Moving to another country – Guide for aspiring expats
The only downside of moving to another country is the massive effort and work that goes into preparing and planning for the big move. I am armed with the experience of living overseas, moving through 2 countries and going through innumerable joys of living as an expat in the last 6 years. Here is a basic yet useful overview of the things to keep in mind before moving overseas to a foreign country.
1) Have a 2-3 month buffer period
An impulsive idea about moving to another country is great. We all have those moments. But what you need to realize is that you won't have a perfect move if you don't have at least 2-3 months to do some hardcore planning and preparation for your move. As a general rule, make sure you have 2-3 months as a buffer period or a transition period as a prep time.
2) Reaffirm the motive for your move
Moving to another country simply because you 'feel like', 'you feel bored' or 'you want to do something exciting' can be a disastrous decision. Having a concrete motive for your move overseas is a good way to lay a foundation to the mental strength for your move. The last thing you'd want is to be discouraged or have regrets at the last minute and think "I wonder if all this is going to be worth it" Allow a seasoned traveler warn you, that's the worst feeling you can ever have!
3) Keep safety in mind
So you've picked an exotic country and location to move to, have you? That's great but have you checked how safe it is to be out there? Remote locations and certain countries may look picture perfect but there could be major safety issues when it comes to living there as an expat. Kidnapping, rape at gunpoint, gang rape, slavery, execution, held for ransom, being held in captivity for a long time, theft and murders are only some of the possible horrors of an unsafe foreign country. Check and double check with all your resources to make sure that the foreign country that you are moving to is considered to be a safe place for expats.
4) Establish the cost of living abroad
The lure of a stronger Dollar, Pound or Euro may be too tempting while deciding whether you want to move to a foreign country or not. But you must keep in mind that the country you are moving to will be your home, and not just another tourist destination.
- It is best to keep aside a fixed budget for your move because being carried away in the scheme of things is very easy and tempting.
- Daily supplies, transportation, utilities and all the other expenses that you incur in your day to day life should be accounted for.
- If you are moving to a country which is less developed than your home country, you will have to fork out more money to maintain your current lifestyle.
- Do you have a job lined up? If not, budget for the transition period.
- You will incur administrative expenses in a foreign land. This includes things like a local id, driver's license, government forms and much more.
- After all this, provide for at least a 10-15% buffer to accommodate for unknown costs of living in a foreign country.
- Don't make the mistake of including an expected salary or an expected income that you may have in the foreign country. If things go wrong, your expected salary may never reach your bank account.
- If you have the slightest of doubts regarding whether you can afford it or not, it is wise not to move.
5) Find a local contact
One of the first things that you'd want to do before anything else is find a local contact in the country that you are going to move to. Your contact should be reliable, trustworthy and accessible at all times. Your contact should also have a phone number, a physical address and all the other things that make up a real person. Don't rely on a simple email address or a Facebook profile. Your contact will be your whole and sole advisory for
- Helping you with administrative issues including government agencies
- Showing you around during the first few days
- Local accommodation and transportation
- It is best to have a single contact and you should be prepared to pay the contact for their services. Remember, paying or should we say, tipping your contact heftily will go long way in making them feel obliged to pull out all stops in helping you.
6) Start networking for working overseas
Unless you've just won a lottery and are planning to retire on the beaches of a foreign country, you will need to work. It is absolutely ok if you don't find a job before you land on foreign shores. There is absolutely no need to panic. What is more important is that you should have contacts in place that you can tap immediately after you move overseas. Build these contacts from online professional networks or from contacts of other friends and work colleagues.
7) Find a good local self storage facility
One of the biggest mistakes most expats make is that they bring all their belongings to the foreign country along with them. It is best to keep your belongings in a reliable local self storage facility until you are sure that you will establish a permanent base in the foreign country. Belongings that you may want to leave in the self storage facility are including but not limited to expensive appliances that you've not been able to sell off, expensive furniture that you haven't been able to dispose off, paintings and other sculptures in your homes and other things that may be difficult to pack in your suitcase.
8) Find a cheap courier
Travel light. If you've heard these magic words before, there is no better time to implement them. Besides the few clothes, documents and other important stuff that you will be carrying in your luggage with you, it is a wise idea to courier your other belongings before you travel.
- If you don't have a physical address yet, you can tap the services of your local contact and ask them to hold on to your courier before you arrive in the foreign country.
- It is also recommended to put some money aside for custom clearance for the goods that you courier. Yes, your courier guy may tell you that they send thousands of packages every day without any issues. But if your luck runs out, you may end up with the difficult choice of paying up to the customs of a foreign country or saying goodbye to your favorite clothes.
9) Find company
The world is full of expats and unless you are going to the most remote region on planet earth, you are likely to bump into someone from your side of the world to the country that you are going to move to. Simply type "Americans living in Bangkok" or "Australian expats in UK" in a search engine and you will find thousands of results. These were just examples.
- Find genuine expats and hook up with them. You may even stumble upon people who are going to move to the country around the same time you are.
- Finding company and people from similar backgrounds before actually hitting foreign shores is definitely one of the most comforting factors that add to the peace of mind of any expat.
10) Plan for your pets
Pets can be extremely expensive to take along with you if you are moving to another country. Depending upon the country you go to, there will be travelling and administrative costs that will drill a nasty hole in your pocket. So if you do plan to take your pet along, you will have to budget and plan for it well in advance.
11) Learn a few things about the culture of the foreign land
No rocket science here, ladies and gentlemen. Needless to say, before you move to foreign land, read up a little bit about the culture of the people. This will not only help you strike good conversation, but also help you learn the ropes of how the local community functions quicker.
12) Plan for local banking
Don't leave setting up your bank accounts for later. Get in touch with the local banks in the country that you will be moving to before you actually move. Some banks allow temporary or limited accounts to be set up which can be later converted to full fledged accounts with verification on arrival.
13) Plan for your driving permit
It is best to check up on the driving regulations and license laws of the country you are going to move to. It may be the case that the country may allow a valid driver's license of your home country, but it is best to have an International Driving Permit handy, just in case. Plan to carry both when you land on foreign shores so you can drive until you get a local license.
14) Plan for insurance
Facing injuries, illness or other medical emergencies in a foreign country can be expensive. On the other hand, insuring yourself as an expat can be expensive too! That's exactly why you should plan for it. Resources to tap for your insurance needs
- Banks and insurance companies in your home country
- Banks and insurance companies in the foreign country
- Travel agents can be resourceful and point you towards the right contact
15) Contact your embassy
Whether required or not, it is best to contact your home's country's embassy in the foreign country before your move. Ask questions like "What should I be aware of" or "Are there any specific precautions that I need to take?" A local embassy will be your most important point of contact in case of dire emergencies and they can also provide you with much needed insight in to any peculiarities that you should be aware of.
16) Have a plan B
Not everything in life goes according to plan and moving to another country is no different. One of the best pieces of advice you will ever get before moving to another country is to have a Plan B. What if things don't work out? What if I don't like staying as an expat? What if I miss home? The list of 'what ifs' is long, but what you need to do is put away a chunk of money in your savings account in case you wish to come back or better yet, move forward to another country!