Many of us have considered moving abroad, but what does it actually take to migrate to another country? Here are just a few questions that need to be considered before you make your move so that you can be certain you’re ready and that it’s the right decision for you.
How long will you stay?
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to live abroad temporarily or permanently. Many people want the experience of living abroad, even if it’s just for a few months. For others, it could be a chance to start an entire new life.
You’ll need to know how long you plan to stay so that you can decide which visa to apply for and so that you know what to take with you. Taking out a six month visa and then extending it if you decide to stay longer could be a sensible option – you probably don’t want to apply for citizenship straight away unless you’re certain you never want to return home.
What accommodation will you stay in?
You need to also decide whether you are going to rent accommodation or buy a home. Renting could be better if your plan to only stay short-term, whilst buying could be better suited for those that want to move permanently.
Some agents are now able to conduct virtual viewings, although it’s probably best to still take a visit to the country and see the property in person before committing to moving there.
If you’re going abroad to study, the campus may be able to provide accommodation for you. Some employers may also be able to provide accommodation if you’re moving pursue a job.
Will you need to get another job?
Unless you’re planning to retire or study abroad, you’ll probably need some form of income. Consider whether your current job is transferrable – if you work for an international company, there could be an office/store abroad you can work at, whilst certain forms of online-based work may be able to be continued remotely. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to start hunting for a new job.
You can find job listings abroad as one that will lead you to English-speaking jobs in Italy. Some employers may allow you to do an interview via Skype. It’s best to secure a job before you move out so that you’re not struggling for income when you get there (although you may want to schedule a couple of weeks to adjust before you start work).
Will you be bringing family and pets?
If you’ve got family and pets, you’ll need to make plans for them.
When it comes to your family, make sure that they are equally happy with the decision to move. If you’ve got a partner, they’ll need to make all the same considerations as you, plus they may need to find work too. As for your kids, you may need to look for a school and ensure that there are enough kid-friendly activities in the neighbourhood.
As for your pets, you’ll need to factor in the cost of transporting them over as well as looking into local laws on pets (certain countries may legally require certain pet vaccinations as well as chipping).
What’s the difference in the cost of living?
It’s very important that you understand the cost of living. Some countries will be cheaper to live in and others will be more expensive. The exact location can make a difference – city centres are likely to be much more expensive than rural areas.
Your wage should cover all the costs of living. Some of the big costs to consider include accommodation, utility bills, food, transport (including driving) and entertainment. Be wary that some countries may not have the same government support schemes in place such as unemployment benefits, holiday pay, sick pay and free healthcare. There may also be a difference in tax, both on your income and on certain goods such as alcohol and fuel (when it comes to working abroad whilst still paying bills back home, make sure to take steps to avoid double taxation.
Do you need to learn the local language?
If you’re moving to another English-speaking country this won’t be a problem, but if the national language isn’t English, you may want to try and learn some of the local tongue before you go. English is spoken universally and in some areas you may be able to get by without speaking the foreign language, however it could be respectful to learn if you plan to stay for a long period, plus there could be instances when you really need it. You will be surprised to know there are plenty of free language learning tools online.
Are you familiar with the local laws and customs?
You’ll also need to be clued up on the local laws, which may be different to back home. In some countries like Singapore, something as simple as littering could get you a massive fine. Other countries may also have completely laws regarding employment and driving.
As for general customs, there could be ways to dress that are frowned upon or ways of greeting that you’ll want to stick to (i.e. shaking with your left hand in some countries is an insult, whilst something as simple as waving is a no-no in Greece.
Will you be bringing your possessions over?
If you’re staying for a short period, you may not need to bring over many possessions, however if you’re staying permanently, you’ll probably want to bring over everything. Flying your possessions over is quicker than shipping them over, but it’s a lot more expensive.
Some people decide to ship items over in stages, starting with the most important items. It’s possible you may also be able to buy large items abroad such as a car and furniture to save transporting them over (which could be more expensive than buying new ones!)
Will you be taking out a separate bank account?
You’ll likely want to keep your existing bank account if you’re only moving for a short period, however if you’re moving abroad permanently you may want to transfer your funds to an account abroad. By moving to an account abroad, you won’t have to pay currency transfer fees, but may be entitled to then pay tax in that country. If you’re moving over savings, make sure that you’re getting as good interest rates and weigh up the cost of transferring these savings.
Are you ready to leave everything behind?
The biggest challenge is having to leave the people, places and customs you’re familiar with behind. Whilst the internet has made it much easier to stay in contact with loved ones (you can even have daily face-to-face conversations via Skype), you’ll still likely miss being able to physically meet up with certain people. You may also find it hard to find certain foods you loved and pursue certain interests that may not be popular abroad.
Of course, you will make new friends abroad and you may fall in love with new foods and interests. Be prepared to be open to meeting new people and trying new things. This can be scary (especially if you’re also negotiating a new language), but you’ll need to challenge yourself if you want to adjust to your new surroundings.