Online Sources for Americans Abroad
Copyright © 1998 Jennifer McCay. All rights reserved.
Have you ever considered moving to another country to improve your foreign language skills? Is there talk at the office that you're next in line for that great job in Europe? Has your spouse recently received orders to relocate overseas, forcing you to tag along, like it or not? Whatever your reason for moving abroad, it can be--or feel like--a daunting task. However, a quick look at a few top Web sites will have you up to speed on all you need to know to survive the move, keep your sanity, keep your appliances from exploding, and make friends in your new hometown.
The first place you should check out is Expat Exchange, which helps you feel more at home in your new surroundings. An email newsletter called "Overseas Digest" is available free to all who want to learn about others' experiences abroad. In addition, you can book a chat room to cyberchat with anyone anywhere in the world for free (minus any local phone charges you might have). Chat sessions for various special interests are held regularly here, so if you want to talk to people who live in, say, the Netherlands about life there, keep an eye out for a scheduled session. You can also take the initiative and start your own discussion group. On this site you can also access overseas job listings, apply for international health insurance, or talk with others about being a spouse abroad.
American Citizens Abroad (ACA) has valuable information on your political rights as a U.S. citizen living overseas. The site features a summary of the articles in the monthly publication "The ACA News Report." Some recent topics of discussion were new IRS tax laws, information on absentee voting issues, and an update on the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service's regulations and fees. In addition, the site has many links to organizations, publications, and government institutions with Web sites that are important for Americans abroad.
If you're more concerned with the lifestyle issues that can arise when living in another country, consultGlobal Assignment: Americans Abroad. Featuring articles on travel problems, child care issues, and general information such as how to acclimate to a new country and culture, as well as an extensive archive of previously featured articles, this site should be one you check regularly. The only downside is that you have to enter your name and email address before entering the main site.
Of interest to women abroad, the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) connects you with individual American Women's Clubs everywhere in the world, from Denmark to Morocco. (From personal experience, I can attest that these clubs often do a great deal to help newcomers to foreign locales adjust to the changes.) FAWCO, a not-for-profit organization, concerns itself with all issues affecting women abroad, and particularly the rights of American expatriates, education, and environmental issues.
Do you want to find a job overseas so you can finally make the big move? Escape Artist can help you with your search, from providing links to publications and books that will assist you in your plans, to linking you to job search Web sites in countries around the globe. Escape Artist also has special areas on its site dedicated to moving, travel guides, and reference materials. Be forewarned that many of the links to foreign sites are not available in English. Just grab a bilingual dictionary and go!
The Overseas Job Web is also dedicated to issues of foreign employment. Click on "International Job Openings" and you can look through hundreds of opportunities abroad. In addition to their own job bank, the Overseas Job Web provides links to job opportunities worldwide, but you may run into foreign language sites depending on the site on which you click. Sending a résumé to employment recruiters worldwide is just one click past the main page. "Overseas Jobs Express News," a biweekly newspaper by the same organization, features articles on international work and "help wanted" advertisements. You can subscribe to the newspaper or just look at sample articles.
Because I live in Germany, European and German "survival" sites are of particular interest to me. Here are the best sites around:
Transatlantic American Online provides articles and advice on European living as a supplement to Transatlantic American Magazine, which is sold in many major European cities at international newsstands. (Purchasing information is available on the site.) Though the print magazine is perhaps a greater source of information, the online site is also helpful, discussing Americans living abroad and what it's like to return to the U.S. after living in Europe, in addition to foreign affairs issues.
American food sources abroad can be a real concern, particularly if you can't find a product you rely on for many baking needs. TheUS-Shop is a Brussels-based online grocery store that sells European-based Americans the foods they miss from their homeland. Even if you love the cuisine the natives of your new country prepare, there will probably be a few occasions on which you'll want American-made standbys such as macaroni and cheese, a particular steak sauce, or even biscuits made with baking mix. Cranberries aren't grown in Europe either, but you can turn to the US-Shop for authentic American cranberry sauce for holiday meals and your everyday needs.
Since I know the trials and tribulations (and joys) of living in Germany, I looked at two great sites, each with more information than I found on any one general site for Americans living overseas. Expatriates Working and Living in Germany and The German Way share tips that are crucial to a successful stay in Deutschland. If I had to determine which of the two sites is superior, I'd pick The German Way, but only because it provides details on how to avoid turning your new abode into an inferno! Germany, like many other foreign countries, uses a different electrical power standard, and plugging an American appliance into a German outlet can cause nothing short of a loud, dangerous explosion. That said, an American plug without a small converter attached doesn't fit into a German electrical outlet, but if you attach that converter without also hooking up the proper transformer, you will be calling an electrician, if not the fire department, within minutes.
Both the Expatriates site and The German Way are helpful for those of you who are moving to other countries as well, because they raise issues that you might have to face when moving to another country. A few examples of the help that the Expatriates site provides (again, specifically for Germany, but indicative of what you can expect elsewhere) include tips on finding housing, obtaining a driver's license, getting permits allowing you to live and/or work in the new country, locating a bank, using the post office, and adjusting to local customs. The German Way explains why your American television won't work in countries that use a different system, including most European countries, among others. The two sites also have links to other good sites for Americans abroad, many of which are targeted to Americans moving anywhere outside the U.S. and its territories.
Moving abroad can be a rewarding experience, but make sure to do your homework before you go. There's plenty of reference material just a click away.
Some other sites that may be of interest to those of you considering a move to another country:
Jennifer McCay is an American freelance writer working out of Hamburg, Germany. She is currently finishing an M.A. in English.