In times of globalization and the economic crisis, international job offers are easier to get than ever before. Whether you went through a tough application process or via an internal job transfer to an overseas office, the new team is probably awaiting you asap. And you may find yourself moving country within weeks. Are you ready to go abroad? Here is a checklist to guide you through the initial steps to international relocation:
Go abroad – Should I stay or should I go?
There will always be pros and cons. But are the benefits worth the effort? Be aware that you may trade a stable community of family & friends and comfort, for an exciting fresh start with temporary upheaval and high transition stress levels. Ask yourself these questions and be honest with yourself:
- Is the career move worth it?
- Will local costs of living be covered (and can you pay the rent?)
- What will it bring for the future and how will it impact on your relationship or family?
- Who pays the relocations costs (to move your household)?
- Is your decision to go abroad focused on what you’ll gain in the future or on what you are trying to get away from in your current situation?
- Ask yourself who you really are, what’s important to you and how this career move really fits in.
- Listen out for possible regrets. Will you regret the decision in 5 years time?
Sure you’ll experience new ways of life, mentalities, food and lifestyle. You may feel a sense of accomplishment “you did it!” and feel euphoric about the unknown adventure to come. Without doubt, you’ll go through a character building experience gaining tolerance and openness.
However, there are also moving expenses involved for temporary accommodation, travel and relocating your belongings. Transition can be lonely and stressful without much support from the new local community, where relationships are yet to be built from scratch. Saying goodbye may be heart breaking. And the new place may not allow you to move about as freely as you’re used to.
Set a timeline
When agreeing a departure date, allow a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks if you don’t have many things to move or pack up a household, otherwise allow at least 3 months to arrange for storage or removal.
In fact where possible I recommend spending 2-3 months (which is often the equivalent of the trial period) to check out the new place to decide how and in which area you’d like to live. By then you’ll get a much better idea if this really is the right move and what it’s going to be like to live there before you bring over your partner or family. Especially when kids are involved, you’ll want to make the transition as smooth as possible, i.e. check out local schools before they arrive and avoid moving too much.
When on your own, airbnb or short-term rentals will give you much flexibility. Booking an airbnb for a few weeks well in advance will save you having to switch location every week. Believe me, you don’t want to move all your luggage too often…
As most international job interviews are now held online via Skype, you may not get the opportunity to meet the new team or see the offices and surroundings – and that bit of flexibility during the first months may be more reassuring.
Sell stuff before you go abroad
As soon as you’ve decided to leave, spend time to sort out, throw or give away stuff. You’ll be surprised how many people would even pay money for it. This has never been easier nowadays with apps like Wallapop, Letgo or Shpock making selling second hand items dead easy.
The less stuff you own, the less worries you’ll have regarding storage or removal.
Tip: Most IKEA furniture can easily be sold and purchased again in the new country.
If you have the luxury to store what’s left with family or friends, go for it. You can also use storage units until you’re ready to receive everything at the new place. Once you’ve found a new home, you can arrange for transport. When considering doing the move by yourself, be aware of customs and the documents required such as inventory lists – a removal company may be far more efficient.
I can easily organise my belongings to fit into a 9m3 removal van. Having sold and restocked households several times, you’ll get better at it each time. Although it remains an unpleasant task.
Travel documents and visas
Needless to say you’ll have to arrange for visas where needed and get your documents ready. Is your passport still valid for more than 6 months? Back up your documents, have your bank details and your usual medical prescriptions handy. Are you set up for online banking? Read more on how to prepare for long term stays.
Check which documents may be needed in the new country to obtain residency, a bank account and social security number. Your future employer may be able to advise. Arrange for your snail mail to be forwarded to a friend´s address before you go abroad.
It’s worth checking if your mobile phone will work in the new country and make sure it’s unlocked. In most cases you’ll be able to just switch SIM card. You may want to take or buy a second phone so you can stay in touch with friends and family on the old number until you get settled. This is where a decent double SIM mobile phone comes in handy!
2-3 weeks of clothing may be enough to carry when arriving at the new place. You can always buy toiletries and other small items once there. Consider suitcase sizes to make it easier moving your belongings – chances are you may have to change accommodation a few times before finally settling down. Work outfits can take up quite a bit of space – probably more than any holiday luggage would. Wondering how to pack efficiently?
Your checklist for the first few weeks:
✔ Accommodation booked?
✔ Get SIM card with local mobile phone number. This will be vital for your flat search.
✔ Do you need to register with the local council, apply for residency or an additional visa?
✔ Get a bank account.
✔ Register with social security and local health insurance if the company hasn’t done that for you yet. In some countries you’ll have to apply for a tax ID number right away, for example a tax file number in Australia or a NIE in Spain; in other countries this will be assigned automatically such as in Germany, France and the UK.
✔ Flat search. Find out local web portals or apps for flat search and ask your colleagues for advice and recommendations.
✔ Check out local transport. Again, ask colleagues for advice which deals might be best.
✔ Get orientation. Where is it safe and which areas do you like or should you avoid?
✔ Get the kids sorted: check out local schools etc.
Once these crucial things are sorted, you can relax and spend more time on socialising and making new friends. Meetup.com is usually a great starting point.
Transition is usually easier when you follow your usual routine, for example sign up for a gym, library or any other activities or hobbies you usually like doing.
Be gentle with yourself when it comes to the emotional side of the transition. Sometimes the excitement about the new adventure makes you feel euphoric; and sometimes you may just feel homesick. Each move will be different, depending on cultural differences, your language skills and the reason for your move. Currently relocating to London, I am well reminded of the ups and downs of moving country, even though I’ve lived in England before.
How did your last move go? What would you recommend to a friend planning to go abroad?
This post was inspired by Wanderlust photo challenge.