Get Your Mail Overseas, Avoid Panic Attacks

Jury Summons“OMG!” my husband exclaimed. “Does this mean I’m going to be arrested when I step off the plane in October?”

Last week we made one of our occasional forays into Chitre to retrieve our mail. Every couple of weeks I call the US to verbally go through the stack of mail that’s arrived for us. I decide what to shred, what to trash and what to forward, and it gets sent to a forwarding address in Miami.

From there, it travels to Panama where it spends some time in customs. Ultimately it arrives at the Mailboxes, Etc. store where we have an account.

Depending on all sorts of variables, it means we receive our important US mail anywhere from two to four weeks late.

Normally this isn’t a problem, as I converted everything I possibly could to electronic delivery before we moved.

This time, well, it was enough to send my husband running for cover.

Because, when we opened the manila envelope, out popped a Jury Summons from the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.

I hadn’t expected it — I’d only been told there was a letter that “looked important” from Orange County.

The instructions informed my husband that, if he needed to be excused from jury duty, he had to return the attached card at least 10 days before the date he was scheduled to report.

It was already only nine days before the summons date. That’s when he started hyperventilating.

I reminded him that our daughter had received a jury summons a while ago, but she simply notified them she would be away at college and was excused. “There has to be a website,” I reminded him.

We found the website URL and completed the proper form.

Heart attack averted.

But I’ve never been one to resist temptation very strongly. “This is why you should have changed your voter registration already,” I reminded him smugly.

His response wasn’t encouraging — I hadn’t really expected it would be.

There are a couple of takeaways here, if you’re getting ready to make your overseas move.

Figure Out a Way to Receive Your Mail Overseas

At least for the first year, set up a system for receiving your important mail overseas. I don’t care how well organized you are, something is going to fall through the cracks, or some situation from the past will rear its ugly head when you least expect it.

If you’re getting your mail, you may receive it or respond to it late, but at least you’ll stay in the loop.

There are services that will receive, scan and email your mail to you. There are other services that will forward the physical mail. Perhaps you can forward all your mail to a trusted friend or family member who’ll send the important pieces on to you.

After the first year, you may decide it’s no longer necessary. But cover yourself for at least the first 12 months.

Update your Voter Registration

In the US, it’s important for more than voting, although I believe you should be exercising that right. As my husband’s jury summons demonstrated, voting privileges tie into other rights and responsibilities.

If you’re a US citizen and you want to register to vote abroad, you can take care of a big piece of it online.

Vote From Abroad is a nonpartisan website that will walk you through the process of updating your voter registration and requesting an absentee ballot.

It’s pretty straightforward. You answer some questions online, download a form (or email it to yourself) and sign and mail it.

If you’re a citizen of the UK, visit About My Vote for similar help.

Kiwis can follow instructions on the Elections New Zealand website.

If you’re from another country, just search for “how do I vote overseas” and the name of your country to find the relevant site.

Do it now, because when you fly home to visit family and friends you really don’t want to find yourself facing situations you didn’t know about.

Develop a Portable Career as a Stock Photographer

Photography makes a highly portable careerHave camera — will travel.

Or not.

The beautiful thing about creating a portable photography career for yourself is, it’s easily portable to anywhere in the world. But what if you’re not traveling? Does that mean there’s no business for you?

Not exactly.

Whether you’re living in one place or circumnavigating the globe, there’s a way to earn a decent living with your camera.

It’s called stock photography. And demand for good stock images is increasing by leaps and bounds.

What is Stock Photography?

According to Wikipedia,

“Stock photography is the supply of photographs licensed for specific uses. It is used to fulfill the needs of creative assignments instead of hiring a photographer.”

Just as more and more companies are hiring freelance copywriters instead of (or in addition to) keeping writers on staff, more advertisers, magazines, newspapers and other publishers are looking to meet most of their needs for images from stock sites instead of paying their own full-time photographers.

That means plenty of opportunity.

How Do You Sell Stock Photos?

The easiest way to break into the field is to upload your images to a microstock website.

There are lots of them out there — iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Getty Images to name a few.

Once you’re accepted as a contributing photographer, you can start uploading your images.

Each time one sells, you’ll receive a small payment. At first it will be very small, but the more images you add to your portfolio and the more you sell, the better your income will be. And you don’t have any of the headaches of sales or fulfillment.

Although they’re in the minority, there are stock photographers out there who pull down a six-figure annual income.

Learn What Stock Photography Buyers Want and How to Provide it for Them

Stock photos have to meet certain criteria. For example, no logos. If one of your models is wearing a baseball cap with a Red Sox logo on it, you’ve eliminated a lot of potential buyers.

If a newspaper or magazine buys your image, they’ll want a bare spot on it, either on the side, the top or the bottom, to add a headline or other verbiage. If you’ve submitted a stunning image but there’s no editorial space, you’ve reduced your potential market.

There’s an excellent way to learn about what editors, advertising agencies and other stock buyers want: Find out directly from the experts.

Next month, from September 20-22, you can join the Ultimate Stock Photography Workshop in Washington, DC. You’ll spend three days in the nation’s capitol, get some practice with professional photo shoots, and learn from some master teachers. One of them, Lise Gagne, started snapping photos with a pawnshop camera after she lost her job. (And now she earns over six figures a year.)

Spend Three Days, Go Home with Saleable Photos

That’s the promise.

And if you register now — before August 31 — you can save some money as well. $500 to be precise.

Click here to learn more about the Ultimate Stock Photography Workshop

Saying Goodbye to Flies and Mosquitoes

want some help making that screen?As an expat, small things can have a disproportionately big impact on your happiness. In this case, the “small things” all had wings.

One of the first things I noticed about our rental house in Las Tablas, Panama, was the absence of screens on the windows.

At first this wasn’t a problem. Even with windows and doors open all the time — necessary to allow the cooling breezes through — bugs weren’t a problem. Smugly I thought, “this is great.”

Then the rainy season started.

Suddenly the house was swarming with flying insects — mosquitoes, flies, enormous beetles, crickets, even a mammoth grasshopper or two.

Meal preparation and eating became races to see who could get there first — the flies, or the people. We were slapping at ourselves — and each other — constantly as one droning mosquito after another wanted to sample us for lunch, dinner or, worse, a midnight snack.

Not fun at all.

There Aren’t Any Window Screens Here

Window screens, like central air conditioning, are a rarity here. If you want screens, you pretty much need to make them because you can’t just go to the store and buy them.

We knew we could find the screening material. But the material to make a frame for the screen was a problem. So was securing the screen to the windows — remember, this is a rental house, so we can’t make any permanent alterations.

Then one day, while shopping with friends at the DoIt Center (Panama’s answer to Home Depot), the solution presented itself.

Fired with enthusiasm, we returned to our respective houses with screening, thin strips of wood and a stapler.

It’s called improvising from locally available materials.

The wood is thin and soft enough that a regular office stapler can penetrate. My husband cut the wood to the appropriate lengths. He cleaned and cut up an aluminum can and used it to reinforce the corners.

Then the stapler got a workout, and, voila! A window screen.

The next problem was how to secure the new screen without making any holes.

The solution here was to use silicon caulk.

The end result isn’t pretty, but it’s a serviceable screen that keeps the bugs out. Our friends went one better and painted the wood before they installed the screens.

The morning that I was able to cook and eat breakfast without spotting a single fly was a red-letter day. Call me an uptight gringa, but I just don’t like sharing my eggs with Panama’s local moscas (flies).

We’re still not completely screened. The DoIt Center didn’t have enough wood, and we had to special order some. The other day they called to say it had arrived, so that should give us enough to add screens to the remaining windows.

In the meantime, we’re really enjoying our almost-fly-free living here in Las Tablas.

WordPress Basics

If you’re here, I’m assuming it’s because you want to learn how to build great-looking, effective websites using WordPress. I can help you with that.

There’s a good reason that WordPress is the most popular Content Management System. It’s attractive, it’s easy to use, it’s versatile, it’s free and best of all, you don’t have to be a computer geek or an IT specialist to use it.

Still, there’s a learning curve and parts of it can feel a bit overwhelming or intimidating.

I’ll try to make that learning curve easier for you by taking you, step by step, through bite-sized chunks.

Here are three things you can do right now.

  1. Grab the 7-part email series that explains the basic WordPress Building Blocks
  2. Read the article “Why WordPress?”
  3. Send me your questions about WordPress

How to Use This Website

Not sure where to start? I recommend getting a solid, daily dose of WordPress information every day for the first week with the 7-part email series.

If you’ve done that, or you’re ready to jump right in, get familiar with where things are on the website.

Take a look at the menu along the very top of each page. Some of it’s pretty self explanatory.

For example, the Home link takes you back to the homepage. About Me tells you a little bit about my background and how I came to create this site. Work with Me is where you’ll go if you’d like to hire me to help get your WordPress website up and running quickly. Contact Me gives you a form you can use to send me an email.

Blog takes you to a list of articles, with the most recent first.

Resources is the area where I’ll have all sorts of helpful links to themes, plugins, widgets and other information.

Under the Start Here link is where you’ll go for general, basic. information about each phase of building your online WordPress site.

For tutorials, how-to’s, hints and loads of other helpful information, look in the How To section.

I suggest you start with articles in the Block 1 category under “Start Here,” then move to Block 2 and on up through <em?Block 7.

Once you’ve got a good grasp of the general ideas, click on over to the How To section for step-by-step tutorials and highly specific information.

If you have a question about a specific article, type it into the comment box below the article. Have a general question? Click the Contact link at the top of any page and send me an email.

And please, have fun!

VPN4All: A Virtual Private Network that’s Truly Private

every expat should have a VPNOh, no, not another review of a VPN (virtual private network) I hear you groan.

Well, um, yes.

It seems there’s a lot of interest in this topic, and every time I write about it I hear more recommendations. Sometimes a company will contact me and say, “hey, why don’t you take a look at ours?”

That’s what happened after the contest in the spring for the free subscription to Hotspot Shield.

One of the companies that approached me was VPN4all. They offered me a free trial subscription so I could write about their service, and after reading their website I agreed. They provided the information I needed to set it up, so I disabled the VPN I had been using and installed theirs.

I have to say, I’ve been impressed. Impressed enough, in fact, that I immediately signed on as an affiliate.

VPN Made Simple

“VPN Made Simple” is their website tagline, and I’ve found that to be true.

The process to download and install the application was straighforward and uncomplicated. Once installed, I took a look at the interface.

Here’s one immediate difference between VPN4All and other VPNs I’ve tried: choosing the IP server to connect to is as simple as checking a dropdown box.

Here’s another difference: this one allows you to connect to P2P networks. Most don’t. (If you’re a P2P user, you know what I’m talking about.) The dropdown shows which servers permit P2P and which don’t, so if you need that feature, you just choose one of the many servers that allows it.

Other features I liked:

  1. You can connect, disconnect or change your VPN server on the fly, and connecting is fast
  2. It’s completely unobtrusive
  3. You can connect to a server in any part of the world you choose. Want to check your US bank account? Select a US server. Want to watch a live event during the 2012 Olympic Games? Choose a server in the UK. You get the idea.
  4. It doesn’t interfere with email. Some, like Hotspot Shield, prevent you from sending email through Outlook or other mail clients that live on your own computer
  5. You don’t need to remember a username or password to log in

Other than the slower speeds — true of any VPN — I haven’t found any downsides.

If You Care About Privacy

There is one additional feature I like extremely well — VPN4All really protects my privacy.

I’m not talking about the “protecting me from internet snoopers in the coffee shop” kind of privacy. They all do that, and do it well. I’m talking about legal privacy.

Unlike many other VPN providers, it doesn’t log your sessions. That means, if someone wants information about where you’re browsing or what you’re doing online, there’s no record available to look at.

Check out VPN4All yourself.

Why Your Expat Website Needs an Editorial Calendar

CalendarIf you’re creating a portable career to help support your overseas living, you probably have a website as well. Maybe you’re a life coach, a freelance writer or a photographer, and your website is a big part of your marketing strategy. Perhaps you’re a blogger, and your website is the foundation on which your business rests.

If your website is static — if it doesn’t change very often — you can skip this article.

But if your site is a blog or includes a blog or regular new articles of some kind, you need an editorial calendar.

What is an Editorial Calendar?

“Editorial,” as used here, doesn’t mean an opinion. It means:

“of or pertaining to the literary and artistic activities or contents of a publication, broadcasting organization, or the like, as distinguished from its business activities, advertisements, etc.: an editorial employee; an editorial decision, not an advertising one.” [Dictionary.com]

So an Editorial Calendar is simply the calendar that shows articles and posts you’ve published or plan to publish in the future. It’s like a Daytimer for your website’s content.

What Do You Use an Editorial Calendar For?

Planning your schedule

Whether you’re publishing daily, once a week, or anything in between, you need someplace to check off the days when you plan to publish. When you publish on a regular schedule, your traffic will grow faster because readers know when to expect something new.

Here at Future Expats, Tuesdays and Fridays are when new articles go live.

Keeping track of what you’ve published

When you’re just starting your website-based business it’s pretty easy to keep track of what you’ve published. But the longer you go on, the harder it gets.

“Gee, I know I wrote about that before, but when was it? Where’s the post on XYZ?”

Or if, like me with this site, you write about different groups of topics — mine are Portable Careers, Prepping the Move and, more recently, Panama — how do you make sure you’re keeping it balanced?

Those are two examples of where an Editorial Calendar comes in very handy.

You use it to plan upcoming content, and you use it to track what you’ve already published.

Monetization and more

You can use your Editorial Calendar for other things as well. I use mine to keep track of how often I’m using this website to promote something that earns income for the site. That includes affiliate links, advertising and the like.

Why do I want to track the monetization? Because I want to make sure I’m giving you lots of great information more often than I’m offering something for sale.

Where to Find an Editorial Calendar

If your website runs on WordPress, there’s a sweet Editorial Calendar plugin you can use. It’s a free download.

It lets you schedule posts, and rearrange the schedule with its drag-and-drop interface. You can also edit directly from the calendar interface.

Once you outgrow that, your best bet is to create an Excel spreadsheet that tracks what you want to track.

I’ve created a calendar-style worksheet that includes the following information:

  • Date of publication
  • Article Title
  • General topic category
  • A link to the article once it’s been published
  • Whether it’s monetized in any way

I’ve also added color coding so I can see at a glance which of my three main areas it falls into.

ProBlogger Darren Rowse devotes a section of his book, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog [aff] to Editorial Calendars. (This is an excellent book for beginning bloggers in oh, so many ways!)

Another business owner tracks the number of hits that article received, as well as linkbacks and comments during the first week. Others track social media activity around the post or article.

Depending on your business and your site, you might want to track other items. Possibilities include:

  • Request for proposal
  • E-mail signups
  • Downloads

Every publisher — and if you have a website you qualify — has some unique items they need to track. An Editorial Calendar is the place to start.

If you’re curious, you can see a sample of my editorial calendar here.

photo by julesxt on flickr

Dancing In the Fountain: An Expat Book Review

Dancing in the Fountain Book CoverDancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Life Abroad recounts the adventures of an American couple who moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Seville, Spain. Of all the expat books I’ve read, I have to say this is one of the best, rivaling only Peter Mayle’s tour de force, A Year in Provence.

This was my late-afternoon-hammock read recently, and I found myself laughing so uproariously in several spots that I made the hammock sway dangerously and brought my husband and dogs out to see what was going on.

Author Karen McCann and her husband went to Seville one winter to get away from the gloom, cold and snow of Ohio and learn some Spanish. That started a love affair with the city and the region. After spending several winters there, they decided to make the move permanent.

Moving overseas, McCann says, provides “an opportunity to reinvent yourself that rarely exists outside the witness protection program.”

The author candidly describes some of their challenges, including the anger and disbelief of many friends when they announced they were leaving Ohio.

And she’s very funny.

For example, about Marbella, a Spanish city very popular with British expats, she writes:

“Aside from visiting the tiny, ancient Moorish section and a town square filled with peculiar Salvador Dali sculptures, there isn’t much to do in Marbella beyond watching seventy-year-old British and German matrons sunbathing topless on the beach, an activity best followed by drinking heavily in the bars.”

Or, while bemoaning the difficulty of the language classes:

“I felt it was highly unfair that the verbs were allowed to have moods while i was expected to remain cheerful and alert throughout a day spent in the company of condescending kids.”

She describes the difficulties they had in moving their dog from Ohio to Spain, including having to re-microchip the animal.

“Apparently . . . it’s vital to American interests that we use a different kind of chip from the rest of the planet. Thank heavens these public-spiritied ctiziens are vigorously protecting our borders against any attempts to introduce foreign chips into the lucrative pet-chip market in this great nation of ours.”

Her description of the superiority of US engineering in Chapter 12, though, had me laughing so hard I was crying. I’ll let you discover it for yourself.

Throughout, she weaves interesting information and descriptions about the places, customs, and especially the people of her adopted home town of Seville.

Dancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad gets my heartiest endorsement. If you’re even thinking about moving overseas — let alone planning to — you owe it to yourself to get it and read it.

Is Panama Hotter than Florida?

It's late afternoon hammock timeSeveral readers have asked me how easy it’s been to adjust to Panama’s climate after living for over two decades in Florida. Climate is an important consideration in finding an overseas location you’re comfortable in as an expat. So did living in Florida prepare me for living in Panama?

The reality is — not so much.

Both are hot and humid, but there are some important differences.

Here are my thoughts — keeping in mind I’m living in the lowlands on the Azueros Peninsula. Once you get up in the hills above about 1200 feet things cool off noticeably.

Living in the Heat

Dealing with the heat here in Panama is just plain different from coping with heat in Florida.

In Florida, you don’t really live in the heat. You live in air conditioning and make brief forays through the heat. You go from your air conditioned house to your air conditioned car to your air conditioned work, shopping, whatever.

The only times most Floridians really spend a day in the heat is when they visit the beach or the theme parks.

Here, you’re in the heat all day. Central air conditioning is almost nonexistent. If you’re reasonably well off, you have an AC unit in your bedroom, but the rest of the house is not air conditioned.

Evenings Here are Cooler, Though

In Florida’s summer heat, the nights stay pretty warm. Here, because we’re closer to the Equator, the sun goes down before 7 PM. This gives evenings a chance to cool down.

It’s pretty normal for nighttime temperatures here to drop into the mid-70s while in Florida they can easily stay in the 80s. Once the sun goes down, it can get downright pleasant!

If we decide to grab dinner out, it’s no problem to walk to the restaurant here. Back in Orlando it would have meant arriving in a dripping sweat — not too pleasant for us or the other diners!

Constant Breezes

Except for an hour or so in the late afternoon, almost every day here sees lots of breezes. When you open windows and doors in the house, you get nice cross ventilation to help keep things more comfortable.

When the breeze drops, it’s time to relax and stay cool in the hammock.

You Get Acclimated

Yes, your body does adjust. Temperatures that felt very hot to me when I first arrived now just feel warm, and temperatures that felt warm initially now feel pleasantly cool.

As with any hot climate, you need to be careful not to get dehydrated. I always have a big glass of cold water or iced tea handy, and I swig down a few extra gulps before I leave the house.

I don’t think I’ll be pulling on my jeans or a long-sleeved shirt anytime soon, though.

How to Live Like a Local While Visiting

Home Exchange You’ve read everything you could get your hands on about the country you’d like to move to, you’ve checked into their cost of living, investigated what you have to do to become a resident, maybe even taken some language classes.

Before you move there, though, you need to visit, preferably for an extended period of time. Just because something sounds terrific on paper doesn’t mean it’s the place you want to call home.

You could go and stay in hotels, but that doesn’t really give you a good sense of what it would be like to actually live there.

There is a way to try out a new area as a resident, not a visitor, though, and it can even save you a lot of money.

Home Exchange

It’s an idea that’s been around for a while — since the 1950s in fact. It’s even been featured in some excellent movies like The Holiday and Tara Road. You agree to live in someone’s home in your desired location, perhaps even get to use their car or take care of their pets, and they stay in yours.

You save the cost of lodgings, and you become a “local” during the time of your stay.

There are three common types of exchanges.

  1. Simultaneous. As its name implies this type of exchange means that you live in my house and I live in yours at the same time.
  2. Non-Simultaneous. You swap, but on different dates.
  3. Hospitality, when you visit as a guest in someone else’s home and they reciprocate by visiting you at a different time.

A quick online search turns up dozens of home exchange websites. Naturally you need to exercise sensible precautions before you turn the keys to your home over to a complete stranger. The better sites help you get to know your potential exchangers and provide some safeguards.

HomeExchange.com promises “40,000+ Worldwide Listings. Local-weekend-international swaps” [aff]. It costs $9.95/month, so with that small barrier they’re able to ensure their members are serious exchangers. They claim there are over 250,000 successful home exchanges every year, and they currently have over 42,000 listings!

HomeforExchange.com asks, “Affected by the financial crisis? Cut your holiday expenses by 50% or more and exchange your home like thousands have done before you.” [aff]. Registration for the first year is $64.50. It’s the organization featured in The Holiday movie.

GuesttoGuest.com is a newer service. They differ from the two above in that they focus more on what they call the “non-simultaneous exchange.” In fact, exchanges with them don’t even need to be reciprocal.

They do this through a point system. This is helpful because it widens the pool of exchangers available. Here’s how they explained it to me.

“The GuestPoints form part of a points system that works as a kind of an alternative currency to regular money; each house has a price per night which is paid in GuestPoints and which allows people to go where they want when they want, instead of having to adapt to a place or time that works for the people they’re exchanging with. There are many ways to earn GuestPoints: signing up, referring friends, posting your home, and many others.”

They also include a social component.

“We have a social network that helps you exchange with people you can trust. There is a friends referral system which means the people you exchange with form part of your social network, are your friends or friends of friends. There are also groups through which you can contact people with whom you share interests, hobbies, etc.”

Curently they offer about 500 homes for exchange in a variety of countries. GuestToGuest is very interested in working with expats and plan-to-be expats.

“We think you expats are the perfect candidates for our service because you’re mostly a cool, open-minded group of people more likely to be interested by a concept like home exchange. It could be especially useful if you want to go back home for a visit but don’t own a house there, or if you’re just recently arrived and want to visit the surrounding regions or countries.”

HomeExchange50Plus.com is a home exchange site designed for older travelers. They offer all three types of exchanges as well as vacation rentals.

Have you ever done a home exchange? How did it work out for you?

photo by mcready on flickr

Five Habits Of Successful Expatriates

Successful expats ride bicycles in AmsterdamGuest Post by Claudia Gonelle

Ever wondered why some expatriates manage to build a successful life overseas; one that is inspiring, abundant and positive?

I have.

If the past decade of living and working in Central America, I’ve met dozens of highly successful expatriates. Some have used the opportunity of living overseas to become experts in the local culture and language, others have embraced the digital nomad lifestyle and now run successful online businesses, a good number have launched innovative charitable initiatives to improve the life of the local community in important and meaningful ways and many have become significant local employers.

In my interactions with these successful expats, I’ve realized that while their successes can’t easily be boiled down into a set of activities or tactics, successful expatriates do have something in common: Their mindset and mental habits.

Lets go through some of them.

Habit 1: Successful expatriates don’t over romanticize

We’ve all come across articles that do a great job of selling the dream of a life overseas. We’ve read about countries filled with exotic cultures, fun loving people, intriguing traditions, endless sun-soaked beaches and amazing natural landscapes. But successful expatriates know this is too good to be true. They know that no country has a climate that is 100% perfect, no location is completely free of crime and no cuisine has the monopoly on good recipes.

They also know there will almost certainly be a few negative expatriates in the local community, that the excitement of arriving in a new place will invariable wear off, and that running a successful business takes hard work, wherever you decide to set up shop. In other words successful expatriates manage their expectations. They don’t over romanticize.

Habit 2: Successful expatriates make connections

Watch a successful expatriate walk around town and you won’t see them tightly gripping their shopping bag constantly worried about their safety and treating everyone who approaches them with suspicion. Instead you’ll notice that they put in an effort to interact and connect with others.

They’re operating with the understanding that without reaching out and making connections with the people around them, they’re unlikely to have rewarding interactions. They realize that the friendliness and openness of a country is strongly influenced by their own attitude.

Habit 3: Successful expatriates are open-minded

Open-mindedness is a phrase that’s often used in the context of travel and expatriate living. But what does it really mean? Well, it doesn’t mean giving up deep seated beliefs or becoming wishy-washy in your views. It simply means realizing that context is different for everyone. Successful expatriates know that without actually living through the experiences that another person has lived through, they are in no position to pass judgment on their beliefs and habits.

By immersing themselves in the local culture (see habit #5) and increasing the scope of their experiences they get progressively better at understanding the local context. But they still don’t waste effort trying to convince people to agree with their perspective. They just don’t feel the need to criticize or say why someone else is wrong (and why they are right.) Not only is this rarely effective it’s also not a fun way to pass the time.

Habit 4: Successful expatriates are always learning

If you are new to living overseas, you’re probably on a steep learning curve. Maybe you hope that once you’ve been living in your new home for a few months you’ll feel more in control and won’t have to keep adapting to your new environment.

Successful expatriates have a different mindset. They accept that there will always be something to learn. Many even relish this fact. They remain curious and engaged. Some become masters at learning even in contexts they disagree with or dislike. When confronted by something uncomfortable they look for what they can learn from the situation. They look for the net gain asking “what can I learn from this person I disagree with or from this situation that I am uncomfortable with? How can I improve myself?

Habit 5: Successful expats immerse themselves

Living in another country provides an opportunity to awaken the senses and stretch the mind in a way that you just can’t do in more familiar environments. Successful expatriates go with the flow, taking steps to immerse themselves in their host country’s rituals, traditions and products.

They may do this by becoming expert in cooking local dishes, by working hard at learning the local language, or perhaps by volunteering in community organizations or even just by participating in as many local activities as possible.

What do you think? What do you feel is the most valuable habit of an expatriate living overseas? Is it one of these five or is it something else completely? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments area.

Claudia GonelleClaudia Gonella has lived in Central America for over 10 years. She’s a co-founder of RevealRealEstate, an owners listing site that connects buyers interested in property in Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama with sellers who have listed their property for sale.