Relocating abroad is a dream many of us hold, but for many that dream becomes a reality when they up sticks and move abroad to their dream destination. Whether you’re dreaming of a sun drenched paradise, a better way of life, or a new challenge abroad we’ve asked the expat experts for their top tips on moving countries, or even continent.
From what they wish they’d known about location to learning a new language and settling in, we’ve rounded up all of the essential detail you need to know before you pack your life into a suitcase.
Choosing your location is the first step in your relocation, but when it comes to actually committing to a place for longer than a two week holiday it’s vital that you’ve really sussed out your new postcode. You may dream of a secluded property in the countryside or by the beach, but the reality is it can be quite lonely.
Gillian Harvey, a freelance writer, relocated to France and shared her views on how important location is, “We moved very much on a whim. I wished I’d known when we chose our house what living in a quite an isolated location actually meant. When you’re ‘quite isolated’ in the UK, you are still within a reasonable distance of civilisation. When we first moved to France, I felt quite lonely and our village got quite bleak as it was at least 30 minutes to the nearest (very small) town and an hour and a half to a bigger city – we eventually moved to a small town locally which is much better. You don’t realise how much you rely on infrastructure until it’s unavailable! Peace and quiet is great – but not as great as you might imagine.”
A tranquil paradise may be exactly what you want for your summer getaway, but all year round the reality can be very different. Does your new home have enough amenities around it? How close are you to local transport networks? Is there a bustling community? Ask yourself these questions before you commit.
Do your Research
Moving abroad isn’t a walk in the park and it’s important to remember that how you envision your new life in your head, can be very different from what it will actually be like when you begin your life abroad.
It goes without saying but do your research on life in your chosen destination and if you can trial living in that country for a few months. If you do have a trial period, try to make it as realistic as possible to what your life could be like there. Not every day will be spent on a sun lounger or sightseeing, if you’re moving for work then of course this could prove difficult to trial.
Nadine Stewart, an expat pro and blogs at What Nadine Loves, comments, “talk to locals or even other expats in the area. It’s much easier than it was 20 years ago to immerse yourself in a new country as there are lots of expat groups on Facebook and of course there is Internations. If you can travel to where you move before hand and try to see the city as a local rather than a tourist.”
Similar to how in the UK we shorten words or use slang when communicating, other countries to have their own quicker ways of saying different things and the only way you’ll ever pick these up is by fully immersing yourself in the language.
Yvonne Halling runs a B&B in France and agrees language is one of the biggest barriers, “Isn’t it infuriating when foreigners come to the UK and they don’t speak English? Well that’s how it is for foreigners in their own country when we go there and don’t speak their language. It’s just common courtesy to at least try – you’ll find the locals much friendlier when you make the effort. Remember you are the visitor.”
Go For It
Moving abroad is a gamble and you won’t truly know what it’s like to live in a new country until you actually do it. You only get one life, and if your dream is to live in another country then go for it.
If you’re concerned about committing life year round – if you can afford to do so and your lifestyle allows – then you could trial splitting your time across your home country and your new abode. Then once you’re ready to take the leap you can transition over.
“Living abroad helps you to see life in a very different way and you learn a lot about yourself. Even if we move back to the UK one day, I won’t regret having lived here”, comments Gillian.
The Life Necessities
Healthcare, tax obligations and insurance policies are all thing you need to think about when you move. Taking care of life’s essentials isn’t easy in another country, especially where the language is new and different rules and regulations apply. Sadly there are some necessities that you’ll simply have to sort – but be warned it may cost you more abroad for things we take for granted here in the UK.
Yvonne adds, “medical systems vary the world over but unless you’re going to a third world country, the medical systems around the world are usually good enough. If you need constant medication, prepare yourself before you leave, and find out what you’ll need to do in your new country to get what you need. I’ve noticed that many medical practitioners do in fact speak English, but don’t bank on it, just in case yours doesn’t.”
Speak to expats in your chosen destination and ask for their advice on how life compares to the UK, find out how they went about setting up things like healthcare and bank accounts. Speaking to those who have been there and done it before you will be a great help.
Nadine also adds “make sure that you know all the costs of moving before you go. Don’t just think about the cost of accommodation. In Switzerland the cost of mobile phone contracts are very high compared to other countries I’d lived in before and I hadn’t thought about looking up the cost before I moved. Check grocery prices, find out how easy you could travel back home and so on.”
Moving abroad is one of the most exciting things you can do, but remember there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes than we sometimes think, so keep these top tips in mind when planning your move.