Moving abroad is a step which requires a lot of prior preparation. Contrary to what you might believe, guaranteeing yourself a positive and fulfilling experience while living in a foreign country takes more than just a valid visa and a plane ticket. Reading the following advice before you move overseas may occasionally sound gloomy and unromantic, but listening to your common sense will be of immeasurable benefit during your time abroad. When you are planning your move overseas, you should take the following factors into account.
When you move abroad, financial stability and financial planning are essential elements for your safety and success. A financial cushion is necessary to cover additional or unexpected costs. In a 2009 NatWest survey on moving to a foreign country, 87% of Brits thought that if they were to move overseas, they would be better off financially. In reality, depending on the country you are living in, several factors can make expat life even more expensive than at home.
Even when you move overseas to a supposedly “cheap” country, life abroad can be more costly than you expect. In the beginning, immediately after you move overseas, you’ll probably insist on the more expensive expat lifestyle with every amenity you know from home. Especially in third-world countries, the costs of maintaining a Western lifestyle can be exorbitant. Either a willingness to adapt to the local way of life, or proper financial planning, are essential to ensure your expat experience is a success.
No matter what is behind your decision to move to a new country, you should have at least some work opportunities lined up before you take off. Of course, if you are a student with a promising university application, a retiree with a decent pension, or if your company wants you to move overseas for a project/assignment, you don’t have to worry about this part!
In all other cases, you should familiarize yourself with the job market in your destination of choice and see whether your qualifications are actually in demand. Admittedly, free-lancing as a travel writer, blogger, or language tutor in a Central European capital sounds enticingly Bohemian. Yet when you embark on that adventure, be sure you have some basic knowledge about self-employment and a couple of business contacts that could get you regular jobs before your departure.
If you have a say in your company’s decision to send you abroad or if you are a self-made expat who can choose where you want to move overseas, you should know that making the right choice also means letting go of romantic ideas. Ideally, you can cope with the climate and social customs of your country of choice. A lot of this has to do with psychological attitude and intercultural training, but that’s not all.
Language skills are always an obvious bonus when you decide to go abroad, but don’t forget to consider your physical constitution too. For some countries and climates, you will need to be very healthy, or at least have a good awareness of your body’s limits.
As a Western expat, gushing about, say, the beauty of Cambodia may be irrelevant if you are not aware of the potential health and safety risks which living in that country may pose.
Moving overseas will require you to organize a lot of things and jump quite a few bureaucratic hurdles. Paperwork and finances have to be set in order, personal items sold or put in storage, luggage packed and shipped, etc. You need to be thorough, careful, organized, and above all, patient, when faced with red tape and an endless number of forms to complete or fees to pay. Bureaucracy is, unfortunately, everywhere.
But even if your finances and your job are taken care of and you chose a place that you can easily adjust to, and made a perfect plan to prepare your move overseas, you will need the right mindset and attitude to pull it off.