Working as a house sitter in exchange for free rent or even the occasional small stipend while living abroad is an ideal situation for many, from college students to retirees. In many cases, these arrangements are the only way for cash-strapped Americans with a sense of adventure to see the world. There are an endless number of reasons why house sitting abroad can be a dream come true, but there are some things that prospective house sitters should take into account.
Visa Requirements – The first, and perhaps the most important concern for international travelers to be mindful of are the visa requirements of the country in which they’ll be staying, especially if they’re going to be paid for their services. Depending on where you’re planning to go and the laws in that country governing extended international visits, you may be required to obtain a work visa; in some countries, changing your visa status after arrival is next to impossible, so be sure to research the visa requirements thoroughly before accepting a post and boarding a plane.
Language Barriers – Another concern, which may seem fairly obvious but often goes unacknowledged is the potential for communication problems due to a language barrier. Even some countries that consider English an official language may be difficult for Americans to navigate, as idioms and turns of phrase are unfamiliar. Americans with rudimentary skills in the language most prevalent in the country that they plan to visit should be prepared for both difficulty in communication and less friendly reception from local citizens than they would receive if they made the effort to speak the native tongue. Unfamiliar surroundings and the unavoidable culture shock that accompanies international travel will be amplified by an inability to communicate clearly with those around you, which could potentially ruin your experience.
Acclimation – While tourist-friendly hotels in foreign countries make an effort to be as accessible and familiar as possible to American travelers, private homes may not have the same amenities that those hotels boast. Appliances and fixtures may also operate differently, leading to a bit of confusion as you settle in to your new surroundings. Though these adjustments may seem minor at first blush, it’s important to realize that when everything around you is unfamiliar, the place where you’re settling becomes an oasis. If you’re uncomfortable and disoriented even in your temporary home, you may not enjoy the international experience to the fullest. To avoid this culture shock and the potential for anxiety, be prepared for an entirely unexpected environment while researching your chosen country as thoroughly as possible. Though you will still have to work through a period of acclimation, it will be much more tenable if you’re prepared for sudden and abrupt change.
Injury and Illness – Transportation may also be a concern for international house sitters, as traffic laws may be so vastly different that driving a car becomes a dangerous prospect. Speaking of danger, international travelers are advised to obtain health and casualty insurance as a precaution; serious injury or illness overseas can be a terrifying prospect, especially if your existing insurance is inadequate.
With the proper preparations, planning and research, your international house sitting experience will be one that you remember and treasure for the rest of your life; however, it’s essential to make all pertinent arrangements as far in advance as possible, and be prepared for the adventure of a lifetime!