Whether it be for socio-economic circumstance, ambition, or even wanderlust, you’ve made the decision to settle down abroad and become a fully-fledged expat. The decision has been made, you’ve booked the removals company; congrats!
Many people dream of moving abroad; to experience life as part of a new culture and have the chance to discover an exotic new land. But as enjoyable as it is to plan and plot where we’d like to go and what we’d like to do, there are some very real considerations to take into account.
Here are 7 things to consider once you’ve decided to settle down overseas.
Things to Consider When You Decide to Settle Abroad and Become a Fully Fledged Expat
One of the first things to consider before organizing your move is whether or not you need a visa. Each country has different requirements depending on the country you’re from, so it’s important to (a) figure out which visa you need, and (b) organize the right paperwork.
The best place to find visa information is on your government website, and the government website of your chosen country. There may also be a website set up for your embassy in the country you hope to move to.
If you plan on working, you’ll generally need to be sponsored by a workplace, or have a skill which is needed. So it may be easier to get a visa to a location which has a skill shortage in your profession.
When considering your finances, there’s a lot more to consider than whether you can afford the cost of the initial move (though obviously that too!). Are you purchasing a home? Are you renting? If you are buying a home, what are the costs of tax and legal fees? (This can often add 6 – 10 % to the purchase price).
There are also ongoing taxes which vary depending on the region, and you should research the cost of living against your savings / salary. If you’re in the UK and planning on moving to Europe, make sure you’re aware of how Brexit will affect expats in the EU.
When researching the cost of day to day living, check the cost of food, petrol, entertainment, transport, and energy. Living in a tourist area will be pricier than if you live further into the suburbs, and you should factor in a bit of a buffer should the exchange rate fluctuate.
Pro Tip: See an accountant before you leave. Just because you’re moving overseas doesn’t mean you escape tax obligations in your country of birth.
For countries like Australia, this could be as simple as filing a form stating that you won’t be lodging a tax return. However if you’re from the U.S, citizens or resident aliens are taxed on their worldwide income regardless of where they live.
Don’t assume that the foreign exchange rate will stay the same from the time of your research to the time of your move. You should research recent trends, and find out whether your native currency has been stable against the currency of the country you’re moving to.
At some stage, you’ll inevitably need to change a lump sum into your new local currency (credit card exchange rates can be costly), but you may also need to transfer money regularly between the two countries. Foreign currency brokers charge lower fees and offer better exchange rates and customer service than using your bank.
Companies like Currency UK provide international payments (in different currencies) via bank-to-bank transfers. They offer much cheaper rates than the banks, and this is how experienced expats transfer their money.
When you’re making large transfers, you could save yourself a small fortune. For instance, Currency UK will save you up to 4% on transactions. So, don’t automatically assume that the banks are giving you the best possible rate.
One of the most exciting things about settling abroad is building new networks and making new friends. But you should be aware that your old friendships won’t be the same. Sounds straight forward, but you might not be as prepared as you think. So a big consideration is that your current relationships will change.
That said, you can easily stay in contact with your loved ones by picking up the phone. This will also give you the chance to talk in your own language again! If you wish to return home occasionally to see your friends and family, or have them visit you, you may consider the cost of flights, and how close you base yourself to an airport.
That first lot of goodbyes when you move abroad will be the hardest, but you’ll actually find that this gets easier over time. “After you’ve lived abroad you’ll have to get used to saying goodbye all the time. Other expat friends will come and go, you’ll be visiting home and coming back again, or you might even move on to another expat home and keep living abroad forever.” – Migrating Miss.
Related Post: How to Make New Friends Wherever You Go
English is spoken all over the world, however the extent to which the language is spoken and understood varies tremendously. Not speaking the language of the country you have moved to, can be a big obstacle in your everyday life.
Learning the language will help you overcome cultural differences and you will get one step closer to really settling down. If you speak the language, it gives you the chance to chat with anybody and makes it a lot easier to get in contact with people.
It not only makes it easier to socialise, but helps if you need to go to the doctor or deal with estate agents and solicitors. Don’t expect to just ‘pick it up’ like so many people claim you will. You can absolutely learn a new language by living abroad, but it still takes hard work. You’ll need to put in the effort if you want to learn a new language. That means going out of your way to practice what you do know and to actively try and learn more.
Related Post: Travelling in Places Where You Don’t Speak the Language
The standard and cost of healthcare can be significantly different from country to country, so this is something big you need to consider after you’ve made the decision to move.
If you’re retired, disabled, or find you end up in the hospital a lot, you should seriously research the healthcare system of the country you’re heading to. Most countries require health insurance as a condition of being granted a visa, but regardless, you should organize international travel insurance which includes health anyway.
You should also consider how the weather might affect you. For instance, if you’re moving to a tropical country, learn how to prevent insect bites. If you’re moving to a country with a harsh environment, or high altitude, consider how this may affect your health. Make sure you’ve stocked up on prescription medicine, or have access to it overseas.
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