7 Things to Consider Before You Move Abroad
You live and learn. And what I’ve learned from living abroad for two years is that there are more things to consider before getting on that plane than where you want to go and what you want to do. I found myself a bit clueless about some things in my first few months after moving abroad, but I learned what to do and how to handle things –sometimes easily and sometimes with a few bumps. Everyone should learn some things for themselves, but not everything. Take what I’ve learned, apply them to your own situation, and you should be prepared for your move abroad.
1. How close (or far) do you want to be from home?
I probably chose the farthest I could be from home in Chicago – Thailand. At the time, it was exactly what I wanted. I wanted an experience that would be so different from my hometown life, and I wanted to see places I never could have imagined. Most of the time, I’m 90 percent happy and content with my decision to be where I am and do what I do. But, that remaining 10 percent pops up every once and a while when I think about how nice it would be to hop on a plane to see my friends and family for a weekend. But, it’s not realistic when you’re more than 8,000 miles away from home. Planes tickets are expensive and your time is valuable.
2. What about your family and friends?
Before leaving home I asked everyone I love to download Whatsapp. I created group chats for family and friends and two years later they are still used daily. For me, it’s the fastest way to get in touch with whomever I need to back home.
But, other than communication, do you think you’ll be okay with being so far away from your loved ones? And will they? This was a very hard decision for my family and myself. I was ready to go and they weren’t ready to see me go. My friends were excited for my new adventure, but were sad to see me go and I was sad to leave them. After countless conversations and some arguments, everyone was on board and began to share my excitement.
3. Are you financially stable enough to move abroad?
Starting a new life in a foreign country can be expensive at first. While the cost of living in Southeast Asia or South America are much, much cheaper than in, let’s say, New York or London, the cost of getting started and settled in can be a bit hefty if you don’t have any outside financial support. You’ll need enough money for your visa expenses and work permits, deposit and rent for an apartment, and just basic costs of living (food, transportation, etc).
Get a roommate or move into the same building as someone you know if you can, perhaps a coworker or a friend you’ve met. Splitting the costs and just having someone around will make your transition much smoother and maybe even more fun. Being stuck in a foreign country with not enough money is a scary thought, so try to make sure your financial situation is cushy enough for you to be stress-free as you settle in.
4. Do you have your finances back home figured out?
So, your savings are hefty enough to get you started abroad. But, don’t forget about your financial responsibilities back home (if you have any). Things like student loans, car payments, and credit card bills won’t go away even if you do. Try to make sure you have a plan on how you’re going to take care of them. Figure out how to transfer money from your new country back home if you think you’ll need to some day. Using PayPal is convenient for sending small amounts of cash back home, as they charge a percentage of the amount you transfer back home. But, for larger amounts, use your new bank or Western Union, as it’s usually a flat rate fee no matter the amount being sent.
5. If something goes wrong, do you (and your family) have a plan?
“Do you have a plan? Do we have a plan?” my mother would ask me daily before I left and still confirms quite regularly. But, it is a serious question and something to make sure is planned out. Accidents happen, people get sick, and a whole other mess of stuff can pop up unexpectedly. If you have any preexisting health conditions, make sure you’ll be able to bring what you need to from home or check that your new country will have the medical care that you need. An emergency credit card can keep your mind at ease if for some reason you need to buy a last minute plane ticket or need to pay for an emergency abroad. Talk with your family or whoever is closest to you about it beforehand to give everyone, especially mothers, peace of mind.
6. Will you be comfortable enough with day-to-day cultural differences?
Everything is different. Everything. Have you done your research about the dos and don’ts on the country you’ll be moving to? Have you learned any of the country’s language? Learning the language will give you a huge advantage and will make your life abroad much easier and knowing what you can and can’t do will likely make your life problem-free. Just even on a smaller scale, things like food, weather, and daily conversations are different.
For example, in Thailand it’s completely acceptable to tell someone they are fat to their face. Trying to explain that where I come from saying something like this is rude and makes someone feel bad is completely lost and ignored. It won’t matter how you do things where you come from, so you’ll have to be mentally prepared to handle and adjust to the big stuff and the little stuff.
7. How does moving abroad affect your long-term career plans?
Living and working abroad should enhance your work portfolio. Knowing new cultures and new languages will only make you more well-rounded. But, will picking up for a few years to live abroad affect your ultimate career goals in your industry? Or are you starting over with a new field of work? Either way, if you have an idea of where you want to ultimately end up in your career, try to think about how living abroad will affect you and how you can use it as an advantage. If you’re a writer, write everywhere you go and keep your writing current. If you’re in finance or business, make contacts in every country you end up in. Whatever your career goals are, find a way to use your new worldly self to your benefit.