Preparing to Move Internationally
By Rob Toledo
Back in April, we put up a checklist: A Baker’s Dozen To-Do List for Moving Internationally. It talked about 13 things you need to take care of at home before you move; a “jumping off point before you reach your jumping off point.” Today, we’re going to talk about the next level of preparation: the 6 things you need to do not with your home or belongings, but with yourself so that the move doesn’t turn from a dream into a nightmare.
The most important thing you can do when moving abroad is understand the place you’re moving to. If you can’t afford to take a vacation there before you move, take some time and study the culture. Read about it online; if you can, rent a few popular movies from the area and watch them. Get it under your skin now, because if you don’t, it’ll really get under your skin when you get there. It’s likely to be foreign currency so make sure to study rates and get used to the currency exchange in order to decrease likelihood that you will drastically overpay for something (although it will probably happen at least once).
Once you have a feeling that you know what you’re getting into, it’s time to find out if you actually can. Connect with the country’s nearest embassy and talk to them about immigrating there. They’ll tell you exactly what the requirements are and, if you meet them, help you connect with people local to the place you want to move.
If you don’t already speak the language native to your locale of choice, grab a copy of Rosetta Stone — or, even better, get in touch with a local tutor that speaks your language and set yourself up with lessons on day one. The sooner you learn the language of the country you are moving to, the better. If you fail to learn it, you may feel quite lonely and isolated, and you may tend to only make friends with other expats like yourself.
Consider what you do currently for things like recreation, your children’s schooling, and the other parts of your life that are about to be shaken up, and try to plan substitutes for each of these in your new home. Find the best school you can afford for your children, a boat and a lake to fish on if that’s your thing, and so forth well in advance.
Not only do you need a visa to stay in most foreign countries for an extended time, but you also need basic functionality, like a locally-approved driver’s license. You can save yourself a world of hassle if you arrange a driver’s license test and other relevant permissions before you leave, so you don’t have to wait weeks once you get there.
Speaking of driving, in many countries abroad, the driving is very chaotic and it may seem scary for someone coming from a more developed country with well-organized traffic laws. Learn in advance about the driving situation where you’re going, and look into what it may cost to hire a driver. You may think hiring a driver is expensive, but in many countries it’s cheaper than you may think, and well worth it.
Society is a universal human need. We all need to feel like a part of something bigger and more important than ourselves, or we start to drift. Moving to a new country is like voluntarily cutting yourself off from your support network, and finding a new group of people to become a part of (not just for you, but for anyone moving with you) is probably the single best way to make sure that your new life is one you’ll love.
It is best to start making friends before you move, so you will have some people you can (kind of) trust when you get there to help you get acclimated. These days, it’s fairly easy to find some friends by hanging out in forums with other expats from your home country that are living in the country you’re moving to. Find a few of them that are in the city of your destination, befriend them online, and ask them some extensive questions addressing your concerns about your move. Then when you get there, you’ll have an instant support network to help replace the one you’re leaving.
Rob Toledo is hoping to one day step foot on at least 100 countries with one on every continent (even Antarctica). He can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo