Relocating From Abroad? Important Things To Think About

Bryn shares some of his thoughts and findings of the various things to consider when moving abroad.
October 3, 2018

Part of what I do at Think & Grow is to help connect people with opportunities overseas, helping them potentially make the move of a lifetime to a new Country, City and culture. It’s not an easy decision to make, particularly when you factor in family ties, friendship groups and the fear of the unknown, and is not one to go into without lots of pre-planning. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and findings of the various things to consider when making the BIG move, to wherever that may be.

The first thing to do is making sure you’re mentally prepared ahead of a potential move. Do you know why you want to move? Are you looking to move to a particular country/city and what is it that attracts you to that particular destination? It’s fine to be open to multiple options, but when it comes to the crunch, it’s best to have a solid idea of why, where and when you’re looking to move.

I’d suggest at least visiting the potential destination first, getting a feel for the country, area and local customs. On this scouting visit, treat it as part holiday, part research trip. Yes you want to experience the main attractions, but consider doing a journey or two at rush hour into the city centre, picking up the local paper and seeing what happens locally. If you can, find a local who you can quiz on the reality of living there, rather than getting the polished tourist account of the area. Of course you should aim to enjoy yourself while you’re there, but consider that you’ll be living and working there, not just relaxing in new surroundings.

It’s also worth talking your thoughts through with somebody you trust who has your best interests at heart. This may not be a family member, as some families find it too much of a wrench to consider their loved one moving to another country and may try to convince you to stay. Remember that this is your decision and try to get as objective advice as possible.

Once you’ve decided that you’d like to move, it’s time to consider the finer points of working in a new country. Your first port of call should be to research Visas and potential restrictions on your ability to work there. This changes wildly from country to country and sometimes from state to state, so it’s something worth putting a lot of time into. It’s worth getting in touch with an expert who can guide you on the potential pitfalls and restrictions that can be tied into the visa application process. Will you need sponsorship from a business? Does the Visa restrict you to certain jobs or staying in the country for a set period of time? Don’t just assume because you’d like to move somewhere, that it’s as easy as getting on a plane.

Another thing to consider are the types of companies and roles in your chosen destination. Is there a need for your skillset? Are the companies there in the right industry and at the scale you’d like to work for? Sometimes countries can have attractive companies there, but the roles available may not reflect your background. Again, research is key here and it’s definitely worth speaking with a recruiter or two in the new country to confirm that the job you’d like exists there. Then you should think about salaries in the market and whether your chosen role pays enough to enable to you to live the life you’d like. Although it can be great to move to a new location for a great job, do you really want to move across the planet to not be able to enjoy your new home? Again, a local recruiter is a good port of call here, as they often have up to date salary information or surveys of the market, along with an idea of the associated living costs.

Finally, it’s worth considering the working culture of the area and whether it aligns with your views. Is there a long hours culture, or are they more flexible? Is there a culture of creativity and freedom, or are you expected to follow strict instructions? Are the days you work the same? Look at the Middle East as an example, where the weekend can be Friday and Saturday or even Thursday and Friday. Again, preparation is key and will help you avoid, or at least be aware of the differences in local working customs.

So you’re mentally prepared and have done all the research, it’s now time to look for a job.

It’s clearly a risk and sometimes not even possible to jump on a flight and start your job search on arrival. Although it’s great to be available in person for interviews, it’s certainly worth contacting some local recruiters ahead of the move, looking to set up some initial phone/video interviews ahead of time, avoiding a cold start in a new country. You may be required to be there in person for the final round of interviews, but given the technology available, more and more employers are willing to at least commence the conversation online ahead of making a hire. Give yourself the best head start possible and have some interviews lined up for when you land.

Once you’ve made sure you have the right Visa and a few opportunities lined up, start thinking about accommodation and where you’d like to base yourself. It’s hard to do this without knowing exactly where you’ll be working, so consider somewhere with good transport links, or even somewhere temporary for when you arrive, until you have some more clarity on where you’ll be working and can relocate closer if necessary. Avoid a long lease unless you know it’s where you’ll end up.

Then, you’ll need to consider your living expenses and what you’ll need to budget on a weekly/monthly basis to be able to live. Look up the prices of travel, food, gyms, rent etc and make sure you have enough to cover this. It’s worth taking some savings with you, to ensure you can survive for the first couple of months while you’re finishing up securing your new job. You want to give yourself the best shot at being able to choose a job you love, rather than having to settle for something else as you’re running out of cash.

Packing is a stressful part of any trip overseas, even just for a week long holiday! But when you consider you’re moving your life to a new location, you’ll have to decide which of your possessions you will and won’t need in the new country. Try to avoid taking anything too cumbersome, unless it’s totally necessary and  also consider the climate of your new city. If you’re moving somewhere sunny, you can probably leave the winter furs behind, saving yourself the hassle of transporting unnecessary belongings. Remember too, they’ll have shops there for you to pick up anything you may need, so don’t overthink what you might need in exceptional circumstances. You’ll likely have to find somewhere to store the things you leave behind, so consider self-storage options, or if you’re leaving things with family and friends, consider their feelings at taking up their storage space with your things. This can be a pain point that doesn’t arise until later into the process, i.e your parents look to downsize and no longer have room in their garage for your skis/lawnmower/four-poster bed.

Once you’ve decided what to take and what to leave behind, consider how you’ll transport your belongings. Will you need to pay for things to be shipped, or are you a light traveller and content with filling a suitcase or two? If you need to get some of your things shipped out there, remember to factor in both the cost and time it takes to get them there. Take the things that will be crucial in your first few weeks and arrange for your things to be shipped ahead of time, or ensure that you’ll be able to cope without some of the larger objects you may need to transport in a shipping container.

Fast-forwarding now, you’ve arrived in the new location, full of energy, excitement and with some natural anxiety, which is to be expected when you’ve relocated to a new country.

If you’re moving somewhere with a different language, it can be a really alienating experience, so make sure you learn some basic phrases which will allow you to get by while you learn the language. Please, Thank you, I’m sorry, I don’t understand and Do you speak English are all good places to start, along with ordering basics like coffee, food and drinks which will make your life a little easier. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you pick things up from there.

There are bound to be some shocks to the system and it naturally takes some time to acclimatise to a new country and culture, so consider bringing a few home comforts with you. Your favourite tea/biscuits/snacks are all helpful when looking to stave off homesickness, which is a natural part of a big move. Give yourself some time to settle in.

Most importantly, when you’re installed and have found a job, accommodation and have a few basic phrases under your belt, you should throw yourself into the new culture! Seek out some regional delicacies, find out what the locals like to do in their spare time and get involved, try some of the local bars. You have, after all, moved here to enjoy yourself and experience a new way of life. Clubs and sports teams are a great way to make new friends, but the key is to find something you enjoy and find other people who enjoy the same thing. You’ll find there are far more things that you have in common with your new compatriots than differences, so make sure to take advantage of everything there is to see and do.

Moving to a new country is always a big decision and not one to be taken lightly and without doing the due diligence ahead of time, but make sure to enjoy yourself while you’re there. It can be difficult moving far away from family and friends, but technology has made the world smaller and your loved ones will only ever be a phone call or video chat away. Make sure to touch base regularly, to let them know how you’re getting on, just be careful not to evangelise too much on your new home, let them know you’re enjoying yourself, but don’t rub it in. Remember that they’re still living the same lives back home and may not appreciate a constant stream of updates on all of the amazing things you’ve been doing and seeing.

Lastly, always remember that you can go back, and there’s no shame in doing so either. The vast majority of the time, a move overseas is an overwhelmingly positive experience, but if you’ve given it some time and effort (at least 6 months in my opinion) and you realise it isn’t for you, then it’s easier to relocate back again than it is to leave in the first place. It doesn’t have to be a permanent move and you can always go back!

An overseas move is a both daunting and exciting prospect, but in the large part is hugely transformative and positive, allowing you to experience living and working in a new place, meeting new people and having new and exciting experiences. Global experience is almost always looked upon favourably by employers, as it shows the ability to throw yourself into something new, as well as considerable planning and discipline to make it happen. So if you’re considering an overseas move, bear in mind the points and questions above, do your research, plan carefully, then take the leap! There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored.

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