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10 Tips for Preparing to Move to a Foreign Country

10 Tips for Preparing to Move to a Foreign Country

1 - Researching Your Destination

Moving abroad is not something that you can simply rush into, particularly if you have commitments such as family, pets, a mortgage or a good job. However, even if you are moving abroad alone, you'll still need to familiarize yourself with your destination before making that critical final decision. Taking a trip to your intended destination well beforehand is extremely wise, and if possible, you should spend as much time as possible getting to know the place before committing yourself. Get a feel for the place you are moving to by spending some time there meeting people and experiencing the local culture rather than visiting just as a tourist. You will also find many useful online resources, such as expat forums and other community resources to help you better prepare for relocation.

2 - Seeking Work Abroad

Job searching back home is often challenging enough, but seeking international employment is even more daunting, particularly if you are moving to a place where there isn't a large expat community to tap into. There may also be work permits and other legal issues to consider, and you will need to thoroughly research such requirements before committing yourself to the big move. Again, you will often find information on available jobs on expat forums and other resources, though this might not be an option if you are moving off the beaten track. More entrepreneurial types may choose to start their own ventures abroad, though this brings with it a whole range of new challenges. For those seeking something to tide them over, teaching English or online freelancing are popular options.

3 - Arranging Your Finances

Often the most frustrating and time-consuming part of preparing for your big move is getting your financial affairs organized. Firstly, you will need to alert the tax authorities in your country if you are planning to work abroad, in which case you may also need to change your residency for tax purposes. You'll need to fully familiarize yourself with the tax system in the country you're moving to while also taking other important financial matters into account, such as utility contracts, pensions and other benefits and securities. You may want to talk to a qualified accountant or financial advisor who specializes in international taxation so that you don't end up being taxed twice. If you are only moving from an EU country to another EU member state, handling your finances will be a much more straightforward process.

4 - Getting Health Insurance

No responsible holidaymaker would dare leave their home country without a suitable travel insurance policy, unless they are only going to a place which has a reciprocal free healthcare agreement with their home country. However, different rules generally apply if you're moving abroad permanently, in which case you will likely need to have local health insurance. Health insurance may be automatically taken care of by your employer if you are moving abroad for work purposes, but you should make certain that you are familiar with all of the rules and regulations. If you are going abroad with a view to relying on savings for a while and spending some time travelling while looking for a place to live, a typical travel insurance policy may be adequate for a limited period of time. Just make certain that you're always covered.

5 - Shipping Your Belongings

Particularly if you are moving to a far-away country across the ocean, shipping over your larger belongings, such as cars and furniture, is rarely going to be a practical option, unless they are extremely valuable. Shipping large items overseas often ends up costing significantly more than the items are actually worth, so if you don't plan to move back home in the foreseeable future, you'll either want to sell a lot of your possessions or seek out a cost-effective, long-term storage solution. The enormous cost of shipping everything you own abroad also makes the move a much greater commitment, and you'll generally be much better off moving to a furnished home and purchasing or renting a car locally until you have comfortably established yourself in your destination country and are confident enough to think about the longer term.

6 - Calculating the Costs

People often move abroad because it actually turns out to be a profitable opportunity, whether this is due to lower costs of living, better wages or a combination of the two. However, factors such as international shipping, loss of any state benefits in your home country, the costs of work permits and visas and numerous other factors can rapidly cancel out the financial advantage of moving abroad. In addition to calculating the cost of living in your destination country based on your own requirements and preferences, you'll also want to think about the cost of moving itself, taking into account the aforementioned factors among others. Write a list of all the possible costs that moving abroad may incur, such as rental deposits, international transfer fees and entry requirements.

7 - Moving with Family

Moving abroad with a family is vastly more complicated than simply upping and leaving by yourself without any major commitments back home. If you're moving to a country where English isn't widely spoken, the importance of planning extensively and very carefully is even greater, since such a move can present a great deal of pressure and stress for children. Moving abroad can be stressful enough to tax even the strongest of families, so it is essential that you prepare your children for the big move, particularly if they will need to go to a local school and learn the local language to a high enough level that they will be able to integrate quickly. If you're moving abroad with babies and pre-schoolers, the process is actually a lot easier, since it presents no emotional stress for them.

8 - Driving Abroad

You may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to drive legally in your destination country. Although the IDP is recognized in more than 150 countries, it is generally only meant to be a solution for those on shorter-term visits. If you want to buy your own car once you're abroad and get it taxed and insured, you may need to apply for a local driving license, and this may even involve taking a test. The AA provides further information on the legal requirements for driving in each country, and they'll also issue an IDP for a nominal fee. You should obtain one anyway, regardless of where you are going, since many car rental agencies require you to present one, even if it is not a legal requirement in that country. An IDP is also a recognized form of identification in most countries.

9 - Dealing with Bureaucracy

Bureaucratic hurdles often present the biggest problem when it comes to moving abroad, unless you are only moving within the EU or a similar political entity. The rules vary enormously from one country to the next, with many nations having very strict requirements for work permits and visas and others being relatively flexible in letting in foreigners from certain countries. Bureaucratic concerns are even greater for those who are planning to invest abroad, start a business or take out a mortgage. Long before setting off, make absolutely sure that all of your papers are in order and that you are completely familiar and up-to-date with any entry requirements. For example, many countries require that you have a certain minimum amount of funding before they'll let even let you cross the border.

10 - Finding a Place to Live

Organizing your accommodation should be your number-one priority once you have all of the necessary paperwork in order, and this may involve multiple trips to your destination country beforehand, particularly if you're moving abroad with family. You'll also want to get a feel for the local market to get a better idea of what you should pay whether you're planning to rent or buy a home. Again, the process will be far simpler if you're moving abroad on your own, since a flat share might be a suitable option for the first few months. If you are moving abroad because you have been offered a job, your employer may be able to put you in touch with a relocation agency to help ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Nonetheless, it pays to do your own research too to ensure that you don't end up paying too much.


From the initial culture shock to the bureaucratic red-tape nightmare, moving abroad is rarely the smoothest of experiences, but with a positive attitude and the patience to plan carefully, it can end up being the best life-changing decision that you'll ever make. You're bound to feel the stress during your first weeks or months in a foreign place, but the whole experience will be an invaluable, educational and enlightening one if approached in the right manner. Don't forget that many places also have lively expat communities where you can meet up with others in your situation to exchange tips and build up a comfortable social life in your new home.


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