It’s that time of year again, especially for those of us in education whose lives revolve around an academic schedule, that we say farewell to some of our expat friends as they move on to exciting, new adventures.
Attending a flurry of “going away” parties over the past weekend and talking to some close friends and community members about their imminent departures over the last few months brought home the fact that these decisions don’t come easy.
There are so many factors to consider when moving to a completely new “habitat”.
The first thing that is usually considered is the employment situation (unless of course you are retiring or embarking on an unconventional lifestyle). What is the new job going to be like? What is the reputation of the organization? How about the salary? The benefits? The challenges?
Then there is the actual place you are going to be moving to. What is the standard of living? What about the cost of living? The food? The people? The accommodation? Personal security? The traffic!
And how about the kids? Is it a good environment for them? Are there decent schools nearby? Are they reasonably priced or paid for by your employer? Is there space? This last question has been a major issue for a few friends we know who are currently moving within the Middle East.
And then there is the subject of health…
This is the one that should be first on the list due to the enormous impact that health has on our overall happiness and well-being. There’s a reason that the “Healthy” comes before the “Wealthy” in this website’s name after all.
However, the health factor is so often overlooked until the last minute or until it is too late. Why? Why is health often only considered after we have accepted the best paying job we were offered? Why do we put cash before our health?
Whatever the reason, we need to stop making health a secondary concern when it comes to taking up a new expat posting. This is not only because our health is so important to us but also because putting cash before health often results in negatively affecting our bottom line.
Here are a few examples how:
You move to a place with poor air quality, causing chronic health problems for you and your kids. You lose time at work and eventually have to quit your job. Various family members have health issues for years afterwards.
You take a job with an employer that has what looks like decent health insurance until you have a major health event that the insurance company won’t cover.
You have kids with special needs, but you move to a country where there isn’t the support available that they need or it isn’t covered by your health plan. You have to quit and move back home.
These are not hypothetical events. I have personally witnessed all of them, some very recently.
Do Your Research
While the prospect of any the above situations can be very unnerving, the good news is that you can minimize the risk of landing in a job and place that might impoverish rather than enrich you by simply asking yourself a few questions during your decision-making process:
- Is the quality of the environment conducive to a healthy lifestyle? Consider not only the obvious environmental factors such as air, water, and climate but also aspects that lead to stress such as noise and a crazy commute.
- Is quality healthcare easily accessible?
- Does the employer or nation offer comprehensive, reputable health insurance that meets my family’s needs? If not, do I have room in my budget to purchase a supplementary policy to cover any deficiencies? This point should also be assessed by all expats on an annual basis to ensure that you are not caught out. Look around you. Are your colleagues who are under the same plan complaining about the insurance company? Then maybe it’s time to take action and either change insurance companies or get supplementary coverage.
- Is there support available for any special health needs that my family has?
So before taking that next post, do your research. Only move somewhere where you feel quite certain that the environment is going to be conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
And the research needn’t be onerous. Ask friends who have lived there or just spend a little time on the internet.
Take the example of a friend of mine who was searching for a job recently.
He was offered a good position with a nice salary in a rapidly developing Asian city. Everything looked good until he did a little internet research on the local environment and found that it had some of the worst air quality in the region. With two young kids, that was the deal-breaker. He went on to find something a little less lucrative, but far superior in overall environmental quality.
I have no doubt that it was the right choice, and we’d all be well-advised to follow his lead.
To your health! 😎
How about you? Do you have any suggestions for ensuring that the place we are moving to is going to nurture our health, not destroy it? Any shocking stories to scare our readers into action? Share your wisdom with our community by posting in the comment box below.