To live in Southeast Asia can be extremely exciting, especially if you have the right information.

Southeast Asia attracts many ex-pats from the western world because of its beautiful beaches, warm weather, low cost of living, and unique culture. However, to ensure you are settling into whatever country you decide to travel or move to, its important to prepare your mind for what’s to come, as every nation part of the Southeast Asian region have their own differences and quirks.

To ensure you live abroad in Southeast Asia successfully, we have put together a few tips to help you navigate the region.

Tip 1: Prepare for Culture Shock

buddha statue asia

While this one sounds obvious, a lot of Westerners don’t realize just how different Southeast Asia — or Asia at large — is compared to the West. Beyond the languages and culture, the mentality behind every action or behavior is completely different depending on where you go.

Whether you’re going to Southeast Asia or any other place in the world, differences exist. It is these differences that make each part of the world unique and interesting. Knowing and researching these differences beforehand are always a great way to adapt without too much trouble.

Oftentimes, those who go to a country without knowing anything about their customs, behaviors, thought processes are left completely shocked upon arrival and end up leaving due to the inability to adapt. Differences in culture, language, food, and fashion are obvious things you will notice when you travel abroad. Do yourself a favor and learn about your destination before you embark on this journey.

Tip 2: Get Comfortable With Cash Purchases

While countries like South Korea and China have been predominantly cashless for several years now, there are still many parts of Southeast Asia that still rely on cash to pay for everything. In most countries of SE Asia, you can only open a bank account when you have a job. Card purchases are out of the question since your country’s cards may not work at local shops.

money cash

A you’re coming from the United States, you have a bit of an advantage. Many American banks have branches overseas, while several others offer free or reduced ATM fees for their customers traveling outside the country. Take advantage of this by patronizing such banks to nip high exchange rates and ATM fees in the bud.

While this issue may not be around for long, as many of Southeast Asia’s countries are ready to adopt a cashless future, it’s still important to take this into consideration when moving or traveling to Southeast Asia.

Tip 3: Prepare Your Stomach

Things are generally cheap in Southeast Asia because of the low minimum wage. In light of this, and as part of the culture, food is cheaper in Southeast Asia, especially streetfood. It can be exciting to try and taste different foods while there.

southeast asia streetfood

While the food is definitely delicious, there are many ex-pats that end up getting stomach aches due to digesting an excess amount of oil or other ingredients that their body may not be used to.

One amazing hack is to do your research before coming to the said country and knowing exactly what is inside what, so your stomach isn’t shocked. It is always great to have a taste of the local cuisine, as long as you prepare your stomach properly for what’s to come, as going to any country faces a difference in cuisine.

Tip 4: Get Your Documents Certified Before Moving Abroad

document certification and sign

With so many foreigners coming in and out of Southeast Asia, the borders can be quite strict in some places. One of the biggest mistakes that foreigners make before coming over to a Southeast Asian country is not properly certifying all necessary documents.

Whether it’s to get a job or get residency for your kids, make sure everything is properly paid for and stamped by the official government. For example, Vietnam requires expatriates to present notarized birth certificates of their children to authorities when applying for residency. Every other country may have its own unique rules.

Tip 5: Make Arrangements for Your Health Care

When you set out to live in Southeast Asia as an expatriate — or any country for that matter — it is important to make healthcare arrangements as your country’s health benefits may not work in Southeast Asia. Healthcare costs are pretty low anyway, so you can choose to pay them out of pocket. Just make sure you do the proper research in finding the right places to go just in case of emergency.

A lot of foreigners make the mistake of neglecting writing down all the necessary emergency hot spots, from clinics to dental issues, only once the problem occurs. No one knows what obstacles or issues may come your way, so it’s important to make sure you are well equipped with the right knowledge and numbers that will help you when the going gets tough.

Final thoughts

In the past, there were a few select countries in Southeast Asia that appealed to foreigners, primarily for travel. Yet, in the last few years, Southeast Asia has been showing great promise economically. It serves as one of the driving forces as to why Asia is the future. As such, there will continue to be growing interest in property investment in places like Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta.

With that being the case, anybody thinking of coming to Southeast Asia to live, travel, or do business in would be better off to learn the tips above and increase their chance of adapting faster.

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