There is a lot to consider when planning to live abroad as an expat. One thing that will have an impact on what you need to bring with you, and your lifestyle while abroad, is the climate of your destination.
Beat the heat: staying cool as an expat in a warm climate
Avoid heavy suits: ask at your new office what the dress code is like, can you wear a shirt without a jacket?
Wear a hat: ideally with a brim to protect your face, head and neck from the harmful rays of the sun. Wearing a hat will also reduce glare on your eyes.
Wear sun glasses/shades with UV protection: your eyes can be damaged by bright sunlight so make sure you have a good pair of sunglasses that will protect them from the damaging rays. It is worth noting that some fashion sunglasses don’t offer this protection.
Get a sun umbrella: you could bring a standard umbrella but in many tropical countries you can buy umbrellas with reflective material that helps shade you from the sun.
Drink lots of fluids: with all that is happening with your first move abroad as an expat it’s an easy one to forget, but it is important to really up your fluid intake when you move to a hotter country. Try to stick to water as much as possible and keep sugary drinks, caffeine and alcohol to a minimum.
Avoid heavy meals and alcohol: although you may be wined and dined when you first arrive, it might be worth choosing lighter options like salads and fish when it comes to food. Drink plenty of water with alcohol as you can quickly become dehydrated in warm weather.
Watch out for
Heat exhaustion: it is easy to become a victim of heat exhaustion, particularly if high temperatures are new to you. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats; you become nauseous and faint with a rapid pulse and muscle cramps. Any of these symptoms on their own are enough to indicate you may be becoming exhausted. If you experience them:
- Stop all activity straight away
- Find shade
- Drink cool drinks
Sunburn: is a primary cause of skin cancer and a painful condition, it should be avoided as much as possible by staying in the shade, covering up with light clothing, wearing a hat and applying sunscreen with a high SPF (30+).
Insect bites: although many insect bites are simply irritating, some mosquito bites in affected areas can lead to malaria. If you are traveling to work as an expat in one of these areas, speak to your doctor about anti-malarial drugs, ensure you use insect repellent containing DEET and sleep under a mosquito net. To avoid bites of the annoying variety use insect repellent, avoid being outdoors in the evening and cover up as much as possible.
Staying warm in a cold climate
- Layers: are key to staying warm. Start with a good base layer that sits close to your body, if it is really cold make this thermal. Add 2-3 thin layers of fabrics that trap heat but are breathable like wool, fleece, cashmere or silk.
- Don’t forget a hat: heat will escape from any uncovered part of our bodies, often this is likely to be our heads or face so cover them as much as possible with a hat, scarf and ear muffs. If it’s really cold consider a balaclava to protect your face.
- Wear a waterproof layer: Top your outfit off with a nylon or Gore-Tex outer layer which will block artic winds from making you cold.
Watch out for
- Injuries: cold weather often brings ice and snow which, if you aren’t used to it, can be tricky to navigate. If it’s icy, get a pair of grips for your shoes and allow extra time to get to your destination.
- SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that can be a by-product of the darkness that often comes with cold weather. If you find yourself feeling tired and moody for unexplained reasons after a move to a cold climate, it is worth having this checked out as a possibility. There is treatment available including light therapy, counselling or medication.
- Colds and flu: although not caused by cold weather, you are likely to spend more time indoors and your immune system may not be as strong making you more susceptible to picking up the cold or flu virus. Protect yourself by washing your hands regularly and using anti-bacterial hand gel, particularly before you eat and after using public transport. If available, consider getting a flu vaccination.
- Asthma: cold weather can be a trigger for some people with asthma, as the cold air irritates sensitive airways. Remaining indoors doesn’t always help either where increased indoor pollutants like dust mites can cause irritation. If you are an expat who suffers with asthma manage it as well as possible in the run up to your move and while you are away. Carry your inhaler at all times and if you find you are using it more than usual, speak to your doctor.
Staying dry in a wet weather climate
- Umbrella: make sure you carry one during rainy season in the tropics and at all times if you are moving to the UK or Ireland. Ideally choose one without metal so you can use it safely if there is lightning.
- Raincoat: they’ve come a long way and it’s easy to find good waterproof jackets made from modern fabrics like Gore-Tex that will keep you dry, especially if conditions are stormy making an umbrella useless.
- Waterproof boots: although you may not want to wear them in the office, a good pair of waterproof hiking or wellington boots will get you to and from work with dry feet!