Moving to another country is a huge decision. You’re pretty much uprooting your whole life and replanting it somewhere else in which the currency, customs, language and even values may be different.
People choose to become an expat for various reasons. Some do it as a means of escaping to the sun in their retirement, whilst others may chase a dream job in their youth. Moving abroad can have lots of perks from better weather to a lower cost of living, but you also have to be aware of the losses such as leaving behind your family or even losing certain rights that you had in your home country. Here are the ten major questions worth asking yourself before making the big move.
1. How will you fund yourself?
If you’re moving to another country permanently, you’ll need a job in that country, unless of course you’re retiring or planning on relying on someone else’s income. It may be beneficial to find a job before moving abroad. Employers should be able to interview you over Skype or on the phone to save you travelling there. Your reason for moving could be that you’ve been offered a job abroad already, which is perfect. The salary should be enough to sustain oneself – you don’t want to chase an internship opportunity abroad that might not earn you enough to live on.
Also, make sure to ask the company if they are willing to cover your relocation costs such as the plane ticket, rent for the first couple of months and so on. Depending on their response, you can weigh the decision of accepting or not the offer, or to put more money aside for the big move.
2. Where will you stay?
Having accommodation sorted is important. If you’re moving temporarily, you may be able to rent a place or even stay with a family, or even at a hotel. Alternatively, if you have the funds, you could buy a place. It is important to have a place where you feel safe and comfortable, especially when you are far away from home and your comfort zone.
Even if I am not a big fan of buying a house that grounds you to one single place, properties could be cheaper in the country you’re moving thus allowing you to get more for your money. You could even buy land and build your own home – for example, this land for sale in Malaysia just shows the opportunities that are out there. Building your own property could be a great retirement strategy allowing you to live the eve of your life in the home of your dreams.
Leave yourself inspired by Liz Gilbert’s adventures in Indonesia, and rent, buy a build a beautiful home.
3. Will you have to learn a new language?
Many people around the world speak English, however, it’s still polite and beneficial in most cases to learn a country’s mother tongue. Learning just the basics could be all you need to start with. This is also one of my favourite “trick” when travelling: learn a few basic things like “thank you”, “goodbye” and so on and use them while you meet locals. People are very impressed when a foreigner knows even a couple of words in their language. It shows respect towards the other culture, which I find very important.
It’s best to start learning the local language before you make your move. Nowadays you can learn a foreign language online for free; you can learn French, English, German or even more “exotic” languages like Norwegian or Chinese. It will probably be easy learning a foreign language when you are surrounded by people actually speaking it, but it will make your life easier if you already know some basic things.
4. Will you be applying for a visa or citizenship?
In most cases, you’ll likely want to apply for a visa rather than full citizenship. This way, you’re still protected by rights back home and you can move back at any time. Depending on the country you’re visiting, there may be multiple types of visa including working visas and retirement visas. Make sure to apply for this several months in advance to make your move.
Applying for citizenship is an even more lengthy process and may require you to do various tests. It can take months or even years. Also, you have to be aware that some countries do not accept citizen with double citizenship, which means you might be facing the difficult decision of renouncing your native citizenship or not. You can find the list of countries which accept dual citizenship or not here.
5. What are the local laws?
It’s advantageous to familiarise yourself with local laws. For example, did you know that littering in Singapore could cost you a hefty fine of $300? So that you don’t accidentally break the law, make sure you know all the rules. This includes rules of the road if you’re planning to drive (in countries like China you may need to retake your test, for example).
Also, ensure that you look into your rights. If you’re working abroad, you may not be entitled to the same benefits such as sick pay and holiday.
So be aware that the common laws for EU or NATO members are not applicable worldwide. Last but not least, being an European citizen might give you extra benefits in countries outside the EU space, based on different agreements between nations. I’m quite sure the same goes for US citizens.
6. How will you move your possessions over?
Oh, that’s a tricky one! So, I guess there are two, maybe three options:
- Ship all the things you need – although it might be expensive
- Sell everything and use the money to buy new stuff in the new country. It might turn profitable to sell your belongings and buy new ones from local stores from your new location. Chinese are known for creating cheap replicas of everything.
- Take the most important pieces with you and store the furniture for example in a storage unit or something similar. This works if you plan to come back in a few years.
You could rent a pre-furnished property, which already has furniture in it. I highly recommend you taking some of your belonging with you. They will bring you emotional comfort, which is important when you are alone in a foreign country.
7. Are you taking children/pets?
If you’re taking children or pets, there may be other considerations to think about. The property you’re moving into firstly needs to be kid/ pet-friendly.
You may also have to consider finding a school. This is something that should be sorted ideally a couple months in advance, otherwise, you could interrupt their education. Different countries may have different curriculums and rates of learning, so consider whether you need a tutor.
Last but not least, decide if it’s better to take your children or pets with you or not. I know it sounds cruel, but for a child, it can be difficult moving to a foreign culture and leaving everything behind.
8. Will you need to transfer money back to your home country?
Alternatively, you may be leaving the family behind who you may need to send money back to. If this is the case, you’ll need to take into account currency conversion rates and find the cheapest forex service. Remember that you will need to fill out a tax assessment every year saying that you’re paying taxes in your new country, this prevents you from being taxed twice from two different countries.
9. Have you got any friends in the area?
You’ll get lonely abroad unless you make new friends.
You may already be moving to a country in which you know friends or relatives. If not, you may want to look into ways of meeting new people in your new country. This could include joining various clubs or finding people in online communities. There are even sites or apps for finding fellow expats (not Tinder).
10. Can you really leave your current life behind?
This is the most important question to ask yourself when moving abroad. Moving to a new country could mean saying goodbye to various customs, foods, and lifestyle.
Most importantly, you could have to leave behind friends and family. The Internet has made it much easier to stay in touch with loved ones using the likes of Skype and Facebook. However, you’ll still likely miss those face-to-face conversations.
For me, moving abroad for good is not an option. I am too attached to my friends and family to permanently leave. I am more than willing to live abroad for a few months or a couple of years, but it will differently be limited.
Have you moved abroad so far? Have you considered to move abroad? How was it for you and which were the most difficult moments/decisions to make?