If you have been reading some of my posts, you know by now that I have moved abroad at the age of 13 and have moved about 8 times since then. Many people I have met are contemplating this big step and ask for information. There is so much connecting to moving, which people are not expecting. If you want to know more about the emotional toll you can check out my earlier post. In this post, I will give you some pointers on moving abroad for the first time.
Have a plan before moving abroad
Moving abroad is a dream for many people. They want to move to a beautiful summer destination, open their own business, and then enjoy the cheap life there. 90% of the time that idea does not succeed. There is so much more to it than just going there. In Europe, moving around is now so easy, since you do not need a Visa or anything. However, just because you can live there doesn't mean everything will be easy. To make the process as easy as possible it is best if you already have a plan. In the best-case scenario, you should already have a job in your destination, have looked at some accommodation or have one already arranged. If you go without these safety measurements, it can become chaotic very quickly. It may take you longer to find work or accommodation, so the money you have saved will run thin faster than expected.
If you are moving abroad for an already existing job, ask the company for help when it comes to arranging the move. They may know a moving company that they trust or suggest a real estate agent. If you are moving alone, make sure you contact someone who can tell you all the paperwork you will need. This could be an agency or an embassy. There are always papers you will need at your destination that you never expected. So make sure you do your research. If you are moving to a country where you need a visa there will be different policies. Sometimes you are allowed to enter the country on a travel visa and switch it to a residence, for example in the UAE. In other countries, you have to enter on a visa that states what you want to do, such as China. So just make sure you know the rules for where you are moving.
If you are planning to open your own business, there are also different regulations in each country. Check with the country before you move, since they may require documents from your home country. You might need a bit of time until you reach the right person to talk to, so just keep trying.
For me, the first time I moved abroad alone, was when I moved to China for university. I had to gather paperwork for my residence visa; however, since I moved for my university, they were helpful and did many of the hard work for me. They would talk to the Chinese offices for me and get all the papers I needed from China, which would have been hard on my own.
Moving is not as easy as picking up all your things and going, most of the time. There are many steps that come with it. As mentioned before you will need to be doing a lot when moving. However, once you are living in a new city, you will have to deal with building a new life completely from scratch. Finding new friends and building real connections will take time. Many people regret moving after about three months, not because they hate the city they live in, but because they do not have a group of friends yet. It can get very lonely, but once people move past that stage, it will be better. Everybody tends to underestimate how long this would take. For me, it would normally take around six months to feel a place to feel comfortable, so it is just about being patient and putting one's self out there. I wrote a post about this when I was going through it a couple of months ago, so if you need to hear that you are not the only one going through that, feel free to read about that one here.
Think before you pack
Now it might be tempting to take every item you have in your current place. However, before you start packing, you have to consider where you are moving. Are you moving to an accommodation that is bigger or smaller than your current one? Will you have a furnished apartment or have to bring your own? Think about all that before you start packing.
Also, think about how long you are moving for. Is this a temporary six month to one year thing, or are you moving permanently? If you are only moving for a finite amount of time, do not bring everything you own. If you are moving to a tropical country for 6 months contract, you will not need all your winter clothes and shoes. Make sure to think about that before packing your suitcases and boxes.
When moving abroad permanently, make sure you declutter before you pack. If you are hiring a moving company, they will just pack EVERYTHING they see. This includes small papers and trash, as long as it is in the room. So make sure you go through and throw away anything you do not need. If you do not do this, you will have boxes of trash and useless items in your new home, which is hard when you are trying to start a new life.
Make sure to do your research
Knowing what you are getting yourself into is helpful when you want to succeed. There are probably still questions that you should look into. Do you need a visa for the country of your choice for which you still need some documents? Is local health insurance mandatory? How much time do you have to register with the local authorities and what is the process? These and more questions are good building blocks for success in at least some part of expat life. If you have the logistics figured out, you can focus on other aspects of the move. For example, when we moved to Zagreb, my mom checked if there was a mus near our new home. There was one, so that problem was solved. Only later did we find out that the bus only ran every half an hour and only until 11, instead of the 15 minutes or less and all night that we were used to.
Another important thing to research is the culture. By now you have hopefully visited your destination country or city at least once. However, being a tourist and living in a place are two very different things. For example, the relaxed atmosphere in Latin America that you loved during your holiday, may frustrate you if you have to work with them. Or the organization of North Europe that you admired during your time there, maybe straining on you in the work environment. Some countries value a good work-life balance, while others are complete workaholics. It is important to do research on this aspect of the move as well. I have a post coming about this soon, that will explain it all in further detail.
Don't let failures get you down
You will run into failures for sure. Maybe learning the local language is going to take longer than you expected. Maybe the perfect apartment you found, is not as great as you thought it was. Maybe you hate the new job you have. Whatever it is, do not let it deter you from your adventure of moving abroad. This adventure is something you wanted and you knew it will not be easy. Take these difficulties and make them into milestones. You can get past this bad job and find the one you dreamed of. You will make the best friends once you move a tiny bit outside of what you planned. I know I started this post out by saying you should have a plan, but if the pan doesn't work, change it. Changing the plan doesn't mean you failed, it means you can't predict everything life throws at you. You will get through it and come out stronger on the other side.
Those are some broad things to know before moving abroad. I know this is not very specific, but hopefully it gets you thinking about your move and if you have done all these general things. I have some more specific posts about packing and fitting in at a new place that you can also look at here.
Have you moved abroad before? If so, I would love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments or on social media.