Moving to a foreign country is a life changing experience.
The chance to explore the world and experience firsthand a different culture is an incredible opportunity that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. Most people who get to live abroad reflect upon the experience as one of the best times of their lives, and look back with fondness on all of the things they learned, the people they met and adventures they had.
On the other hand, there are those who move to a foreign country and can’t wait to go back home. These people often think that moving abroad will solve al of their problems and go into the experience with unrealistic expectations and assumptions. If you aren’t prepared to deal with the many stresses that come with living overseas then you’re going to have a bad time.
Moving overseas is not a decision that should be rushed into. The difference between a life changing experience and experiencing hell on earth often comes down to how well you prepare before you make the move.
4 Steps For Successfully Moving Abroad
A lot of things need to be taken into account when deciding on moving abroad. It might seem overwhelming at times considering the gravity of the situation, but if you break it down into small steps it’s a lot easier to manage.
1. Define the Experience You Want to Have
Before you start planning on moving somewhere it’s a good idea to ask yourself why?
Is there a specific experience you are looking to create for yourself? Do you want to be around a certain group of people? Is there a certain activity that you like doing that one place is better suited for? Are you moving in search of better weather? Or maybe a cheaper cost of living? Better job opportunities?
Whatever you are looking for there is usually a country or region that is perfect for your needs.
- If you’re looking for a cheap cost of living, you might do well somewhere in South East Asia.
- If you want to be a part of a vibrant culture and warm people then South America is hard to beat.
- If you enjoy studying human history and want to spend your time having intellectual conversations in English, somewhere in Europe might work for you.
The more specific you can get with what you are looking for the easier it would be to find a country and a city that suits your needs.
- Do you want to be amongst an entrepreneurial crowd in a city with year round springtime weather? Medellin, Colombia is the place.
- Are you looking to use English teaching as a way to sustain yourself while you make business connections in an emerging economy? São Paulo, Brasil is where the action is at.
- Want to learn how to build an online business from someone who is doing it successfully? Chiang Mai, Thailand has hundreds of people like that.
The world is a big place. You’re bound to find whatever it is that you’re looking for.
2. Connect with Fellow Expats
It’s highly unlikely that you’re the first person to move to that city for that reason. Chances are that there is a blog that is dedicated to providing information about that country or city. At the very least someone has written a blog post about their experience in that city that can help you make a more informed decision. You want to do as much research as you can so that you don’t sound like a total noobie when talking with fellow expats.
After exhausting written sources of information you should look to connect with people who live there now or have lived there recently. There are a lot of international social networking groups that can help you find people, such as Internations and Couchsurfing. There’s also usually a Facebook group for “expats in city/country” where you can find people as well.
The more people you can connect with before you move, the more potential allies you’ll have when you get there. A solid local connection is an invaluable asset to your team as they can drastically cut down the learning curve of moving to a new place and introduce you to other locals and expats.
3. Sort Out Your Logistics
Before you make the move you want to make sure that you’re not leaving any loose ends left untied back home. What payments are you making that you can cancel or defer? What outstanding obligations do you need to bring to a conclusion?
You’ll also need to figure out beforehand what you’re going to do in regards to banking, credit cards, visas and health insurance. When you get there you’ll need to figure out where you’re going to stay, what cell phone provider to use, where to get internet service, how to get around and where to go if you get in trouble.
Finances are a huge make or break factor for people as well. Do you have a job lined up for when you get there? Do you have some kind of recurring income stream or an online business that can sustain you when you get there? Do you have enough savings in case something happens or the currency fluctuates in value?
When figuring out how much money you need you’ll need to take into account certain factors like the cost of living in that city, the lifestyle you want to live and how much of a safety net you’re comfortable with. There is no magic number for how much you need but there are numbers that are more comfortable than others.
4. Learn the Local Language and Culture
If you’re going to be staying in a place for more than just a few weeks you need to learn the local language and culture. Your long term success and happiness is correlated to how well you adopt to the rhythm of life in that place and it’s impossible to truly blend in without speaking the language.
Learning a foreign language can seem like a daunting task for a lot of people, especially if you weren’t very successful in your high school Spanish class. It certainly isn’t something that you can do overnight, and it will take a lot of hard work for you to be successful. Start by learning a few key phrases that you use all the time and make the commitment to learn something new every day.
Be warned in advance that there is often a large price associated with not learning the local language. Those who can’t communicate in the local language are often charged tourist prices and lose out on opportunities that come to fluent speakers. You may feel like a perpetual foreigner and feel isolated and detached from the local community that you find yourself in.
Learning a foreign language is a lot of fun though. You’ll find yourself learning things about your own language that you never thought of before. Locals will get excited that you can speak their language and may invite you over for dinner or to do some activity that you would not have known about otherwise. You may one day catch yourself thinking in that language and you’ll be impressed with how far you’ve come.
Are You Ready to Move Abroad?
Now that you have a better idea of what it takes to successfully move abroad, I’d like you to take a few minutes to clearly articulate the future you see for yourself.
Where do you want to go? When do you plan on being there? For how long? What are you going to do when you get there?
Thinking about these questions may seem scary, especially if you’ve never made such a move before, but answering them is essential to your long term happiness and success.
Write out your answers and leave them in a comment down below. By writing out your intentions you are taking the first step in turning your dream into a reality.
Then in a few months once you’ve made the move you can come back here and smile at how far you’ve come.