How to be a Successful Expat

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The following message was recently posted on one of the Ecuador Forums although it originally was posted on a forum about Mexico. The same message applies to where ever you go.

 How to Move Away From Your Home Country and Not Want to Move Back in Six Months.

People go on vacation every day and comment “Oh, I would so love to live here! Maybe someday!”

That’s fine, but would you really? How would you do if you actually made the move?

Some thoughts on what makes a successful expat.

Know Yourself-

You know what you love and hate, what will irritate you and what you can let slide. Make honest lists about what you need in a community. We know several expat couples that have lived for years at a time in several different places as they work out what is best for them. Moving around can be a great way to see the country and find your perfect place, but it can also be frustrating and expensive.

How flexible are you?

Or in other words, how rigid are you? The more flexible you are, the better, in my opinion. You might be faced with a laundry day with no water, or the city digging up the street in front of your house without notice, or a marching band blasting away outside your window… how will you react? Want to make something for dinner and can’t find an ingredient? Are you going to substitute something else with a smile or get worked up about it?

Do you want to learn the language? Your world will expand dramatically the more Spanish you have.

Are you open to new experiences and viewpoints? I think that being open is a mindset that will serve you well in another culture. There are so many surprises every day – and if we had our heads down instead of up and open we’d miss a lot.

How much research have you done?

Do you read expat blogs, books written by expats, and participate in forums? How much traveling have you done around the country?

Have Problems?

Have problems you want to get away from? Don’t move away from home thinking your problems will be miraculously cured. They won’t. It might even make things worse!

How much of a self-starter are you? You are going to have to decide how involved in your community you want to be. If your neighbors are sitting outside in the evening catching a breeze, will you stop and visit a while?

How sensitive are you?

Do you notice little things? The Mexican people are very sensitive to nuance. They are very polite and you’ll be more successful if you are aware of the “should do’s” as you move through your day. Greeting the whole group on arrival and departure is one of those social rules that I have a hard time getting used to. But “buen provecho”(enjoy your meal), “con permiso” (with your permission), “muy amable” (how nice of you), “el gusto es mio” (the pleasure is mine), are all social niceties that I thoroughly use and love.

Why are You Moving?

How many different things do you love about your proposed new home? The more the better. The least successful expats seem to be those that move for just one reason – finances or the weather, for example. If one little thing changes, it can ruin the whole environment for you.


Will you be able to continue your hobbies in your new home? If it is very important to continue your hobby in your new home, check it out ahead of time. I wrote a post recently on my knitting hobby and what I had to do to keep it up here in Mazatlán.


How important are the foods from home to you? Friends recently brought us a gift of sharp cheddar cheese and Adams peanut butter. It was a fantastic treat, but just that, a treat. It isn’t something we have to have. Lemons were elusive here until recently – I never really missed them, just substituted lime. And some things taste different – butter, chicken, etc. Are you cool with that? What about your comfort foods? Can you afford to buy the things you really miss if they are more expensive here?


Is your family supportive of your move? If your family isn’t supportive they may criticize and complain and make things hard for you. It would be good if you could get any issues dealt with before you leave… hopefully they will see that you are serious and come around!

Will your family and friends visit you? It would be great if they will, but not all families do. Would you be comfortable being the one that always visits them? Would missing their participation in your life make you want to move back?


Have you thought about holidays? People who are big on celebrating holidays the way they always have may be in for a disappointment. You’ll need to create new traditions for yourselves in your new home. This is a very Catholic country, too. Is there a synagogue or church for you? Do you need one?


How tech-savvy are you? You will probably do banking online. You’ll probably use the Internet for your calling to the US or Canada – Skype, Vonage, or Magic Jack. Of course email will keep you in touch.


Are you committed to success in your new home? I think this might be the most important. Are you saying to yourself that you will succeed or are you saying that you’ll “try” it for a while?


  1. I’m Sara Buesgens, I’m home again after 49 years living in NYC, GYE, MN. Bilingual and ready to assist you. With everything happening in the states today, had to make the decision of moving back to the beautiful Coast of “Playas” I decided to settle in Playas because it’s the closest beach from Guayaquil, Ecuador. I’m located one hour from the airport. “Playas has endless miles of beach to jog every day. Beside giving you a tour of homes in the Coast, I’m forming a full service company to address every need you will have by moving to Ecuador. I’m here to help you relocate, starting with your first visit. You will like how far you could stretch that pension. Say goodbye to high health care, goodbye to high property taxes. Join me and new American friends in the Coast of Ecuador. Ecuador is the 2nd Best climate in the word. Pls contact me at

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