Things to consider before you move overseas

We planned a lot before moving overseas, mostly money matters.  But we didn’t think of some pretty fundamental issues.  One is health care.  If you are going to a richer area of the muslim world this may not be much of a problem,  but if you are planning on living in Egypt, Yemen, Mauritania, ie, one of the poorer countries, you may have problems finding quality care, or the right medications.  Even the Egyptians I have spoken with have complained about the difficulty of finding good, qualified doctors.  There seems to be very little oversight of doctors. 

We initially moved to Mauritania, but after half a year, it became clear that we could not remain there.  The reason was a combination of health problems and difficulties involving studying there.  My youngest daughter had such frequent vomiting that we ended up taking her to the doctor.  I had almost constant diarrhea and ended up avoiding a lot of the pretty meager food choices we had.  Dear husband ended up with increased complications to his foot problems as well as painful ear infections (both related to the sand, Mauritania is mostly desert). 

We’d thought we’d identified potential health problems and tried to handle them before going.  My oldest has a cataract in her eye, we saw very good doctors and started her on a treatment plan.  Dh had treatment for his plantar fasciitis and arthritis before we left, as well as purchasing meds and shoes to help.  We really didn’t expect his conditions to worsen, and didn’t have any options planned out when they did.

We also had not adequately planned out financial matters.  How to get/receive money from the states.  File taxes for the previous year.  We did sign up for internet banking in order to have access to our accts, but it still didn’t solve all problems, such as having replacement cards sent out.  Egyptian ATM’s are notorious for eating bank cards.  I never even saw an ATM in Mauritania.

Almost any legal issues will be difficult to handle long distance.   You want to be sure to tie up lose ends before traveling or designate someone you trust in the States with power of attorney to act in your behalf.

Culture shock was very real.  It took a lot for me to get used to a ‘different’ way of doing things.  Small things, like stores not having change for larger bills.  It is really common to walk into a neighborhood shop and have them tell you to come back later to get your change, or let you take the item and pay later if they don’t have change.  Traffic, I never really saw cars speed up towards pedestrians till I moved overseas.  It’s like a competition to see who can get there first 🙂


Social and class issues will leave you frustrated or shaking your head sometimes.  It’s pretty common to get depressed at having a diminished support structure.  Unless your spouse is from the country you move to, it may be just you, he and your children for some time dealing with any illnesses, moves, money issues, etc.  None of this is meant to discourage from travel.  I just wish I’d had someone talk to me about them prior to moving.  I’ve seen more than one family move, buy a houseful of appliances for several thousand dollars, and sell it at a lose ’cause they were leaving the country after six months.  We did, when we left Mauritania for Egypt.


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