How to Stay Healthy When Moving Overseas
October 20, 2020
By Joe Cronin

Moving overseas is an exciting and daunting adventure. There’s so much to do before you move and, once you arrive, it seems like there’s an equally long list of tasks in order to get settled. It’s not surprising that under such circumstances, it’s challenging to stay healthy. However, with a bit of preparation, your time abroad can be as healthy as it is exciting!

Here are some practical tips to consider for staying healthy when moving overseas.

Check In Before You Go

Visit your family physician to get a baseline assessment of your health prior to a big move. This will ensure you have up-to-date records to share with your new physician and a recent set of tests and blood work if you fall ill while adjusting to your new home. 

Your family physician can also schedule necessary routine screening procedures, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, so you can have these important tests on your home turf before you leave and won’t have to worry about them when you’re settling overseas.

If you struggle with vitamin deficiencies, such as low iron or B12, your doctor can provide advice on how to stay healthy when adjusting to a new diet. They can also make recommendations about medications, such as contraceptives, that may not always be culturally accessible depending on where you’re moving. 

Finally, they can refer you to a travel medicine specialist who will make sure you’re up-to-date on appropriate vaccines and malaria prevention strategies for your new country.

Don’t forget to speak with your pharmacist to arrange a larger-than-usual supply of prescription medication ahead of your move, so you don’t have to worry about getting a refill immediately upon arrival. They can also provide information on over-the-counter supplements, such as probiotics, that can help you stay healthy during your move.

Take Care With Food and Water

Stress, a change in schedule and an over-reliance on takeout food are enough to make anyone feel less than their best. Add in a whole new country, non-potable water and a radically different diet and even the healthiest expat will feel awful. It can be horribly demoralizing to be all set to explore a new country, culture and cuisine only to be stuck at home, eating toast and tea as your body adjusts to new germs, bacteria and flavors. 

When you move overseas, do so with the assumption that you will have problems with food and water— and if you don’t, it will be a happy surprise! Bring stomach-soothing medication with you and proactively stock up on things like tea and soup, just in case. They’ll be much harder to find when you’re under the weather. 

Take the concerns of non-potable water seriously. Unclean drinking water isn’t just unpleasant—it also carries serious health concerns. A combination of resources, from a portable filter you bring from home to a kitchen set up that allows for easy water boiling, will help you adjust to the transition of living with non-potable water. 

Embrace A New Exercise Routine

When you first move overseas, it can feel like you’re getting more exercise than ever before. Apartment buildings without elevators, multiple errands and accidentally getting lost as you explore can easily help you clock in your steps for the day! However, it’s just as easy to fall into a sluggish routine. Cheap taxis, deep-fried street food and work-from-home arrangements can easily undermine your previously healthy lifestyle. 

Replicating your old exercise routine may be easier said than done. Different climate conditions might make mid-afternoon hikes really unpleasant and not all destinations have great facilities for rowing or spinning. An expat social group can be a huge help. They’ll have the inside scoop on the best gyms and pools and are always eager to welcome another person to pick-up games. If you prefer more privacy and solitude, personal trainers around the world are connecting with their clients online to make home-based workouts more fun and efficient. 

Be Pollution Savvy

Most expats from the United States or Canada grew up enjoying a high standard of air quality. However, some of the most popular expat destinations around the world, including Beijing, Bangkok, Delhi, Hanoi, Hong Kong and Mexico City, have notoriously challenging air quality conditions. At best, living amongst terrible smog and air pollution is irritating and unpleasant. At worst, it’s dangerous for both your short-term and long-term health. 

If you’ve ever had a hint of asthma, speak to your family physician about an asthma management plan when you’re overseas. Factor air quality improvement costs into your overseas budget. Spending money on an apartment with air conditioning or filtration systems will be well worth the investment, as are air-cleaning houseplants, high-quality face masks and living close to a park or botanical garden.

Be Sure You Are Insured

No one anticipates feeling ill or getting hurt when they’re living overseas, but it certainly happens. Even if you take every possible precaution, no one is completely immune to injury or illness. A comprehensive global medical insurance policy does much more than provide peace of mind for unexpected injuries, it also includes benefits critical to maintaining your health. 

Most travel medical insurance plans, such as GeoBlue, will protect you from financial disaster and ensure you are treated in the best possible facilities with multilingual staff, comfortable and private rooms, and modern diagnostic equipment. Overseas insurance also comes with built-in support from experts who know what it’s like to be in your shoes and can direct you to resources to help you live your healthiest life.

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