Pitfalls and Curveballs – Common Expat Errors

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Expats choose to live abroad for many reasons. Most rapidly settle and enjoy the international lifestyle. But it is commonplace for both new arrivals and well-seasoned expats to make the same mistakes over and over for many years.

Moving abroad can be fun and adventurous. If you are not careful the financial start you envisaged can evaporate before your eyes. The most common errors revolve around:

1High living costs

  • Underestimating living costs
  • If you think in local currency you can lose the feel for true costs
  • What is included in furnished accommodation?
  • There will be rental deposits
  • In Myanmar, rental payments are six months or a year in advance

2Inflated start-up costs

  • You may feel on holiday
  • Do not splash out too much on local activities, travel adventures and cuisine. This depletes your reserves

3High moving costs

  • Moving costs are not just the actual costs of the relocation company
  • There is hotel accommodation where you are coming from and relocating to
  • Cash deposits required for telephone and utilities

4Exchange rates

  • The most common discussion subjects at expat gatherings
  • Initial exchange rate is not your benchmark. There can be positive and negative affects
  • Do not budget on continually improving rates

5Personal protection insurance

  • Expats forget risks they would cover back home
  • It is easy to forget there are no free public medical facilities in Myanmar
  • Do not think “it will never happen to me” it often does

6Pension provisions

  • Expats usually need to make their own pension arrangements
  • Grave error to think you will deal with this later and never get round to it

7Banking

  • You usually need a local account for everyday expenses
  • An international is essential for other transactions
  • Local banking is difficult. Countries, like Myanmar, are a long way behind expat expectations

8Taxes

  • Many expats assume they are exempt from local taxes
  • They can end up with a shock
  • Understand the differences between the way things are taxed now and the situation back home

9Will and succession provisions

  • Some expats have a will which is valid in their home country.
  • This may be insufficient for their new situation.
  • When they pass beneficiaries need to secure probate in each country where there are assets. This can cause serious delays

Be prepared – the expat “business of living life” is sometimes more tricky than you think.


About Author: Mr. Andrew Wood, Business Development Director, Business Class Asia 

Questions to the author can be directed to Business Class Asia at: [email protected]

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“Andrew Wood is an expat affairs writer and independent financial adviser. He lives in Bangkok and has been spending a week every month in Yangon since 2012. Andrew loves Asia and has been living in various Asian countries for 33 years. He understands and advises on all aspects of “the business of living life”. Andrew can be reached at [email protected]

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