Going on a trip is different from moving to a new country. When you’re a tourist, you’re only getting a glimpse of what there is to see and do in the area you visit. Since time is limited, your best bet is to stay near the main attractions, the museums, and the must-try restaurants.
However, when you move to a new country, it’s a whole different story. Whether for your studies, a new job, a great adventure, or an epic love story, this experience allows you to truly live the beauty and culture of the country as a local. You get the rare opportunity to take on new challenges and start a new life. It’s an absolutely gratifying feeling.
Perhaps the numerous books and movies you have devoured over the years have inspired you to pack your bags and settle into a brand new location across the globe. You may be dreaming of drinking fresh mango juice in Latin America, visiting historic temples in Cambodia or even taking up flamenco in Spain. The great news is that your dreams are all possible; you simply need to prepare correctly.
Discover the five tips to keep in mind before taking the leap and moving abroad.
1. Residence Permit and Visa
You'll need to familiarize yourself with the country's immigration laws before you can begin the process of moving there. The length of your stay will determine the type of permit you require, so make sure you know how long you wish to stay in the country ahead of time.
Even if you want to go abroad to volunteer, you may need the same type of visa as someone who wants to work there. Make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to deal with all the paperwork before you leave.
Certain visas allow you to stay and work abroad legally. For example, Working Holiday Visas allow Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35 to work legally in many countries. You will find all the necessary information on this subject on the International Experience Canada website.
Always be sure to keep in mind that administrative times may not be the same in all countries. Sometimes, you may even find yourself dealing with a situation that resembles more of a nightmare. Because of this, it's always a good idea to leave enough time in your schedule to receive your documents before you leave.
It is essential to remain patient during this stage. Once you have your visa, you can call your travel insurance broker to find the best coverage plan for your move abroad.
It is highly recommended that you begin searching for a place of residence before your departure, as this is usually one of the most significant sources of stress for expats. You can book a hotel or even a hostel, as long as you have a place to leave your things while you set out to explore the city. When you know where you're going to be staying, even for a few days, you'll be able to devote more time to other preparations.
If you’re only expecting to receive your things a few weeks after your arrival, you can opt for furnished or semi-furnished housing in the meantime. You can also consider renting or subletting a room in a shared apartment. You’ll have everything you need to feel right at home while you venture off and find the housing that is just right for you. Forums dedicated to expats, newspaper ads and Facebook groups for lease transfers, sublets, and apartment hunting in general, can also be of great help.
Keep in mind that some landlords may ask for a security deposit before signing the lease. Usually, this amounts to one or two months' rent. The deposit should be factored into your budget as you plan your trip. Other costs, such as the purchase of sheets, furniture, kitchen utensils, etc., should be taken into consideration.
Before signing the lease, don’t forget to double-check how much you will be paying for electricity, heat, water, and wifi in order to best prepare your budget.
3. Cost of Living Abroad
It is not always easy to put together a detailed budget before moving abroad. That being said, the one rule you should always maintain is to have an emergency budget. Experts advise that you should always set aside 2 to 3 months' worth of salary. This way, you can bounce back from unforeseen circumstances and cover your bills until you get your first paycheck. For your own peace of mind, while living abroad, it’s recommended that you have at least $6,000 in savings.
When it comes to furnishing your place, be aware that delivery fees can be quite high due to additional fees that airlines charge for luggage. Consider shipping your non-essential items by sea freight or air freight to save money on delivery.
There are a number of online resources that can help you get a better sense of the cost of living abroad. For example, NUMBEO is a site that allows you to compare the cost of living in different cities, including the cost of housing. It also gives you information about the traffic, the health care system, crime levels, and even pollution.
Living the expat life requires patience and flexibility in order to slowly adapt to your new life, especially if you don’t speak the local language. At first, you may find yourself feeling lonely if you don’t already know anybody in this new town. This is something that many expats experience when they first move abroad. Thankfully, it is possible to overcome this feeling of isolation by following a few tips.
For example, you could enroll in language lessons before moving to your new country. It will help you better adjust to your new surroundings. Most countries also provide courses for newcomers to help them improve their language skills and meet others in the same situation as themselves.
Volunteering is also a great way to make new friends. You can choose an association whose mission aligns with yours and meet people with similar interests. Once you start working, you can invite your colleagues out for dinner or an activity after work. Finally, you can join a gym, participate in Couch surfing events, or join Facebook groups for expats. The important thing is to be open-minded and take advantage of every opportunity to meet new people!
5. Security Measures
No matter where you choose to live, it's essential that you feel safe. This feeling can vary from country to country depending on several factors, such as the political situation of the country, the risks of natural disasters, and the climate. For instance, some countries are more likely to experience floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or even volcanic eruptions. Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more information. Also, before you leave, consider getting travel insurance to protect you in case of such unforeseen events.
Finally, make sure to know the local security measures, like which neighborhoods to avoid. You should avoid walking the streets alone at night and be mindful of your valuable possessions. Basically, apply the same security measures as if you were in your home country.
To get the most out of your time abroad, you should choose a country where you feel safe at all times.
If living abroad is on your list of things to do at least once in your life, don’t hesitate to pick up your courage and take the plunge. All you have to do is organize your move, book your flight, apply for your visa and get travel insurance before you leave. No obstacle is great enough to prevent you from living this adventure. After all, if the experience isn’t as great as you had imagined, you can always book a flight back home.