Explore these expert tips for a smoother transition when moving to another country and starting a new chapter in life.
Think about packing your life into a suitcase and getting on a plane, not just for a vacation, but to begin a completely new adventure in a different country.
Lots of people dream about living in another country, and you’re not alone in that. More and more people are making the move. In 2019, the United Nations counted over 270 million migrants worldwide, showing a growth of more than 23% since 2010.
Moving to a new country comes with many advantages. According to a 2019 survey of over 18,000 professionals, relocating could boost your earnings by up to 35%. In some cases, it might even be as high as 51%!
There are other perks too, like:
- More job opportunities- Moving can open up new doors for your career.
- Widening your professional network- Meeting new people in your field from around the world.
- Gaining unique work experience- Learning and growing in ways you might not in your home country.
- Working with diverse teams- Exposure to different perspectives and ideas.
- Discovering new cultures- A chance to experience and learn from different ways of life.
- Learning about your industry internationally- Seeing how things work on a global scale.
If living in another country is something you’re considering, it’s crucial to prepare well in advance to reduce stress. Taking the time to get ready can help you avoid problems like missing documents or unexpected cultural differences that could turn your dream of living abroad into a nightmare.
1. Begin Your Preparation Early
Moving to a different country is a big step in life, so it’s important to plan ahead. Whether you’re seeking better career prospects or aiming for an improved family life, success in your move starts with early preparation.
Once you’ve made the decision to relocate, your initial focus should be on building up your savings. Start by researching the overall cost of living and anticipated expenses associated with an international move, including:
- Visa application fees
- Airfare and other transportation costs
- Shipping expenses
- Rent, including security deposits and additional fees
- Day-to-day living costs such as food, utilities, and local transportation
- Healthcare and insurance expenses
- Medical examination fees
- Costs related to pets
- An emergency fund
Establish a budget based on your research and aim to save at least six months’ worth of living expenses. This financial cushion will provide support as you search for employment or handle any unexpected challenges that may arise.
2. Understand the visa process
Securing a work visa is often a crucial step if you intend to work in another country. Beyond job requirements, having the right visa is essential to avoid potential issues like border restrictions, difficulties returning after leaving, or even facing bans from reentry for an extended period.
To steer clear of these complications, thoroughly research the cost, expected processing times, and the specific requirements for obtaining a visa. If you’re planning an extended stay, make sure your visa is valid for at least a year. Additionally, confirm that your visa allows not only for residence but also for employment in the country.
In recent times, many countries have introduced digital nomad visas, offering the flexibility to work abroad for a few months up to two years. This option is ideal for those wishing to test the waters before committing to a permanent move.
Consider exploring job opportunities that come with visa sponsorship. Having an employer sponsor your visa can simplify the often intricate visa process, especially when dealing with potential language barriers.
3. Gain Insights from Those Already Living Abroad
Ryan Walker, a decade-long expat with experiences in Hong Kong and Tokyo, emphasizes the practical aspects of navigating life in a different country, such as understanding bill payments, finding emergency services like plumbers, and grasping local etiquette. He suggests that expats who are already established in a foreign land possess invaluable advice derived from their own journeys and are usually open to sharing insights with newcomers.
However, you don’t have to wait until your move to connect with expats. Numerous online groups, spanning platforms like Facebook, Reddit, Slack, and Discord, offer a wealth of information to help you prepare for living abroad. Here are some examples:
- r/IWantOut: Reddit’s largest expatriate community, boasting over two million members.
- r/ExpatFIRE: A Reddit community for those aspiring to move abroad to achieve financial independence and retire early, known as “FIRE.”
- Nomad List: A global Slack community for digital nomads who combine travel with remote work.
- Expats in the Netherlands: A Discord server catering to both expats and locals residing in the Netherlands.
- InterNations: The largest global community for expats, featuring groups in over 400 cities.
- Expats in Mexico: A Facebook group catering to anyone interested in visiting or living in Mexico.
By joining an online expat group, you can easily learn about cultural norms, upcoming social events, and unique laws and customs that might not be evident through basic online research. Moreover, you can engage with other users, seeking answers to questions that go beyond what you can find in standard research.
4. Enroll in Online Language Courses
Once you’ve settled on your destination, initiate your language-learning journey promptly. Numerous apps and websites are dedicated to aiding in the acquisition of a new language, offering the convenience of learning from the comfort of your own home.
Being proficient in the local language is not solely about forging friendships; it’s a pivotal factor for achieving professional success. Imagine working for a company with offices or business partners in your target country – speaking the local language could substantially facilitate your job search, potentially leading to a promotion.
For a more personalized approach, consider private tutoring as an option. Private tutoring is an excellent choice, particularly if you aspire to utilize the new language in a professional setting. Examples of personalized instruction include one-to-one language classes, which can effectively enhance your language skills and enable you to navigate professional communication with greater confidence.
5. Organize Your Documents
In the midst of the excitement surrounding a new adventure, the importance of preparing your documents in advance is often overlooked. Being well-prepared early on is far more beneficial than scrambling to gather necessary paperwork when the need arises.
Gather all relevant legal, medical, financial, and educational documents that might be required for your move abroad. Ensure you have two to five copies of each document in both physical and digital formats. Utilize free apps like Adobe Scan or the Notes app on iOS to scan your documents, making them ready for submission with visa, residency, or housing applications.
Here’s a checklist to guide you:
- Birth certificate
- Medical records
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce papers
- Child custody papers
- International health insurance card
- Your children’s school records
- Bank statements
When traveling, avoid shipping these crucial documents with your belongings; instead, keep them in your carry-on luggage for easy access. Once you’ve settled into your new home, store your documents in a secure location, such as a dedicated binder or a filing cabinet.
6. Sort Out Your Banking Arrangements
When you relocate to another country while holding onto a bank account in your home country, you might encounter substantial foreign transaction fees or encounter costly exchange rates.
The most straightforward resolution is to open a bank account in each country you reside in. However, this can pose challenges or even be impossible for foreigners, contingent on the banking regulations of the specific country.
Regardless of your choice, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and establish your new bank account before departing from your home country. Seek recommendations from seasoned expats already living in your new country to make informed decisions about your banking situation.
7. Familiarize Yourself with the Healthcare System
Each country operates under its unique healthcare system, making it essential to plan ahead and understand what to expect, especially if you are considering obtaining private health insurance.
Examples of country-specific healthcare systems include those in:
- The United States, known for its private healthcare system with various insurance providers.
- The United Kingdom, renowned for the National Health Service (NHS), a publicly funded system.
- Germany, featuring a social health insurance system that covers most residents.
- Canada, recognized for its publicly funded healthcare system administered by provinces and territories.
It is advisable to research and comprehend the healthcare system of your destination country well in advance to ensure a smooth and informed transition.
8. Obtain a Language Certification
Securing an official language certification serves as tangible evidence of your language proficiency for prospective employers. It signifies your ability to use the language effectively in professional settings, making it especially valuable in communication-focused fields like legal, medical, or technical professions.
Moreover, a language certification is frequently a prerequisite for obtaining permanent residency or citizenship.
Examples of widely recognized language certifications include:
- IELTS (International English Language Testing System- Commonly used for English proficiency.
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)- Recognized for English language skills, especially in academic settings.
- DELF/DALF (Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française/Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française)- Acknowledged for French language proficiency.
- Goethe-Zertifikat- A certification for German language proficiency.
- HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi)- A certification for proficiency in Mandarin Chinese.
Attaining a language certification not only enhances your job prospects but also serves as a valuable asset in navigating immigration processes for residency or citizenship.
9. Secure Employment
Establishing your new life in another country becomes considerably smoother – from finding accommodation to building connections – when you’ve already secured a job.
The key lies in knowing where to explore international job opportunities. International job boards cater to a global audience, often featuring companies actively seeking candidates from around the world, especially multinational corporations.
Consider checking out some of the best international job boards to kickstart your search for roles abroad:
- Indeed Worldwide
- We Work Remotely
As an added benefit, companies with a global hiring approach are more likely to provide work visa sponsorships. This facilitates the process of obtaining a work permit and establishing residency in your new country.
10. Investigate Your Tax Responsibilities
Upon finalizing your choice of a destination country, it’s crucial to delve into the intricacies of its tax system. Conducting thorough research in this area will not only prevent unforeseen expenses but may also unveil beneficial tax incentives.
Examples of aspects to consider when researching tax obligations include:
- Income Tax- Understand the regulations regarding the taxation of income, including rates and any applicable deductions.
- Property Tax- If you plan to own property, be aware of property tax policies in your chosen country.
- Sales Tax/VAT- Familiarize yourself with the rules governing sales tax or Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services.
- Tax Incentives- Explore any available tax incentives for expatriates, such as exemptions or deductions.
By proactively researching and understanding the tax landscape of your destination country, you can make informed financial decisions and avoid unwelcome surprises.
11. Secure Accommodation
Commence your journey by investigating the process of finding an apartment, condo, or house in your new country. Familiarize yourself with the necessary documents for renting or purchasing a home, the procedures for rent or mortgage payments, and your legal rights and protections as a tenant. This understanding will significantly streamline the housing process.
Examples of key aspects to explore when searching for accommodation include:
- Rental Procedures- Research the steps involved in renting a property, including required documentation and tenant responsibilities.
- Property Purchase- If considering buying a home, understand the legal requirements and documentation for property ownership.
- Payment Methods- Learn about accepted methods for paying rent or mortgage and set up the necessary financial arrangements.
- Tenant Rights- Familiarize yourself with the legal protections and rights afforded to tenants in your new country.
By delving into these details early on, you can navigate the housing process with greater ease, ensuring a more seamless transition to your new living arrangement.
12. Address Remaining Matters in Your Home Country
As the departure date for your move draws near, it’s crucial not to overlook tying up loose ends in your home country.
One significant aspect involves settling your previous living arrangements. If you’re a renter, allowing your lease to expire is straightforward. However, if you own a home, a decision must be made between selling it or renting it out.
Opting to sell can provide extra funds for your international move. On the other hand, choosing to rent out your property offers a safety net if things don’t work out in your new country. Keep in mind that being an expat landlord comes with its own set of responsibilities, and the decision depends on your financial situation and the property ownership laws in your country.
Here are a few additional tasks to attend to before departing:
- Settle Financial Matters- Clear any unpaid bills or debts before leaving.
- Maintain a Local Mailing Address- Arrange for a local mailing address, such as a friend or family member’s residence.
- Mail Forwarding- Set up mail forwarding services to redirect your mail to your new address.
- Cancel Subscriptions- Cancel any subscriptions that you won’t be taking with you.
- Set Up New Cell Phone Provider- Establish a new cell phone provider in your destination country.
Most importantly, take the time to bid farewell to your family and friends. While they are likely aware of your plans, share any logistical details, such as travel plans or your new address, and spend quality time with them before embarking on your international journey.
13. Engage with Local Media
Immersing yourself in the local media of your new city is a valuable way to facilitate your transition. Staying abreast of the day-to-day happenings through local news allows for effective planning and helps prevent unexpected inconveniences.
For instance, in certain European regions, labor strikes can intermittently disrupt public services like buses, metros, and trains. These strikes may lead to delays or cancellations that could impact your commute or even your scheduled flights during your relocation.
To stay well-informed, follow major news outlets in your chosen country, which are readily available online. Newspapers, radio stations, and local news websites serve as excellent resources, providing real-time updates on events around you. This practice contributes to a deeper understanding of the societal and cultural nuances of your new home.
Additionally, keeping up with local news serves as a practical tool for language learning. By incorporating new words and phrases into discussions about current affairs and daily life, you can further enhance your language skills and engage more effectively with the local community.
14. Discover Essential Apps for Your New Residence
Remember to explore locally relevant apps in your new country. Numerous countries offer their own specialized tools for banking, payment processing, ride-sharing, food delivery, messaging, and even social media.
While some of your current apps may remain functional abroad, it’s advisable to check their compatibility in your new location.
Examples of country-specific apps include:
- Alipay and WeChat Pay (China): Popular for mobile payments and transactions.
- Grab (Southeast Asia): Widely used for ride-hailing and food delivery.
- Swish (Sweden): A preferred mobile payment app.
- MyTaxi (Europe): A commonly used ride-hailing app.
- Zomato (India): A popular app for restaurant discovery and food delivery.
By identifying and incorporating these local apps into your daily life, you can enhance your efficiency and seamlessly integrate into the digital landscape of your new home.
15. Participate in a Language Exchange Program
Undoubtedly, immersing yourself in a language is the most effective way to quickly enhance your language skills, facilitating your adaptation to life in a new country.
If you’re keen on delving into language learning before your significant move, explore online language exchange programs. These platforms connect you with locals, offering opportunities to practice speaking each other’s language. Beginning your language journey online helps you familiarize yourself with the language, and you may even forge new friendships, ensuring you have at least one friendly face to anticipate meeting upon arrival.
Examples of online language exchange platforms include:
- Tandem- Connects language learners around the world for virtual language exchange.
- HelloTalk- A language exchange app that allows you to chat with native speakers.
- Speaky- An online platform for language exchange and learning through conversations.
- italki- Connects language learners with professional teachers and community tutors.
- ConversationExchange- Facilitates language exchange with native speakers both online and in person.
Engaging in a language exchange program not only accelerates your language proficiency but also enriches your cultural understanding and builds a network of connections in your new country.
16. Build Relationships with Locals
Embarking on the adventure of moving abroad is thrilling, but it can also be accompanied by moments of loneliness. This is why cultivating a strong support network, comprised of friends in your new home, is essential.
Connecting with locals not only provides companionship but also proves invaluable when navigating the challenges of settling in a new country. Each nation boasts unique customs and intricate bureaucracies that can take years to grasp fully. Locals, having already navigated these nuances, can offer valuable insights and assistance, whether it’s deciphering local customs, purchasing bus tickets, or completing government applications.
Examples of ways to connect with locals include:
- Attend Local Events- Participate in community gatherings, festivals, or social events.
- Join Clubs or Groups- Engage in activities aligned with your interests to meet like-minded locals.
- Volunteer- Contribute your time to local causes, fostering connections with fellow volunteers.
- Language Exchange Meetups- Attend language exchange events to interact with locals and other expats.
- Explore Local Hangouts- Frequent local cafes, parks, or cultural centers to meet people organically.
Establishing connections with locals not only enriches your social life but also provides a valuable resource for acclimating to your new surroundings.