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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

Visa

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.

Passport

Finances

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.

Foreign Exchange

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.

If there’s one thing which all travelers have in common, it’s left over currency at the end of a trip. And over time we accumulate it. Ever wondered how much all that foreign currency is worth?

Relationships

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.

Communication

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.

Health

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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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

    32 Comments

  1. Hello Megan, really useful article with the essential require things for travel with tips. love to read this article it helps me thanks.

    • Hi Shankar, thanks for stopping by. So glad you enjoyed the article and that it was helpful for you. Wishing you an amazing journey as an expat :)

  2. Thanks Megan for your article. Soon I will go the USA for my higher study in Oxford University. That is the first time I will go abroad. I have no knowledge and experience about how to settle in abroad. for this reason, i felt very nervous. but after reading this article I feel better. I think this guideline helps me a lot. once again thanks a lot for this guideline.

    • Hi Anthony, thanks for sharing about your upcoming trip – you’ll have such a fantastic time :) Being associated with the university should help a lot re settling in, because they’ll have a lot of helpful resources and support, and a lot of people to meet and become friends with.

      Feel free to reach out if you have any questions in the lead up to your move. Have a great trip!

  3. Such a wonderfully detailed post – I SO wish I would’ve consulted with an accountant before leaving Canada. Trying to find one from the road has been a struggle. This is the type of article I wish I would’ve read a year ago.

    • Thanks Emma, glad you found the post helpful – I was the same when I left Australia for the States, always better in hindsight though right! Hope you’ve managed to sort out your accounting :)

  4. You’ve listed the reasons exactly why I haven’t made that (for me) fatal move. My kids (and grandkid), my friends, and paying taxes to two locations for at least a while would not work at all for me.

    • Definitely a difficult decision to make when you have a close knit circle of friends and family. And yes, taxes can be a bit of a pain too, but nothing that can’t be handled.

      But if you’re happy where you are that’s awesome! Don’t have to move overseas to keep exploring the world, it’s one way of doing so :)

  5. Hey Megan! Great, great article. We’ve thought more than once about what it would be like to move abroad, but it’s probably super romanticized… so, it’s nice to see the practical side outlined, too. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Thanks Meagan, yes, I think a lot of people over romanticize the experience for sure – it is of course a life changing experience, and an incredible way to really immerse yourself in a fascinating culture, so it’s something I highly recommend. But there are definitely practical considerations as opposed to adopting a “drop and go” mentality which I think falls into that romanticized idea of it.

      Let me know if you have any questions at all, we’ve done quite a few international moves now, so happy to help if I can :)

  6. Great points about becoming an expat. It’s a dream of mine – at least for a few months, if that counts. I also would stay in touch as old friends and family come to visit. It worked well when I moved to SE Alaska from So Cal (not another country but so very different.)

    • Thanks Elaine – I think spending a couple of months in a new destination counts – it’s all about getting into the routine of every day life and feeling as though you’ve become apart of the community.

      Staying in touch with family and friends is a big one – we’re lucky now to have so much amazing technology which makes this easier than ever before.

      SE Alaska sounds incredible!

  7. Thanks for the post. Healthcare has been the tough one for me. The good news is that it’s cheaper just about anywhere in the world than it is in the USA.

    • You’re welcome David, glad you enjoyed it. Ah yes, I think if you’re coming from the US to anywhere, the cost of healthcare will be a pleasant surprise! Sorry to hear that it’s been tough for you in general though – I hope you’re faring ok and have access to any medical you need. X

  8. I have never had to consider such an option, but I think the biggest aspect for me, would be relationships, specially close family and friends. Being the person I am, I would always like to come back home where my roots and bonds are. All the other aspects are relatively easier to handle.

    • Relationships can definitely be a difficult one to leave behind, especially if you’re close with your family and circle of friends. Luckily, technology these days makes it so much easier to stay in touch than it’s ever been before, with video chat and what not :)

  9. Great tips. Having lived in Belgium as an American expat, I cannot stress the Visa process. I roll my eyes when people say “I booked a one way ticket, blah,blah” because many countries won’t allow you in without a return ticket.

    • Thanks Jessica – yes absolutely, I think it’s a very romanticized notion to just “pick up and go”, you definitely have to do at least a little bit of research first, having the wrong visa info might mean getting straight back on a flight home.

  10. These are some really great tips! I have always dreaming of living an expat life (we are embarking on our long-term/digital-nomad/backpacker adventure), but there’s something that sounds so nice about settling somewhere that you can take amazing trips from. I didn’t realize that even if I was living in another country (as a U.S. citizen) that I would have to pay them taxes still! (I shouldn’t be surprised. We pay so much in taxes and it seems we get nothing for them.) I also love that you have relationships as something to consider. I don’t think people would automatically think of that as a factor but it’s a great point!

    • Thanks Paige! Yes, my husband is American and we now live in Australia (where I’m from), and it’s one of two countries in the world which double taxes it’s citizens. There’s a $100,000 threshold on the double tax, meaning you don’t pay unless you’re earning a really huge salary, but you still have to file and declare overseas income.

      I hope your dream of setting up as an expat somewhere becomes a reality soon!

  11. There really is so much to consider when making the big move and becoming an expat. Some are obvious but then there are the non expected ones. Oh and I totally agree that the more often you say goodbye to people the easier it gets, it just becomes a way of life.

    • Absolutely – I think that there’s a lot more involved than most people assume, especially when they have a romanticized idea of dropping everything to go. So definitely some unexpected ones.

      And yes, I’ve become very used to saying Goodbye, as you say, it’s a way of life after you travel and move so frequently.

  12. I lived and worked in Fernie, BC for four years (still desperately trying to return for good). There are so many things to consider when making a move like this. For me the main one is family back. Elderly parents can’t make the trip out to see me (they did thankfully come for a visit), my brother’s family struggle with money (as lots of families do). It’s hard being away but the quality of life is so much more in Canada than the UK, in my mind.

    • It’s always difficult when the choice comes down to family, especially when they can’t travel to see you. But ultimately you have to do what’s right for you, stay in touch via technology, and the time you do spend with them on return visits is that much more special :)

  13. I was very happy to have national healthcare when living in Korea. It was super cheap (especially in comparison to the US) and was one big reason that I wanted to stay even longer. As far as finances went, we got lucky with our bank and had a free service for sending home cash. You’re right on the conversion rates, though, because I was in Japan during the 2008 chaos and lost quite a chunk of change between the Yen and USD. You have to stay on top of that for sure. Thanks for sharing this super thorough post, Meg. Great stuff as always!

    • National healthcare in Korea sounds great – yes, I think Americans often find it alarming that most other countries have a cheaper and higher standard of healthcare than they do – can be a definite perk of moving overseas if you’re from the States.

      We acually got lucky with the swing of the conversion rates from USD – AUD – they were pretty sporadic there for a while, but we managed to jump in at the right time. Always pays to keep on top of it and invest a little bit of time into research when it comes to a lot of change.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  14. I moved to Singapore to work in IT for 6 years before moving back to the Philippines. For those moving abroad for the first time, this article is close to the truth. But don’t to experience your new surroundings before you get settled. I advise to be a tourist first on your first few days to get the vibe!

    • Great tips Carla, it’s a great idea to head out and experience the city as a tourist would in your first couple of days – otherwise you might get into your day to day routine and miss out!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences :)

  15. Amazing article!!
    I have been looking for this similar kind of information as i have been planning to work in USA so started looking for information on this subject and stumbled on your article which i think is great help for us who are looking for information on workinn abroad, so thanks a lot for this amazing article. Going to bookmark this for sure.

    • So glad the article was helpful for you Ritesh. I hope you have a wonderful time in the US, and that everything goes well with the move :)

  16. This is a great guide! Wish we’d seen it before our move. We kinda went in blind but definitely not regretting it! Here’s to the adventures of expat life!

    • Thanks guys! Glad you enjoyed the post, and that your move went well despite perhaps a little learning curve. Being an expat is definitely an adventure to remember for the rest of your life! :)

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