Feature – Avoiding culture shock when buying overseas property

Wednesday, 31st March, 2010 by Overseas Editor

Some simple steps can help to make sure that people moving to overseas property can do so smoothly and start living their new adventure as soon as possible.

While shipping possessions overseas, arranging access to bank accounts and having mail redirected abroad can easily become the main area of focus, it is important to keep in mind the reasons why you are moving in the first place and to start building towards your new life as soon as you can.

It may not be possible to reproduce the exact sentiment of home in a new location – if you even want to – but there are some steps to take that can make the transition a smooth one, both in terms of the essential administrative tasks and the experiences that the household goes through after relocating.

Know the essentials

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) offers guidance to Britons planning to relocate overseas, which could add some important items to the to-do list for anyone planning on buying overseas property.

As a first step, people relocating abroad are told to register with the nearest British Embassy, ensuring that they will be able to gain assistance from UK representatives if they need to do so.

For British expatriates, it is possible to register to vote in both UK general elections and in the UK’s vote for European Parliamentary elections.

Britons accustomed to receiving free healthcare via the NHS are also reminded that they will not receive the same service in other countries, meaning private health insurance may be a wise investment.

The FCO points out that British citizens have the right to live in any of the countries that make up the European Economic Area (EEA), including major destinations for Britons buying overseas property on the continent such as France, Germany and Spain.

Other potential destinations for relocation in the EEA include Portugal, Malta, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, the Republic of Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Finland, Estonia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic.

Get stuck in

For some people, buying overseas property can be a conscious desire to be thrown headlong into a foreign culture.

Many language experts still believe that the immersive approach – where an individual lives in a foreign-language community full-time – is the best way to pick up a new tongue.

Becoming fully immersed in the social aspects of a new community, as well as learning the language, could also be the key to fitting in and becoming accustomed to life in a new home.

There are plenty of support groups, both online and offline, for people moving to the continent or further afield, all of which can help to make the transition a little easier for people living in a foreign country for the first time.

Buy property in the right place

The right place to buy property abroad really depends on what the family hopes to get from their new home.

For instance, a household with younger children might be better placed in a region with enough activities to keep them entertained – whereas a couple looking for the perfect retirement home might prefer a quieter, more sedate pace of life.

Either way, choosing the right location could be seen as the first step towards fitting in, with having the desired local amenities in the area a particularly useful way to get started on a firm footing.

Wherever people choose to live, the UK government’s Directgov advisory service recommends adhering to local customs such as dress codes, including adopting the appropriate level of modesty.

A similar approach is suggested for activities ranging from the consumption of alcohol – which can be illegal or at least frowned upon in some cultures – to even just taking a photograph, which can also cause offence in some places if the subject’s permission is not sought beforehand.

There’s more advice on living abroad on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

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