7 Planning Steps Bridget Jones Can Teach Future Expats

“Earth to Bridget Sodding Jones!” yells Bridget’s boss.

As the sequel to Bridget Jones’s Diary opens, lucky Bridget has been chosen to try skydiving — on camera — to see if it’s great fun or a terrifying risk. After being forced out of the plane, forgetting to pull the ripcord (prompting the above exclamation from boss) and finally drifting along, chute open, Bridget starts daydreaming about her boyfriend.

To come to earth with a bump — literally — facedown in a large pigpen.

Daydreaming while skydiving is not a fun combination!

Future expats, if you don’t want to come to your senses, as Bridget did, in a large vat of metaphoric excrement, you need to do some planning.

Here are seven lessons Bridget can teach you about planning your expat experience to give you the best possible quality of life.

#1 Write it Down

Bridget starts her diary after a lousy New Year’s Day social event. She realizes she’s just been drifting along. She’s 32, single, slightly overweight, smokes and drinks too much, and wants a romantic relationship with a good man.

She begins by taking stock: age, weight, number of cigarettes smoked, ounces of alcohol drunk, and the qualities she wants in a man. This gives her a baseline to measure progress against.

As a future expat, your baseline should include at least the following:

  • Financial matters like how much income will you have, what kinds of cash reserves and investments you own. Will you be carrying debt with you after you move, and how will you pay for it
  • What’s important to you in terms of climate, size and type of city you live in, access to cultural events, shopping and other leisure activities
  • Do you speak a second language, or are you willing to learn
  • How willing are you to try new foods
  • If you’re moving with children, what sort of school experience do you want for them
  • Do you want to settle down in one place
  • Do you want to become a full-time expat, or will you spend part of the year “back home”
  • Will you need to generate income while you’re abroad

As you answer these questions, you’ll get a clear picture of the type of life you’re looking for, which in turn will help you narrow down your top expat destinations.

#2 Set Goals and Monitor Your Progress

Bridget set goals for all the items she was monitoring, and she kept track. So should you.

If you need to save more, pay down some debt or sell household furnishings before you move, set goals and a timetable. You may need to make corrections and adjustments along the way, but you’ll get there sooner than if you try to do everything at the last minute.

#3 Invest in Yourself

After Bridget’s romance with her boss, Daniel, unraveled she started working out at the gym and replaced her shelf of “how to please a man” books with self-help titles.

Perhaps you want to start language lessons before you move, or lay the groundwork for a job or business in your overseas location. Investing in yourself while still in your home country will help smooth your transition and improve your international lifestyle.

#4 Verify Information

Bridget could have saved herself some heartbreak if she’d verified Daniel’s account of why he and Darcy weren’t friends any longer. By the time she heard the real facts, it was almost too late.

If you’re relying on specific information, always verify it from several sources. Don’t just consult one source to find out whether an area is safe, or affordable, or meets some other criteria — they may have an agenda you know nothing about.

The internet is loaded with information — some of it garbage, I admit — but by talking to enough people on enough forums you can get a much fuller picture.

I’m focused on Panama right now, and I’m a member of six different online Panama forums where residents and wannabe residents hang out. People ask questions about everything from where to source a particular grocery item to the weather to real estate to crime to you name it, and get lots of responses.

Similar forums exist for almost any country you might want to move to — somebody sent me a link earlier today to a forum for expats in Turkey — so find them, and participate.

#5 Listen to Your Friends — But Not Too Much

Bridget’s three closest friends love to give advice. And, typical of advice from friends, they usually don’t agree with one another.

Listen to what your friends have to say, if you want to, but realize that it’s your life and you need to make the decisions.

#6 Take a Different Route

Bridget didn’t start out the year with any career-related changes in mind. She started as “someone who fannies about with the press releases” for a publishing firm, but ended up as a TV reporter.

In order to meet her primary objective, finding a good man, she had to remove herself from Daniel’s orbit. In the process, she took a big step up the career ladder.

#7 Start Fresh

After Bridget and Darcy finally get together, he buys her a new diary so she can make a fresh start.

Setbacks happen, changes occur, and sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, regroup and start fresh.

My husband and I had planned to sell our Central Florida house before we move. However, with property prices still in free fall here, we’ve decided to rent it out instead. Some of the improvements we’d planned to make for a sale are off the list, and a few things we didn’t plan on updating we’ll now replace.

Moving without the cash reserves from the sale will be more difficult, so we’re having to restart some of our planning. But we’re still moving forward — just because now is a bad time to sell doesn’t make it a bad time to move abroad!

Do you have planning tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, or visit our Facebook page.

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