Living in two places can give you the best of both worlds. You have your friends and family in your hometown and have an established life. Then you have your new home. Hand-picked by you because it fit your needs or wants so well. It can be an escape and a welcome change from your other life. But having the benefits of both worlds also means you have to handle duplicates of issues that most people don’t have. While the benefits usually far outweigh the issues, knowing what you’ll need to address will help you stay organized and prepared and lower your stress level. Here are some of the issues you’ll need to keep in mind when you decide to be a part-time expat.
Staying legal. One thing you’ll need to do for both places is to keep your legal paperwork updated. Make sure you are filing whatever you need in terms of taxes, corporate filings, legal status and particular expat filings as a US citizen. Once you go through a calendar year, you should probably be able to do the same basic work each year.
Banking. Most likely, you will want or need to set up a bank account in both countries. Not everyone does. Some people are fine with using ATM machines to get cash when they need it in their second country and use credit cards for everything else. And some foreign banks won’t even open accounts for Americans. You will need to check the fees for your accounts and what other services are included. If you plan on buying or renting a home longer term, you will need an account for the rent or mortgage and utilities. And speaking of homes…
Homes. You will be residing in two different places and only you can decide how you will handle this major expense. Some people keep their original place, especially if their mortgage is paid off. Then they buy or rent a second home. Others choose to rent in both places, especially if the rental market is reasonably priced. It also gives you flexibility in your second place, especially if you are still trying to decide where you would prefer to live in your second area. Whichever you decide, this will involve payments and paperwork to keep on top of. This also includes decisions like what to do with the place your not staying at. Do you rent it out? Who will watch over or take care of it? You may have friends or a relative help, or employ a propery manager in one or both locations.
Hobbies and interests. Do you need a gym, tennis or golf membership in both places? Will you be hauling your laptop computer, external hard drive and digital camera all over airports every time you change locations? It will be tough to travel light that way. Few people would want duplicates of those items but you might use a laptop in one location and a tablet in the other. It’s always more flexible to travel carry-on only when going internationa, especially with the cost of international flights and the extra fees and restrictions on luggage. This is often an overlooked area when becoming a part-time expat but needs to be considered because of the potential cost and trouble of making these decisions at the last minute.
Clothing and personal items. Again, these decisions may not be your first thought, but do take time to consider what may work best for you. Will you need coats and boots in both places? Will you split what you have, buy doubles or try to travel back and forth with the same items? Winter clothing takes a lot of room to pack but using similar items in both places won’t be inexpensive, either. Most personal items you may just have to make due or duplicate. Dragging them back and forth will get old quickly. But if you have expensive hair care items, perfumes or jewelry, you may want to give some thought as to how you will deal with their care and storage.
Communication. How will you stay in touch with people or businesses when you are outside their country? Will you have two phones? Two numbers? Will your landlord really call you long-distance or just charge you late fees or send you nasty letters in your mail, waiting for your return? You need to think through the easiest way for others to get ahold of you, which doesn’t always mean it’s the easiest for you. Don’t forget, you may have many bills and professionals who have all your U.S. contact information and won’t know how else to get in touch with you. I forget that my credit cards expect me to use my U.S. phone to verify it’s me their speaking to, or that my accountant may have a question and can’t reach me on my European phone.
These are some of the decisions that are unique to someone that is not moving permanently or as a full-time expat. While you may love your new life and the exploration it includes, it will help you with a smoother transition if you give some thought to these issues ahead of time. Don’t let these discourage you from your new lifestyle. Taking some time to weigh your options will help you be prepared to make your new life the best it can be.
Your Takeaway – Living part-time in two different places is a lot of fun and enriches your life beyond measure. Learning from those who have already done it and have addressed unique issues will help you be better prepared for your new life. Thinking about what makes the most sense for your specific situation will ensure that you can truely start living the dream!