, and crazy things that stop people from setting out what they want to do. This isn’t just about travel or the nomad life.
Almost any situation where action is not taken can be derived to a root cause that is probably over-thought. Get out of your own head. Learn to funnel that over-thinking into action energy, and you’ll be be amazed at the things you can accomplish.
#6: IT IS ALL IN, OR ALL OUT.
If you want to live this kind of life, it’s going to take dedication.
Desperation breeds dedication like no other.
Make the choice that you are never going to quit. If you can’t do that, quit now.
So if you have a corporate job, and want to take a “sabbatical” or “gap” year to travel around—don’t. Why do you need the option to run back to where you came from? To return to the situation that is currently making you unhappy?
I’m not saying light the place on fire, but don’t give yourself the option to go back. Certainly don’t plan on going back.
The same thing applies to staying with family over the long-term. A life that you must return back to the nest for 3 months a year—so you can save up for the next adventures—is not ideal.
As I’ve discussed before, you don’t want to be the guy who makes $1,200 to survive. Make 10x that, and prosper.
#7: LET THINGS COME TO YOU.
You may learn on your travels that what you are able to do for two weeks is not possible for two months and into the future.
Even if you have past travel experience partying and going hard for weeks on end, this may not be sustainable to you over the true long term. It is one thing to go out and party hard for two weeks. In this case, you know you are returning to the corporate world, which is often drab and grey.
It lacks color and character.
Therefore, it is easy to “get it all out” during those two weeks of traveling. When you are an American expat, the overseas life is now your new, real life. Forever.
To think that you can party every night of the week until the end of time is crazy.
When are you going to make money? When are you going to build friendships? When are you going to improve yourself in other aspects?
By all means, have your fun. You should, and need to. See the best nightclubs the world has to offer. Drink a bit too much, and have some nasty hangovers. Nurse them away by drinking more, if you so wish. Date lots and lots of girls.
But don’t think that it can go forever. Recognize the differences between the two. After all, if this is “forever”—you’ve “made it”.
#8: SPEAKING OF FRIENDS.
Do not think that you do not need them. You need people who are in your actual new home country, who speak the same language fluently, and understand where you are coming from.
If you’re an American expat, don’t write off fellow Americans just because they are American. Do not think that they are the same people you wanted to escape from when you made the leap in the first place.
Case in point:
In fact, they are often just like you—in many ways.
And they can relate to why you did what you did on a much better level than those aforementioned haters.
Yes, you need to also make local friends. People who know the language, have the right connections, and can give you an insight into the culture that you are now coming in to.
But don’t disqualify your fellow American expats as friends on the notion that they are American.
#9: BUT…DO AVOID THE TOURISTS.
Say you are at a bar one night, having some drinks or dinner. Maybe you’re with a foreign girl you’ve been dating a while.
In any case, the table next to you hears you talking. They’re also American, but not expats. They are just in town for a few days, or the weekend. They want to hang out with you, have you show them the ropes, etc.
These are the people you did want to escape from. The ones with two weeks of vacation hell-bent on destruction, hangovers, and more.
There are some who “get it” and are working towards becoming expats themselves. It’s easy to spot the difference.
As much as they will pressure you into hanging out with them all night, it’s almost never worth it. They will latch on to you like a small child when they return home. You are living the life they want, and they want that taste of it. You gave them a taste of it.
They will pester and talk to you indefinitely—but never take action themselves.
There is no way to get rid of them, so avoid them to begin with.
#10: DO ENJOY THE HOME COMFORTS.
If you’re going on a trip for a short while, don’t you dare eat at McDonald’s.
But if you’re living as an American expat, do enjoy the home comforts at times.
Go watch the Super Bowl or NBA Finals at Hooters.
Indulge in Pizza Hut or McDonald’s as a 3-times-a-year treat.
Make fun of
football soccer as being inferior to “real football”.
Go to the expats hangout and connect with those who have similar stories.
Enjoy your life life abroad, but don’t forget where you came from. It’s easy to do so, out of anger for not having the life you wanted back home. But let the anger go. It will happen, with time. That time is different for everybody.
Keeping a part of where you came from is crucial to who you become.
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