So you’ve finally done it; you decided to move to that far-off land across the ocean like you’ve wanted to since you went on a trip there in high school. What now? Moving across state can be a hassle if you’re not prepared, and moving to another country comes with a slew of unique challenges.
Let’s say you want to move to Australia. The first two things you would want to do are obtain a passport and, just as importantly, obtain a visa. The Australian government offers an array of visa options for workers – everything from short-term Work Holiday visas for young people wanting temporary work with supplementary income to more permanent Employer Sponsored Workers visas and SkillSelect visas for independent skilled workers. These are just a sampling of the work visas available in Australia, and research on your part would be needed to decide which program is right for you.
After you have applied for all the documents you will need to live and work in a new country, it’s time to start planning the move. Here are a few questions you should find answers for as early on in your planning process as possible:
• Do natives speak the same language as me?
• Does the culture vary greatly from my own?
• What is the climate there?
• Where are good areas for expats to live?
• How will I ship or store my belongings?
These are going to be some of the first hurdles to overcome when moving to a new country.
If the locals where you plan to move speak a different language than you, it is important to take steps to learn the language as soon as possible. Focus on speaking, as being able to communicate verbally with the locals will be of more use to you early on than writing will be. There are a variety of hands-on options online that offer study materials, audio/video courses, and even some that pair you with a fluent speaker of the language you wish to lean.
Cultural norms can vary greatly country to country, and this can be especially true if you’re moving to a new continent. While moving to Melbourne, Australia might not be a huge change for many of us, moving to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania could be. Taking time to research local culture and customs can help prevent you from making accidental social faux pas early in your stay, and alienating some locals. This is true no matter when you live in the world; it never pays for an expat to offend his or her local neighbors.
Maybe you’re moving from Madison, Wisconsin where the average yearly temperature ranges from the mid 20sºF to the low 80sºF on average to Lisbon, Portugal (which happens to be the current best city for expats in the world, according to many sources) where the temperature ranges from the upper 50sºF to the low 80sºF on average. Many climates have even more dramatic shift, so if you’re moving from the American prairie to the deserts of Africa, be prepared for changes to your wardrobe, and possibly work schedule.
While you’re researching language and culture, it may be a good idea to find areas other expats are living in, as they generally offer affordable, safe options for foreigners living in a new country. While these communities are great places to start, don’t be afraid to branch out and live among the locals! It may benefit you to find a temporary residence in an expat community while you are getting used to your new surroundings and you can find a place in a location that most suits your needs. You may want to find an area near where you work, or one with easy access to public transportation and your favorite leisure activities. Your living accommodations should reflect what is most important to you, and should have the experience you are looking for with moving to a new country.
When you move, it’s inevitable that you will have possessions that you want to keep, but are not possible or economical to take on your initial journey. While it will be possible to replace many items at your new home, there will be some things you simply will not want to get rid of, or not have the ability to acquire. It might not make sense to bring over furniture or keepsakes if you only plan to live abroad for a short time, or even a couple years, especially if you move overseas and there is no easy option for shipping. Take what vital items you can on your first trip to your new home country, and look into shipping items you will need (maybe business equipment you will need to work, or larger musical instruments you need to keep sane) either by air or sea, as there are many options available for large-order international shipping. If you plan on coming back to your home country, or have belongings you want other people to have access to, you may consider placing them in self storage – many facilities offer a wide array of different sized units with amenities such as climate control to keep your valuables safe and secure.
After you answer these questions, you will be well on your way to readiness with your move. Remember, moving to a new country is a big deal, and it can be highly stressful. Try not to be too hard on yourself if something goes wrong, and realize there will be great days and terrible days, but most often they will fall in-between. You will get home sick, and that’s okay; be sure to have a way to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Even following these tips, there will be things you forget, and roadblocks you run into: what is the local currency and how do you set up a bank account, what side of the road do people drive on, is the water safe to drink from the faucet, and many other, little things. Do not be discouraged; leaving your home and moving to a new country is a big life event, but it is usually well worth the stress.
Photo credit to Ainudil on Flickr.