You are thinking about moving to a different country or even better, you have already decided to make the big move? Great! Congratulations! But now comes the difficult part: getting ready for your new life. Since I have been there, done that, I thought I’d help you out and share some general (but in my opinion essential) tips.
1. Don’t listen to others (too much)
Once you start telling people about your plans, everyone – literally EVERYONE – will have an opinion and won’t be shy sharing it. Moving to a foreign country is still not something that too many people do. Especially moving completely by yourself and not as part of a study or work programme is something very abstract for a lot of people (of course depending on where you’re from and your social environment).
Of course moving to go to University also requires a lot of planning and is a big step, but people “accept” it more for some reason. I found it quite difficult to explain, that I’m moving solely because I wanted to live somewhere else for a longer period of time. Most people in your life just want the best for you and might worry about what you’re about to do. While their advice can be helpful and challenge you to see things from a different point of view, sometimes it’s quite the opposite. I’m not advising you to completely ignore what they have to say, but at the end of the day, trust your own instincts.
An example from my move
Especially my colleagues at work where very worried about me moving to the UK without having a job there. I reassured them, that I have done loads of research, was confident that I wouldn’t have a problem finding something and also would be willing to start off working in hospitality. Still, that didn’t put their mind on ease – one of them asked me to re-evaluate and move to the UK as an Au-Pair. After all, I’d have a place to stay, a secure job and to some extent people in the country that would take care of me.
Au-Pair is a great concept and I know a lot of people who really enjoyed their time as one. BUT you have to like and be good with children. Not everyone enjoys that line of work – I know, I don’t. I decided not to go for the “save” Au-Pair route and moved without having a job. I found a customer service position in a matter of two weeks. It wasn’t my dream job either but a better option for me than taking care of kids.
2. Be realistic: Moving won’t solve your Problems
I can’t repeat that enough when it comes to moving abroad.
Yes, your life will change – a lot, but don’t expect all of your problems to disappear. At the end of the day, the thing you always take with you and can’t get rid of is – YOU. You won’t be able to “run away” from what you were struggling with at home (e.g. a shy person won’t be an extrovert all of a sudden). Yes, you’ll be distracted for a while, but it will all come back to “haunt” you.
3. Manage your expectations: Not everything is better than at Home
When you haven’t experienced living in a different country, you don’t have a good enough comparison of how “things” really are somewhere else. I can remember complaining A LOT about Vienna and Austria in general when I was younger. I thought “things” would be sooo much better somewhere else, just to realise after 4 years of UK, that no, not everything is better abroad. There are so many things I complained about, when I now think about it, I’m actually embarrassed; for example the general housing standards of the UK are well below Austria, not to mention public transport (I hate you Southern Rail!!). Now, I can’t wait for the Wiener Linien or ÖBB anymore (they’re amazing). Remember: A one or two week holiday is not a good representation of how standards are in a certain country or how it is to live there.
Also, be aware: As an expat, in the beginning of living abroad, you might have to live in places, you would never accept back home, you have to take jobs that don’t match your qualifications and possibly pay less.
4. Make sure you have enough Money
Moving, especially to a foreign country, is expensive. Please, don’t underestimate that and if possible, safe more than you think you should. Consider, that you might not be able to find a job straight away, but you’ll have to pay for accommodation, deposits, transport and obviously food. I’d recommend to make sure you have enough money to live in ”your” new country for at least 2 (better and safer 3) months without an income. You’ll also need to buy some things, that you probably didn’t think about before the move, like e.g. bedding, sheets etc. While those things individually might not be very expensive, the costs will add up.
When you’ve just arrived, you probably want to explore your new home. It’s best to do that before you’re stuck in an office 9 to 5. But guess what – it costs money. Historical sights, museums and other attractions are usually not for free and even though you’re probably gonna stay for a longer period of time, I’d recommend to explore all of that before your everyday life starts. I know people who have been saying “at some point, I’ll do it” but ended up missing out because they’ve procrastinated for too long.
5. Don’t forget the boring Stuff…
…like all of your documents. Make sure to copy them several times – take some of the copies with you and leave some with your parents, relatives or friends just in case. Don’t forget to also bring bank statements, letters from your bank, landlord and previous jobs (if you have some). You’d be surprised, what you’ll need to prove that you’ve lived or worked at a certain place. I needed my tenancy agreement from my landlord back home for my job in the UK, because they had to do some background checks.
If you have health problems, make sure you’ll take enough of your medicine with you. Make sure you can get it in your new country and check how much it is or what you’ll have to do in order to get it. Consider that there are some substances that are not sold in some countries.
6. Don’t pack too much
This of course depends if your moving “forever” or like me, “for a longer period of time”. Most of the things I own, but don’t necessarily need on a daily basis (or at all) are stored at my parents house. I’m aware that that’s not an option for everyone. Nevertheless, make sure you don’t pay for moving tons of unnecessary stuff. Before you pack, declutter – do you really need to take your stinky old trainers? When was the last time you’ve worn the neon orange dress? Do you need those little knick knacks for decorating your new place? You’ll be surprised of how many things you can get rid of without missing them. When we live at one place for a long time, we tend to collect things that are nice to look at but not practical and don’t even have a sentimental value. Get rid of it!
Depending on where you’re moving to – at some point you’ll visit relatives. If there’s any chance you can store some of your things there, you can just take them with you at a later time. When I moved to the UK, I initially took one big suitcase, a medium sized bag and hand luggage with me.
7. Just do it!
Last but not least – just do it. Living abroad is a great experience and if you no longer enjoy it, you can always go back home. It’s better to do it and to realise it’s not for you than to not be brave enough and wonder your whole life how it would have been.