Monday, November 26, 2007

Top 20 tips for moving abroad

BE SURE - Moving can be extremely stressful, be as certain as you can be that it's the right move for you before you go. If possible visit the country before you make up your mind, don't rely on other people's impressions. Ask yourself if the new culture will really suit you (and your family).

BE PREPARED - ...For anything and everything to go wrong. Don't assume that you'll be able to find the perfect job or house immediately. If possible make sure you've got enough money to see you through the first couple of months at the very least (preferably longer). And to do that you'll need to...

BUDGET - As unglamorous as it sounds, good budgeting could be what makes the difference between a successful relocation and a disaster. Before you go, work out what everything is going to cost during those crucial first months when you're trying to find your feet in a foreign land.

DON'T DELAY - Start preparing as early as possible, just getting all the necessary paperwork in order can take a long time. Make a checklist of everything you need to do!

CHECK YOUR BENEFITS - If your company has initiated your move you may be eligible for relocation benefits. Make sure you ask if they haven't told you already!

HEALTH - Make sure that the country you are moving to has adequate healthcare facilities and infrastructure to support you (and your family), especially if you suffer from a medical condition which requires treatment or medication.

YOUR HOME - Think about what you want to do with your current home (e.g. sell it, lease it, leave it empty) and what kind of accommodation will be most suitable in your new country. If you don't know anyone in the new country who can help find accommodation, consider the services of a relocation agent.

EMPLOYMENT - Will you be looking for work in your new country? If so, consider starting your job hunt before you go (use the Internet!) Will you be able to use your existing qualifications or will a period of retraining be necessary? If you're moving somewhere where they don't speak the same language as you then you should...

LEARN THE LANGUAGE - Few skills will have such a positive impact on your relocation experience as being able to speak, or at least understand, the local language. Getting to grips with the local lingo before you go is a great idea!

PAPERWORK - No matter how insignificant that old document at the back of the bottom drawer may seem now, take it with you, the chances are at some stage you'll have to show it to someone. Moving countries can be a bureaucratic nightmare at the best of times but if you come prepared with the necessary paperwork you stand the best chance of a stress free relocation. Things to think about include birth certificates, wedding certificates, educational certificates, medical certificates (including those for your pets!), etc.

FRIENDS & FAMILY - Don't forget to inform everyone of your new address and when you're going (unless you don't want them to find you, of course ;-) Seriously though, saying goodbye to friends and family can be the hardest thing about leaving, be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster ride as the day of departure draws near.

YOUR BELONGINGS - Will you be taking everything with you or leaving some items in storage (or even getting rid of them completely)? How will you move your belongings? Can you transport them yourself or do you need the services of a moving company? Set aside those things you need to take with you in person so they don't get packed accidentally (passports, tickets, etc.)

INSURANCE - Once you've decided what you're taking with you, insure it. If you haven't already arranged appropriate insurance (health/life/travel, etc.) for yourself and your family as well...DO SO!

BANKING - You may need to open a new bank account in your new country - look for information on the one which suits you best. Do you need to close your current bank account? At the very least you'll need to tell your current bank that you're moving.

CREDIT CARDS - Credit card companies need to be informed you're moving. Also, will the credit cards you're taking with you be widely accepted?

DRIVING - Depending on where you're going and how long you're going to be there you may need to apply for a new driving license or even take a driving test. Will you take your car with you or buy/rent/lease one when you get to your destination country?

UTILITIES etc - Gas, electricity, cable companies and so on will need to be informed of your departure and contracts terminated where appropriate. Make arrangements for final meter readings and bill payments.

POST REDIRECTION - Having your mail redirected after you leave can prevent you from missing something important.

ELECTRIC DEVICES AND MOBILE PHONES - Check whether or not your TV, video, hair dryer, alarm clock etc will work in the new country. You may need to take out a new network subscription for a mobile phone (or buy a new one with a subscription) - watch out for roaming charges with your current phone if you use it.

EMAIL - If moving means you can't keep your current email address, consider a free web based email account you can access from anywhere.

And finally, a couple of important tips for when you get to your new country...

MAKE FRIENDS - Whether locals or fellow expats, nothing will help you more than being able to rely on the assistance of your friends when you need it. Don't think that socialising is time wasted, it's what makes a new country feel like home.

DON'T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF - Moving to a new country is difficult. Even when everything goes according to plan it's still difficult. There will be times when you're physically and emotionally exhausted but try not to let things get on top of you. Don't be shy about posting a message to our forums to ask for help or support, we've all been there before.


Delora said...

I wish I'd seen your blog before we moved to Spain because it is right on the money! Everything you've said was an issue for us moving to Madrid. Please check out my blog (Delora in Espana) regarding our experiences!


Amistad Real Estate said...

Another top tip for the list, linked to budget, is the exchange rate.

As a realtor in La Paz, Mexico I deal with numerous clients from all over the world moving here or even just for a holiday. Few people seem to realise how much exchange rates can fluctuate day to day.

When moving abroad you may be moving hundreds of thousands of pounds,dollars etc and therefore even a 5% shift in the exchange rate can mean the difference between buying a new shell of a house and buying one with all the added extras.

Check out a website such as and select the currencies. This will show you the historic moves, so you will know whether $1.50 for a pound is good or bad, and whether to wait a few more days before you run to the bank.

Hope this helps,

Simon Loftus, Amistad Real Estate

Molly E. said...

My husband is in the Coast Guard, and we could get stationed anywhere in the world. This is an excellent resource for us. I recently began blogging about our move from Chicago to New Orleans. That trip was full of adventure, and I cannot imagine what it would be like to move overseas.

Molly E. said...

My husband is in the Coast Guard and we could get stationed anywhere at any time. It's nice to read this and feel like there is a method to the madness. I recently started blogging about our move from Chicago to New Orleans, and I thought that was an adventure. I cannot imagine moving overseas. Thanks for the great information.

moving overseas said...

This is a great blog! My father was a diplomat so we moved to a new country every 2 years. I counted the other day how many times I have actually moved and stopped at 19!

Although moving can be stressful, I can't think of a better type of upbringing to have!

Your tips are spot on. I would also suggest, if moving to a new country with a foreign language, try and get a few basic beginners classes in before you go. Nothing hectic, just so that you can get around, ask direction and greet people.

Thanks for sharing.

Gabriella Cooper said...

Think of moving overseas as a whole new adventure. Think of it as a new chapter in your life waiting to be written. You should always remember that life is just one big adventure and there are times when you have to take risks to enjoy it. You should also remember that no one can make you do anything that you truly do not want to do. In the end, the decision to move overseas will still be yours to make.