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Welcome to the first installment of our new series How to Move Abroad: An Expat Survival Guide! This week we’ll be talking about deciding if moving abroad is the right decision for you. It’s a big decision and there’s a lot of thought and even soul-searching that goes into making sure this is the right choice for you. Moving abroad is a huge commitment, even if you’re only moving for the short term. There is no easy answer to this one, no Buzzfeed quiz that can make this decision for you.
But there are some very important questions for you to consider before making your decision. Whether this is a dream you’ve had for years or something you’re considering for the first time, these are the 8 questions you must ask yourself before buying that plane ticket.
Am I very close to friends and family?
You’ll be away from friends and family for quite a long time. If you’re moving to the other end of the world, many won’t be able to make the trip to visit, and you may not be able to visit home. When you move, you may not have any support system built in place and homesickness is a problem for most.
The good news? With the internet, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch. My family is spread across America and Australia, so we’re already pros at using Skype and Facebook Messenger to chat, video call, or just send pictures of dogs.
Are there upcoming life events that I can’t miss?
Does anyone have a baby on the way? An upcoming wedding? Graduation?
These aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but you’ll need to decide if you’re going to celebrate from afar or if you’re going to plan a trip back. When we decided to move, we had all the above among our friends and family.
If you’re going to be working abroad, are you going to have enough time off to make the trip? If you’re teaching abroad, does it fall during a school break? There are some things you’ll move heaven and Earth to make work. My sister’s college graduation is 9 months after our move to Taiwan and I’m using all my vacation days for the year to visit her for just 2 days.
Just remember: There’s always going to be something coming up, always a reason to put the dream on hold. At the end of the day, what’s best for you? Sometimes you just need to take the plunge.
How will this affect my family?
If you’re single with no children, does your family support your move? If you have children, what impact is this move going to have on their schooling or education? If you’re moving with your partner are they on board, too? Communication is key in families and relationships, especially for big changes like this. Be sure that everyone is on the same page.
Don’t forget to check the local laws on moving with partners and children – what are their visa options? Every country is different, so check with the local embassy or ask around expat groups on Facebook.
What about my career?
If you’re being transferred by your employer or seeking a new position in your field, is this move going to help or hurt you? Or are you looking to create a brand new career for yourself? You may need a job before you move if you don’t have one lined up already. If you plan to stay on a working visa, you’ll need an employer to sponsor you.
For those planning to teach English, many countries (especially in Europe) require you to interview in person. You’ll arrive on a tourist visa and then convert that to a working visa later. If moving abroad with no job secured is a scary idea for you, make sure you secure one before your move. For TEFL, this may mean looking into teaching in different countries – Asia is usually a better place to secure jobs in advance.
Do I like new experiences and seeing new things?
If your answer is no, you may want to really consider if this is the best option for you. Even moving from one English-speaking country to another is going to involve culture shock. You’ll deal with stereotypes about your home country as well as being the New Foreign Person. Depending on your ethnicity and where you’re moving, you may get stares on the street for your hair or skin color.
You will have to adjust to a new diet, language, and way of life. Simple things, like not knowing where to go to buy something can become very frustrating. Oh, Target and Amazon Prime, how I miss you! But after a while, you’ll get the hang of things. You meet new people, make new friends, and create new traditions, like mahjong nights or throwing an annual Friendsgiving.
Am I willing to part with all my things?
Even if you’ve only got a small apartment like we did, you’ve probably got quite a few things you’ve accumulated over the years. Furniture, kitchen supplies, linens, large artwork, and electronics are best left behind.
Sentimental and hobby items are usually the hardest to part with. Do you have a trusted family member that can keep your wedding dress safe? Can you spare the valuable suitcase room for your prized trading card collection? Are you willing to pay to ship these special items to your new home?
Can I afford this?
Doesn’t it eventually always come down to cash? Moving costs money – plane tickets, visa fees, hotel while you find an apartment, deposit on that new apartment, cell phone plan, transportation, food… most of which you will need before your first paycheck comes in. Make sure you budget for these expenses before you leave. I always recommend saving for an extra month’s worth in case your estimates are wrong or that first paycheck is a little light. If you’re not sure when you’ll be moving, take advantage of the “Cheapest Month” feature on Skyscanner! We saved hundreds booking our flight to Taiwan with Skyscanner over their competitors with their flexible search options.
If you have financial commitments in your home country to consider, are you going to be able to save enough to send money back? Student loans and credit card debt are a reality for most of us. You may also have a mortgage, car payment, personal loans or more that you’ll need to consider into your plans.
Why do I want to go?
After you announce, you’ll have everyone from friends and family to the guy at the phone company ask “Why are you moving abroad?” There are no wrong answers. Remember: people are asking because they’re excited for you. You’re living your dream – and maybe theirs!
Are you chasing adventure or running away from your problems? Are you starting a new career, advancing in your field, traveling the world, or looking for a change? Or maybe your political party just lost the election. We get asked often by other expats if we’re “Drumpf refugees” – ha!
Why do you want to move abroad? Tell me in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss any of our posts!
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