Are you dreaming about or perhaps even actively planning for an international move? It’s exciting to think about the new places, people and scenery you will experience but moving to foreign lands also presents challenges. Here are 10 things you need to know before moving abroad. You should think carefully about them to help your move go smoothly:
1) Why are you moving?
This might seem a silly question – until you actually think about it. People move for all sorts of reasons – adventure, escape, career, and climate. The destination they choose is tied up with this. By pin-pointing what it is you want to experience you may be able to choose an even better destination. Things to bear in mind: If you don’t have patience with learning languages, choose a country that speaks your native tongue (or one similar). If you plan to travel a lot, pick somewhere that makes it easy to jump across borders (e.g. Europe rather than Australia). And avoid places with ongoing conflict and unstable economies if at all possible.
2) Get a grip on the language
Another note on languages. Relocating to another country requires a lot of communication. Knowing how to say, ‘My name is Jane and I have a cat,’ is not going to be particularly useful. If you are moving to a place which requires you to master a different tongue, start classes early, preferably yesterday.
Even if you are moving to a country where the same language is spoken, be prepared for a steep learning curve. From renting to working to taking out the trash, cultural differences can throw even the most prepped traveler.
3) VISA timings vary – a lot!
That’s between countries, between types, and between individual applications. In fact, the guidelines you will find online are so unreliable as to be almost worthless. The only thing you can do about this is to pay for or secure as little as possible in your new country before your VISA arrives. So leave signing rental agreements and employment contracts or paying international moving company hire deposits until the very last minute.
4) Tax gets messy
Probably the last thing you want to think about when you’re daydreaming about foreign climes is tax. Sadly, if you are an American, the IRS will not be as keen to forget about you. If you are single and earning $10,350 or more you will need to file your taxes in the USA or you could be in for a nasty surprise. If you are from another country you will need to check out the rules on tax.
5) Health and banking choices matter
Did you know that you may be able to keep your ACA healthcare benefits providing you spend some of the year residing in the USA? Or that your credit score can be preserved if you keep your home bank open? Unless you have no intention to ever return to the US, take some advice on how best to get the maximum benefit from your health and banking set up. Even if you’re confident you’re in it for the long run, it may be worth coming back home for a few weeks a year to keep hold of your citizen perks.
6) Your cell phone may not be mobile
Many travelers take their expensive cell phone abroad only to find that it is locked to a US network and won’t take a new SIM card in the host country. What would have been a simple case of paying to have their cell phone unlocked has become an emergency shopping trip for a new device. Make sure your cell phone is truly mobile by unlocking it before you leave.
7) Bureaucracy is global
So you can’t escape taxes. Neither can you wriggle free from red tape. Regulations exist everywhere on the planet, particularly when you are uprooting from one life and setting up a new one. Whether you are filling in a landlord’s inventory, photocopying old statements for your new bank or wading through an 80-page VISA application expect to be kept busy with paperwork.
8) Meeting people can be hard
Of course, no one expects to make new friends without effort but it can come as a shock how hard it can be to connect with others. People have their own family and work routines and these can be resistant to outsider interference. Seek out places where like-minded people hang out if you want to make connections. Expat groups (which are easily found via Meetup and other online sources) can be particularly supportive.
9) You will rely on your travel buddy more than you think
Unless you are one of those hardy souls who are determined to go it alone, you will probably have someone in mind to go traveling with – maybe a sibling, partner or BFF. Choose this travel buddy wisely because you will almost certainly rely on them more than you think. From practical help with finances, carrying bags and emergency cell phone calls to emotional support when things get a bit overwhelming – and they will – your travel companion will be your rock (and you theirs).
10) You will never be the same again
This doesn’t happen to everyone but it’s common enough to deserve a place on the ‘need to know’ list. Many travelers adapt perfectly to blending in with a new culture. They handle the practicalities like a pro. They make a ton of new friends. In fact, everything is perfect until…they visit home. Sometimes termed ‘reverse culture shock,’ expats can find the return to their native land unsettling and even unpleasant. Even the barrage of voices in your own language can be overwhelming at first.
None of the above is designed to put you off your travel aspirations. On the contrary, going into your new life with your eyes wide open will increase your odds of making a success out of your move, wherever your heart takes you.
Pamela Taylor is a professional writer who has an interest in keeping things organized and in order. Her appealing strategy? Never. Stop. Moving. She currently writes on Mexico Movers for the oldest moving company in Mexico – Mudanzas Gou.