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Moving Overseas (Abroad) Guide - Things to Consider for a New Life Abroad (visa, medical, retirement & tips)

Updated on April 15, 2014

First steps for Moving Countries

The first steps of emigrating can be the most tricky, but need to be carefully considered and researched if you hope to remain living abroad. Simple things like which visa to opt for can make a huge difference. Many countries offer retirement visas, working visas and holiday visas. It is 'possible' to make the move on any of these visas, depending on what you plan to do and how much you mind 'bending' laws.

However, I wouldn't personally recommend taking the tourist visa route when looking at working and living overseas, unless you are planning to change your visa when settled and have check how you can do this. If you are of age, a retirement visa is often one of the easiest to arrange, so long as you meet requirements. With this type of visa, you must carefully check what is required and ask yourself:

  • Do you have a high enough income?
  • Can you spare the funds of a lump sum deposit/investment?
  • Would you pass the medical exam? (if required)
  • What do you need to prove all of the above?
  • What medical cover do you need?
  • Will you still need to pay tax in your own country? and how?

Tips for Living Abroad | Working and Living Abroad (Employment)

The other option is to work abroad, but again there are issues to consider. Often countries have quite strict laws on which fields ex-pats (or 'aliens' as they affectionately refer to us as) can work in under an work-visa. You need to check if your current employment field is allowed. If not, you need to find out what you could do and what you will require in order to qualify (such as a degree, clear medical report, police check). Then you need to seriously think about this question!

"Could I do this job for the rest of my life!?!?"

It sounds extreme, but you don't want to make the move for a better life on the other side of the world, and then discover you are stuck in a 'different rut' that you'll end up hating just as much as the one you are in now. Hence, it is wise to find and train for at lest one 'reserve' employment option, just in case you want to stay there, but need a change of career.

Tips for Living Abroad | Medical Treatment/Insurance

When taking a holiday, the majority of people take out some form of holiday insurance, normally trying to cover every possible outcome. However, it is amazing how many of these same people make the move abroad without considering medical treatment. You may be surprised to learn that MEDICAL TREATMENT IS NOT FREE in most countries. Even if you work there, often you will need some extra medical cover, as employers will frequently choose the 'more affordable' policy.

However, don't only look within your home country for insurance!! It is scary how much a year's worth of holiday insurance can cost in the UK/US and many medical insurances policies will only fully cover your place of residence. It is far more advisable to research foreign local companies (near to where you are planning to live) and often more affordable. Also check if they have an office near your destined town, as trying to sort things out on the internet or via the telephone can be hell at times. Walking into an office is often quicker and easier (assuming they can speak English).

P.S. Also bear in mind that many medical insurance policies won't pay for silly drunken moments! (let's be honest, we all have them!)

Tips for Living Abroad | Clean Drinking Water

It sounds so silly and obvious, but you MUST check if the country you are heading to has drinkable tap water. Many citizens of the USA and UK take this as a given and are shocked when they suddenly become sick overseas after drinking straight from the tap. However, in many countries around the globe, including some very developed countries, tap water is not drinkable! Sometimes it is even toxic, polluted or full of parasites. However, other times it can be less obvious, as you will drink the water and feel fine, but be completely unaware of small particles in the water, such as rust (not great for your long term health).

If drinking water is not available, I would have to recommend a 'slot in' filtration unit or possibly a filter jug (shown below - perfect for singles/couples, but not really for large families). I made this mistake myself when I moved, although I didn't drink the tap water, I spent the first year carrying two 20 liter bottles about 500m to my house. This doesn't sound much, but when it is 40deg-C, sweat is running into your eyes, the sun is glaring and you can barely see ... I can promise you it isn't fun. Even in colder countries, just consider ... cold you carry this while walking on ICE??

Tips for Living Abroad | Property

When considering living in foreign countries, you need to seriously consider your housing options. Many countries are not as open as the UK and in some, it is not even possible for a non-citizen to own land. You need to research how to emigrate, as ownership can be tricky in many areas of the world, although there can often be ways around these restrictions.

Sometimes it means setting up a business to hold the property, as a business can often be solely controlled by a foreigner, but is also allowed to own a property. If you take this option, please check into laws regarding taxation, declaration of income tax and if the business must actually be trading (not a shell business) ... as these are all extra areas that can affect the overall cost of living in the country. Another option is to consider long-term leasing. In some areas of Asia this is a popular option, as it is easier and completely legal. Often the lease will be set for a period (such as 30 years), but have a renewal clause and price set at the time of issue.

This is all great if you are sure of the location that you want to live in and have already thoroughly checked it out. Things that need to be considered is noise and animals in the area. It may sound strange, but many countries still allow dogs to run free in the streets and do not have laws to govern noise! This can result in what may appear a peaceful house being hell to get to! as dogs growl and snap at your ankles on the way, or it could be a nightmare to sleep in, as the house next door amazingly transforms into a local karaoke joint at nighttime.

Be sure to ask for the keys and actually live in a property for a couple of weeks before moving in or paying a deposit. Even if you pay rent, it may be WELL worth the money and time spent! Of course, in many cheap countries, it may not even be worth paying for a property outright at all. In fact, I rent a flat at the moment in Asia for a little over 10GBP per MONTH! So, it means I am free to move in and out anytime and it is very affordable and convenient to keep it ... even just as storage space.

Tips for Living Abroad | Language Barrier

Don't let a language barrier put you off a country. There are so many gadgets about today, that a language doesn't need to be the big issue that it once was. You can buy electronic translators, which nowadays are becoming very accurate and easy to use. Some even use voice recognition - so you can speak into it, it will translate into the chosen language, then the other person speaks into it and it will translate their language back into English for you. In fact, to save carrying extra items, there are now even foreign language mobile phone applications that will do this for you, or simple phrase and dictionary apps.

Another 'low-tech' method is to carry a notepad for writing and drawing. The saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words' can be sooooo true when it comes to communication. However, a lesser considered aspect which I have discovered while traveling is that many people can read and understand English, they can even write a correctly structured answer, but can't speak a word (or are just too shy to speak). Hence, writing a sentence or question can actually work wonders!

Of course, the other popular favorite is to carry a language phrase book. This is simple, helps you to learn and often has phrases written in both languages ... just in case your pronunciation isn't exactly perrrrfect.

Tips for Living Abroad | Education! Think about your children

If you have a family, education is important. However, overseas education is not usually free, subsidized or supported by loans. It is often expected that the family will pay for the education. Hence, you really should look at costs.

However, also consider the quality of education! Don't just look at grades for this, but look at the teaching styles, tests and classrooms in action. In some areas of the world, students DO NOT FAIL, they listen and repeat and don't understand methods for problem solving or thinking 'outside the box'. This means that the grades can seem great, but the level of a student's knowledge isn't on par. If this is the case where you are heading, then it may mean that you will need to find a reputable international school and dig up the dollars to pay for it ... all important aspects to consider before pulling up your roots and making the change.

Moving Abroad Advice | Weather - Hot Hot Hot!

Now, the title of this bit probably sounds lovely and if you are on a beach relaxing with your favorite beverage, it certainly is! However, when you move (unless you retire) you won't be relaxing on a beach everyday. You seriously need to consider if you can work in a 40 degree heat for a couple of months through the summer, or possibly -40 during the winter. This can make a huge impact on performance too. In the UK, the weather is cool, it is easy to feel alert and think clearly. But, when you are in severe heat, you body wants to rest by the afternoon. You will feel very tired and your brain will not feel clear and alert. So, please consider this combined with your work before you jump into life in a hot country!!

Moving Abroad Advice | Religion

One of the final dynamics you may want to consider is religion. Tolerance of other religions and thought patterns vary around the world. In some places, you could find yourself in serious trouble for practicing your religion, or discussing the country's primary religion in a negative way. You need to consider and understand what living within a strongly religious country may require from you and possibly your family. Although, if it is a Buddhist country or mixed, this may be far less of an issue.

Moving Abroad Advice | Politics

Strange as it sounds, you may want to check out the past and present political situation in your destined country. This can change the lifestyle and even your rights as an ex-pat living there. You will also likely have NO influence whatsoever on the outcome, as you are unlikely to be allowed to vote (at least not at the start). In some countries, you are not permitted to comment on issues concerning politics or royalty, with some places punishing this kind of discussion (written or spoken) with imprisonment or even death! Hence, it is always wise to know what you will be moving into.

Moving Abroad Advice | The Move

When you have considered all the previously covered areas, you now need to setup banking and actually making the move. This is where the final parts of planning become important for a smooth move.


With your finances, you may not wish to move everything overseas. Hence, you need to check out you options for transferring money if you need it, such as online banking or telephone banking, sometimes combined with a cash card/credit card that can be used internationally (and preferably with fraud protection). Where possible, always keep a buffer with you! You may think you have everything covered, but you are entering a foreign environment with uniquely foreign problems. It is far better to discover you over budgeted, than to run short while in a new country!


For shipping, you really need to consider the WHOLE package. Don't just opt for the best price, as this can leave your precious belongings broken, uninsured, or stuck at a port. When possible, door-to-door delivery is best. Where the company will collect from your house, ship them to the new country, and then deliver and unpack the boxes into your new property. After all, you don't want to be trying to work out how to transport a truck sized container of your goods when you first arrive. Also, remember that this is unlikely to be a speedy service! It may take 3-4 months for your items to arrive, hence be careful what you pack into the cargo shipment and what you take with you.

However, so long as you take all of these factors into account, it is possible to live a wonderful life! I have spent 7 years as a citizen of the world, and despite some 'interesting' situations, I can't say that I regret a second of it. The journey has been amazing and the journey is really what life is all about!!

Thanks for reading! I hope that you have found this useful and given you something to think about.

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    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      I find the language barrier not too bad, so long as I can understand. However, it's a problem if you have medical problems, especially if they are complex - you need to be able to explain everything clearly to doctors.

      Also, it's super important to find out if you'll have easy access to the doctors and medications that you know you'll need if you have medical problems -- I didn't have access to any of my normal medications in Japan, and my health worsened, especially during the Fukushima crisis (as I was living and working in Fukushima at the time). Luckily, I've been able to find equivalent medications in Germany to those I was prescribed in Australia.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      I think people who move to foriegn countries are so brave, especially when they are going to a place with a different language then their own. If the economy and political climate of this country gets much worse, I am moving to Canda and I will take your advice. Great hub!

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hi, Brett, very interesting. I was talking about this subject just today, as it is a big issue around here right now, half the people are thinking of leaving, so it is without a doubt a very interesting article for a lot of people I know. Good tips and I'll be sure to pass the information on. Will go on to part 2 and 3.

    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 5 years ago from India

      Even though some things looks silly, that will actually create problem or affect us . Such type of things should be taken care of during emigration. Well explained and nice tips provided here. Thanks for sharing and pinned.

    • time2rite profile image

      time2rite 5 years ago from Navarre, Fl, USA

      It seems like there is so much to take into consideration when thinking of moving, or even traveling, overseas. This is a very interesting and informative article; I look forward to Parts 2 and 3!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Hi Point2make,

      Glad I covered a few points you hadn't considered. If anyone thinks of others, please feel free to drop me a comment, I'd like to cover as many as possible.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 5 years ago

      Very informative and interesting Brett. I would never have thought of some of those suggestions. I can't wait to read part 2 & 3.

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