Flirting with the idea of one day, maybe, in the distant future, moving countries? Curious what things you’ll need to consider? Or maybe you are part of the many thousands of individuals who move each year and are in process of packing and looking for tips for when the day arrives.
Our tips don’t include visa application advice as each application to their respective locations will differ. But for everything else, keep reading!
Little bit on my experience. I am passionate helping others through the transition of moving countries. As a baby, I moved from Taiwan to New Zealand and then New Zealand to London, United Kingdom as a teenager with my parents. These tips are hailed from the personal experiences of myself and those of my parents (Tips for parents included below!).
11 tips for moving to a new country
1.It’s OK to be scared
You may be told from others that you are about to embark on a big adventure, and how excited you must be! True, you are probably very excited. But you may feel nervous, or even scared. That’s OK. You may not feel anything but excitement until you land, if you only start to feel nervous at this point, that’s OK. This is a big change. It’s OK to just sit with your feelings, you don’t need to overcome them. Simply, acknowledge them and carry on.
2. Research the local law.
Make sure you know the major do’s and don’ts before you arrive. Things like, no chewing gum in Singapore or who has right of way in traffic. This tip is all about keeping yourself safe and out of trouble. Don’t worry about knowing everything, you will pick it up over time.
Not an exciting tip, but nonetheless a very important one. Remember how costly it can be moving from one house to another? Now imagine that house being in completely different country. Aside from visa applications, your costs can include plane tickets, accommodation (see tip 5), fees for renting/buying a new home, exchange rates, storage fees then international shipment of goods, healthcare (which vary hugely), local transport, food, emergencies and more. Don’t forget about a grace period if you are moving over without a secured job. This is less of an issue as the vast majority of visas will require you to have a job secured.
The traditional advice to have a savings of at least six months is solid and to always be prepared for unanticipated expenses within your first six months to a year.
Keep your documents together in an easy to access location, e.g. alike documents kept in the same folder. Important documentation other than your passport and visa include, birth certificates, medical histories (to pass onto your new GP), marriage or civil partnership certificates, qualification documentations such as university degrees, driving licenses and so on.
Pro tip: Digitally back up your documents and store them in secure place. Also, look up who to contact in the event your physical copy is damaged or is lost.
5. Place of residence
You may need to stay at a hotel upon your arrival until you find a suitable place to live, ensure you have the funds and are prepared to stay at your hotel for at least one month (if not more), finding a property to stay at can take a while and is a long term commitment.
Ahead of time, research areas you would like to live in. Look up local amenities, nearby supermarkets, local crime reports, transport and anything else you would like to know. Online forums are often a good place to start and have valuable conversations by netizens talking about desirable vs non-desirable locations.
If you’ve ever wanted to minimalize and reduce your belongings, there is no greater motive than moving countries. I really do recommend this as taking, storing and shipping your belongings is more stressful than it should be (see tip 7). However, if you love all of your stuff and want to take it all with you, simply skip this step. You do you!
Be honest with yourself about your stuff. You will be able to purchase items as and when you need them in your new location. You will likely need to put the majority of your belongings in storage, you may find it is not worth putting it in the keep pile. It may be several months before you internationally ship your belongings after you have found a permanent or long-term residence. Think of items that will be useful. Don’t do what I did and bring some clothes that I thought would be fashionable (i.e. a big bright pink ski jacket because I thought London winters would be very cold). In the end, you will purchase what you need when you arrive at your destination.
7. Packing your suitcase.
Pack the essentials in your suitcase. For example, one week’s worth of formal business attire for work/interviews that can be dressed down for more casual offices, comfy clothes to wear around the house, casual wear for outings, first aid, toiletries and anything else you an think of.
Pro tip for my female compadres: Ensure you bring plenty of your favourite menstruation products. Depending on what country you are going to, they may not have the product you use. For example, pads are the preferred product in Asia and tampons are very difficult to find. What I recommend investing in is the menstrual cup (as well as reusable pads), this way you won’t get caught out not having your monthly essentials. No joke, the menstrual cup and reusable pads have changed my life. They have saved me money, are super convenient and when travelling (or even just out of the house), don’t need to worry about constantly thinking about finding the next bathroom to change your pad/tampon, it really is just a case of pop it in and go. Also, not worrying about toxic shock syndrome is a plus.
If you want a more in-depth review about our thoughts on menstrual cups, we wrote about it in one of our monthly loves – This month I’m loving…mooncups.
8. Don’t speak the language?
If you don’t speak the local language, preparation is key, learn as much as you can as far ahead of time as you can. You will feel much more independent and confident when you do arrive at your destination. If you haven’t had the chance to learn or are not confident, enrol in language classes or a language exchange class when you arrive.
This can also be a good way to make new friends and meet others in your position. p.s. My parents actually met on a language exchange class.
We know going to language classes can be costly, time consuming or may not align with your schedule. A good resource you can pick that helps mitigate the above are online language courses.
- Apps. Don’t forget the power of apps. I find they are quite useful for drilling in a new alphabet into your brain and can be a very good starting point.
- Italkie is an example where you can get customised one-on-one language lessons from local tutors. You can look up comments and reviews of potential tutors, and tailor it to your level. For example, you can start from an absolute beginner or if you somewhat speak the language but would like to improve fluency, you can find a tutor to practice speaking with.
9.When you speak the same language
You speak the same language as the country you are moving to. But don’t assume that you won’t have a language barrier. English for example, is different in the UK compared to New Zealand. When I first made the move, yes, I understood pretty much everything that was spoken, but the way English was used is very different and can mean different things. Here is an example:
New Zealand, ‘you all alright?’ Genuinely asking if you are OK.
London, UK, ‘you all alright?’ A form of greeting, meaning what’s up.
Be ready for nuances changing the meaning of text, local slang, accents, and unspoken social rules. You will pick up all these things in time, so don’t worry about it, just know that it exists.
Pro tip. There are tons of Youtube videos that sum up local slang, nuances or any language quirks!
10. Be prepared for culture shock
You may not experience this at all, but many people do. You may feel sad and not happy in your new location, it does not mean that you have made a huge mistake in moving. It is possible that you are responding to the sudden change in environment and have not yet adapted, this is quite common in the first few months of your move. Talk to friends, family or even online forums for support. Finding people with shared experiences will help you feel supported. Just know that you are not alone and that you’ve got this and that this response is very normal. Remind yourself why you moved in the first place, you would not have put all that effort into visa applications, packing etc if this was not important to you.
This is a big change, even fish must be given time to acclimate to the surrounding water. I know in modern society, we are used to having things fast, but with culture shock it takes time. Patience is your friend in overcoming culture shock.
Of course, if you continue to feel unhappy and want to move home after giving it much thought and consideration, do it. Your mental health and long-term happiness is in your control.
11. Be prepared for the worst, and make sure you are able to live with it.
Pro tip. This is one from my parents. My parents have moved countries twice now and they find this advice, at least for them, to be very important. It is important to be realistic with your move, there will be times it will be difficult. As long as you prepare for worst-case scenario and can accept if it happens, you won’t be shocked or feel deeply hurt. For my parents, our worst-case scenario was that we would move back to New Zealand if they could not find a job within six months.
Think about what yours might be, think about whether you can accept it and what you may do to mitigate it.
Tips for parents
1.Moving with small children
If you move with a small child and have no family nearby or no family at all in the country you are moving to. Think about and be prepared that one of you will need to stay at home with the child while the other works, at least until you have placed solid roots and gotten your child settled in. Once you are all comfortable, finding childcare will be much less stressful for you and for your child. As you already know, routine is key for small children and moving countries will throw whatever routine you have out the window. Be prepared that your child (or children) may be frustrated or more of a handful than usual, this is normal in really unfamiliar environments and should settle down. It’s OK to feel frustrated, just acknowledge it and talk to your partner, friends and family for support. Don’t underestimate the power of venting as a stress relief to those who will listen.
2. Finding schools
Find and speak to an agency (ahead of time) who can scout out local schools and provide a list of school, with their corresponding information to help you make an informed decision about where to send your child. Depending on when you make the move, be prepared that there is a chance you will need to send your child to a private school in the event that public schools not having any spaces available.
If your child is in high school and wants to go to university. Look up the requirements for your child to be considered a home student. For example, I knew someone who would qualify as a home student if they delayed university by one year, thereby reducing the university fees by thousands. In this time, your child could take gap year. They could work to save up money or even go travelling – for solo travelling, see our post ‘13 solo travel tips‘.
As with anything, just do what is best for you, your child (children) and your family, whether that is taking a gap year or not.
I’m certain there are many many more tips, do your research and if/when you make the move, you will accumulate your own list of tips. For those who have made the leap, please share your tips and let’s help each other out! We would love to her your experiences, thoughts and your journey!