Today, almost anywhere you look, you’ll find people who have sold all of their belongings and moved across the world to a new country. After all, why lead a boring life when you can just pick up and move elsewhere. Moving abroad can seem like a simple idea. However, there are many things to consider before you sell everything and buy a one-way ticket.
Where should you move abroad?
So, you’ve decided that moving abroad is a splendid idea. There are so many places in the world to choose from, but how do you decide?
It might seem like a no-brainer, but you should visit the country you want to live in before you decide to move there. Sure, Australia seems like an amazing place, but if you’ve never been there, you can’t say if you’ll like living there. You shouldn’t assume that just because a place appeals to you, you would enjoy it on a permanent basis.
A decision to move elsewhere can be tempting. Through social media, you see the wonderful places out there that might be calling your name. However, the sandy beaches, historical cities, great culinary scene and the lifestyle that you see are not reflective of your experience. They are someone else’s and might not fit with your ideal.
Visiting a country in one season does not mean the rest of the year will be the same. Canada is a beautiful country with stunning lakes and mountains, and can get hot and humid in the summer. Winter is a very different matter. While there is a lot to do in winter, it might not be your ideal place to live.
Same consideration goes for a country with a very different climate than where you grew up. You might develop allergies to your new environment. As we grow up, we develop a resistance to the fauna and flora around us. Our bodies get used to the ingredients in our foods and products. A different continent means a new set of elements that can affect us. Consider how the new climate will make you feel long term.
It’s one thing to visit a place and another to live there. Before moving abroad, define the reasons for why you’re doing it in the first place. One exciting trip to Mexico might have been an amazing experience, but is that enough of a reason to move there?
Also, don’t look at what others are doing. Someone else might enjoy the laid back living on beach in Bali, whereas busy streets of Tokyo might be more your style. Maybe the south of France that has your name written all over it. The reason to move to a different country has to be yours alone. Why do you want to live there is something you should be asking yourself and answering honestly.
Can you live in the country of your choice
Deciding on what county you want to live in is one thing. Being able to actually live there is another. There might also be a limit on how long you can actually stay in the county of your choice. For example, Europe’s Schengen zone’s requirements.
The Schengen short stay visa allows you to “transit through or an intended stay in the territory of the Schengen States of a duration of no more than 90 days in any 180 days period.” Always check legal requirements of the country you are planning on settling.
So what are other ways to stay in a given country legally?
The best way to live in a county is to be a citizen of it. However, if you’re not a dual citizen, but have ancestors that came from there, you might be in luck. Many countries will gladly honour your heritage as long as you have proof of your ancestry. One thing to keep in mind is that who that lucky relative is might depend on the country itself.
Most will go back two generations, but some might only honour the male side of the family tree. There could also be some loopholes. We run into an issue with this in Italy. As Alex’s parents renounced their citizenship and were not Italian citizens at the time of his birth, he’s not eligible to become an Italian citizen based on ancestry. Whereas other countries make it very difficult for citizens to renounce their citizenships in the first place. The figuring-out-the-rules-fun never ends.
Spouse with the hookups
Occasionally, if your spouse has the citizenship of the country you are planning on living in, the process could be more straightforward. Check for loopholes and any special clauses to make sure.
Your spouse can also become your sponsor if the country you want to live in recognizes their citizenship. For example, if your spouse is a citizen of the European Union, they might be able to sponsor your ability to reside in a country within the EU even if it’s not the country of their citizenship.
Getting a job in a foreign country can be your ticket to staying there. If your current employer has international offices, there could be opportunities for relocation. Alternately, you might apply directly for jobs in the county you want to live in and obtain a work visa once you have a job lined up there.
Same situation can apply if your spouse is the one who get the job that allows you to relocate. This option might not guarantee a permanent living situation, but it might allow you to stay there longer term.
If you’re in position to study in a different country, it’s a great way to live there for the duration of your studies. A semester or more abroad is a great way to learn more about a county. It’s also a way to test it for the experience of living there. Depending on your program and the country you are in, you might be eligible to apply permanent stay upon completion of your studies.
Going to a country for a volunteering opportunity is another way to stay there. Whereas this might be a short-term stay, it provides you with a chance to live there even if it’s temporarily.
Buying a property in a country, you want to move to can be a great way to extend your stay. Some countries offer naturalization to those who buy property whereas others will allow you to remain there for an extend amount of time. How much of an investment and the type of the property is another issue. Check out these countries for ideas.
Buying a citizenship
As they say, money talks. Some countries like Bulgaria, Greece or Granada offer programs for investors from elite-visa and naturalization to straight out citizenship for a price. Amounts and conditions vary, but if you have money burning in your pocket, check out the countries and costs.
Basics of moving abroad
Once you have the issue of legally being able to stay in the country of your choice, there is another list of things to know before moving abroad.
How will you support yourself
You might have sold all your belongings and have nothing holding you back from a life in a new country. The reality is that unless your savings are in the millions, they won’t last for long. You need some type of steady income flowing in to replenish what you use. There are a number of ways to do that, depending on your location and talents. As well as your ability to work in said country.
Anything from running a business – it could range from lodging service like Airbnb, location-specific tours or anything online (blogging is great, but it needs to generate cash) – to odd jobs paid under the table or if you’re lucky enough, with a valid work permit. This is the most important element that can make or break your longevity in said country.
Dreaming of moving abroad is great. Paris, Rome or Tokyo can sound like wonderful places to live, but if you don’t speak the local language, your immersion there won’t be seamless. While English is a universal language, you can’t assume that being able to communicate in it (whether you’re a native speaker or not) is enough to get you by. Maybe as a tourist, but definitely not when trying to pass as a local.
Depending on your chosen country, it would be wise to start learning even the basics of that language before making the move. Apps like the Rosetta Stone make learning so much easier.
Once you’re settled, it might even make sense to hire a tutor to help you learn the language. This will help you get around, communicate with your new fellow citizens and get a job.
Buy vs rent
Moving abroad can be great, but what if you decide to move elsewhere down the road? Owning property can be great (as we discovered above) but it can also tie you down. It might not be easy to sell your property if you decide to move. Market conditions don’t always stay the same and you could be having a hard time getting rid of your property.
If you’re not able to buy, renting is your other option. Whereas getting an Airbnb or a hotel is easy, long-term rental can become more challenging. You might run into issues with property owners or banks simply because you are a foreigner. Your bank account balance and the country you’re in will dictate your options.
Depending on where you decide to live, you’ll need to think of how you’ll get around. You might have access to public transportation or you might need to get a car/bike/scooter/etc. The need for transportation is another factor that has to be taken into account.
If you need to buy your own, that extra cost can quickly deplete your savings. What you will need to be able to drive there is another. You might need to adapt to driving on a different side of the road. Your current licence might not suffice and you’ll have to get another. What is the process for getting a permit in your new home might be very different from what you are used to.
While we all hope to be healthy, the reality is things can happen. From colds, allergic reactions to accidents and life threatening illnesses, you will need to understand how to get assistance. In some countries, health care coverage only applies to citizens. You might be looking at substantial health bills for things like dentistry or hospital visits. It pays to understand what your options are ahead of time. You don’t want to be finding it out while you need help.
If you are moving abroad with children, you’ll have to address their education needs. In some countries, it’s common to send your kids to private schools, in others they have international schools aimed at the many foreigners moving there.
Will they have to attend regular school in the new country? How will they communicate/complete assignments if there is a language barrier? How will they get to and from school? These decisions are not always easy to make, especially if you’re not familiar with the country you are planning to move to.
Probably the least fun part of being an adult is having to pay taxes. Moving abroad doesn’t mean you’re Scott free from that obligation. Depending on your country of origin (ex. the U.S.), you might have to pay taxes in that country even if you live elsewhere. That may or may not be a bad thing, providing you don’t also have to pay taxes in your new country.
It’s always best to check with an accountant before you leave as to what your obligations will be once you reach your new home. Many countries share agreements regarding taxes that free you up from paying twice. Sometimes, it might be more advantageous to file in the new country, but that will also depend on what you are doing and where.
You might have scored a visa that makes moving abroad a reality. The length and conditions of that visa can vary, depending on the type of visa and the country. Things to consider are the duration and the ability to renew. There could be additional elements that can affect your ability to renew and remain there. It’s always best to understand all the rules ahead of time to save yourself disappointment later on.
Shipping your belongings
Moving abroad can mean that you have sold most of your belongings, put them in storage or you might be taking some of them with you. Shipping internationally can be expensive and there might be some rules around what you can ship and where.
You might be able to bring your items as long as they are used without penalties, depending on your status upon entrance. There might be additional charges if you’re not considered a citizen or a temporary citizen of the place you’re moving to. Again, each country will have its own set of rules and fees. Research moving companies well in advance and ask questions. Chances are they have moved items to the country you are going to and can assist with the necessary paperwork. As always, check reviews online before you hand over your money.
Adapting to the culture and customs
The way people live, work and play varies from place to place. You might be used to large backyards and giant fridges, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else is too. Try not to focus on how things were back home and embrace how they are in the new place.
Embracing your new culture
It can be challenging sometimes to adapt to a new culture. What might seem quirky while visiting on vacation can become very annoying on a daily basis. For me, the biggest challenge with living in Italy is the fact that everything closes for few hours during the day. I’m so used to stores being open all day and some even 24 hours that the daily closure here drive me crazy. It means shopping and grabbing necessities in the morning or in the evening.
It’s not the worst thing to get used to, but it required an adjustment on my part. Whatever that something is for you, you’ll have to decide if it’s something you can live with.
Family and friends back home
Moving abroad is exciting, but it also means leaving behind family and friends. While keeping in touch has never been easier, the fact is that you are miles apart. You’ll miss birthdays, weddings, special occasions and deaths. Sure, you’ll make new friends, but the ones you leave behind will move on without you.
You’ll have to decide if and how often you will return home. Maybe your family and friends will visit you. You might even get homesick and question your decision. All of these will have to be factored in your decision-making.
If you don’t have children before moving abroad, you might want to think whether that will change in the future. Having children abroad could have a number of implications, including your and your child’s citizenship. While some countries grant citizenship upon birth, others don’t.
You might want to adopt a child while you’re abroad. That can also complicate citizenship issues and your ability to adopt in the first place. It might also become an issue should you decide to return home.
Whether you decide to return home for a visit or on a permanent basis, your home country might have a number of rules that you might have to abide by. Do you have to notify the authorities of your departure or return? Will your rights as the citizen of your country be suspended or reinstated on return?
For example, in Canada, you’re able to be out of the country between five to seven months (depending on the province you live in) without losing your health benefits. If you’re gone longer than that, there is a waiting period before those benefits are reinstated. Always ensure you know your rights and obligations before you take off.
Is moving to a new country for you?
Shows like House Hunters International make moving abroad easy and seamless. It’s very tempting after watching these episodes to do the same. There are so many things that you don’t see on the show that can create a false impression of what it really takes to move to a different country.
Sometimes that move doesn’t have to be permanent. Living abroad for an extended time can be a perfect solution to that dilemma. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s almost like getting the best of both worlds. Doing your research goes a long way in making a decision you are comfortable with.
Is moving abroad is for you? Have you done it and if yes, what was your experience like? Let me know.
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About the author:
Travelling in the footsteps of history and blogging about it. Forever Indiana Jones wanna be. Come along for the ride!