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9 Things to Consider When Moving to Another Country

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Considering a move to another country? Welcome to my side of the internet! As someone who moved abroad 11 years ago and has since lived in 6 countries, I know a thing or two about what you need to know when moving internationally.

While social media makes living abroad look like an absolute dream (and a lot of the time it really is!), there's a lot more that you need to take into consideration than just picking a spot on the map and buying a plane ticket. Visas, finances, healthcare, and logistics unfortunately can't be brushed aside.

At a quick glance, we'll talk about:

  • Legal requirements to move abroad (aka visas and residency)
  • Finances and planning for the cost of living
  • Culture, language, and community

Some of these considerations might be deal breakers, others could be simply nice to have, but none of them should be overlooked when planning your move abroad. So let's dive into the nitty gritty and these 9 things to consider when moving to another country.

1. Visa & Immigration Considerations

Trieste Piazza as the sun is setting in the winter.

I don't know about you but I prefer to eat the frog first when I have a long list of things to do. What I mean by that is take care of the worst part of the process and when it comes to moving abroad, understanding visas and your legal requirements to move are by far the trickiest piece of the puzzle.

Figuring out the visa requirements and if moving to your dream country is even possible is one of the biggest steps to moving abroad.

When planning an international move, prioritizing the legal requirements for entry and residence is a must. And, unfortunately, these requirements will change from country to country and based on your own nationality.

For example, the requirements for a Canadian citizen to move to France will be different than that of a South Korean. That same Canadian and South Korean will face different requirements to move to Kenya instead of France.

On top of that, there are different types of visas, each with its specific set of rules and regulations. Selecting the appropriate visa is of paramount significance. If you make a mistake in this step, it can potentially derail your entire moving plan.

The Visa Process

Getting a visa is not just about filing an application. There’s a whole process that involves preparing the right documents, paying fees, and meeting deadlines. This process demands considerable time and diligence to circumvent any errors that might cause delays or application rejections.

But the complexity of this process shouldn’t deter you. It's just a reality of moving abroad - unfortunately for us with a bad case of wanderlust, you can just pick a place on the map and move there indefinitely without dealing with this first.

If this all sounds like too much of a headache, immigration lawyers do exist and can help you navigate the process. Do your due diligence when hiring one and try to get a recommendation.

Moving abroad for work? Your employer should take care of the visa process for you. This is a huge perk of working abroad so don't let your employee try and tell you it's not their responsibility - it is!

Understanding Visa Types

Grasping the array of visa options is pivotal in selecting the one that aligns best with your needs. There are numerous types of visas, but the most common ones offered in most countries are:

  • Tourist Visa: In general, this will allow you to stay only for a few days, weeks, or months. You legally can't live abroad on a tourist visa.
  • Business Visa: This visa is for those who work in one country but need to spend extended time in another for work. This visa typically only lasts for a few months so while it does allow you to legally work, you wouldn't be able to turn this into residency.
  • Work Visa: This is for those who get hired to work in a foreign country. This could be for anything from teaching English abroad to working in IT as an international corporation.
  • Working Holiday Visa: This is an agreement between specific countries that allows you to spend usually a year in a country, traveling or working (if you want to). Most countries cap the age limit at 30 but there are some exceptions. Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are some of the most popular countries for WH Visas.
  • Student Visa: Did you know you can go to university for your undergrad, masters, or doctorate in a foreign country? This visa allows you to do so.
  • Freelance Visa (Digital Nomad Visa): This is the newest visa to take the world by storm. Freelance visas are called many names but all target remote workers who want to live abroad. Each country will have its own unique set of requirements.

Each type of visa comes with its own set of requirements and restrictions. Be sure to thoroughly research each option and consider how well it aligns with your purpose of stay.

Apart from understanding the types of visas, you should also be prepared with all the important documents required for the application process. A simple Google search for ‘visa requirements in [country of your choice]’ can provide you with a wealth of information and guide you through the process. Just be sure you're looking up the requirements for your nationality.

Navigating the Application Process

The visa application journey entails numerous stages and calls for meticulous attentiveness. This includes gathering required documents, paying the necessary fees, and meeting the application deadlines. Most visa applications require a valid passport, a completed application form, and a travel itinerary if you’ve made travel plans.

The processing time can vary from a few hours to upwards of a year. Unfortunately, even everyone's visa process will be slightly different and with the exception of a few, there's little uniformity once you're in the weeds.

Staying Legally Compliant

Once you get your visa and relocate to your new country, take a second to understand immigration laws. In some cases, you might have more paperwork and appointments once you arrive. You might also need to transfer your visa into a residency permit.

Immigration laws can change, so it’s crucial to stay updated by regularly checking reliable sources like government websites, news outlets, and legal resources.

2. Lifestyle Considerations

A woman posing in snow holding her snowboard in front of snowy mountains

While the visa is the biggest hurdle to know if you can legally move to the country you've been eyeing and how, the lifestyle of said country will tell you if you want to move there.

I've lived in a lot of different countries all over the world and have loved them all for the variety in lifestyles I was able to try out. Now that I've experienced so many different places, I know more now what's important to me and what I actually value in my day-to-day life.

Things I like to consider when thinking about the lifestyle a certain place can offer:

  • How walkable is the city/town?
  • How pet-friendly is it?
  • Do I have easy access to nature?
  • Are there more things to do on the weekends than just eat or drink?
  • That said though, are there a variety of restaurants and bars when I do want a night out?
  • How open is the culture to foreigners and how female-friendly is it?
  • Is it easy to travel to new places from here?
  • How's the weather?

These things are deal breakers to me but do help me see what my life will look like in a specific place? Sometimes I'm eager for the challenge of living somewhere completely different but sometimes I'm looking for somewhere specific. These questions help me figure out what I'm looking for.

3. Money/Banking Considerations

A street view in Naples, Italy of the yellow alleyways

It's a common misconception that moving abroad is only for the rich. It's not. Actually most of the people I met teaching English in South Korea were there as a means to pay off their student loans quicker.

While it will give you peace of mind when moving abroad if you have money in the bank to serve as a safety net, it's not a huge necessity, depending on your lifestyle and the type of visa you're applying for.

If you're moving abroad for work, you can rest easy knowing that you'll have a paycheck coming your way. You'll just need to have enough to set yourself up in the country before you start earning. This is another reason South Korea was such a common choice for people - as an English teacher, you get your flight and accommodation paid for so once you arrive, you really just need to be able to afford your meals.

But, if you're planning to move on a digital nomad visa or a working holiday visa, showing money in the bank will be a requirement for the visa.

Opening a Bank Account

Again, this could or could not be a requirement based on the visa you're on. Personally, I like to use Wise. It's a digital bank that lets you make affordable transfers. I even use it to pay for my gym membership in Trieste, Italy (where I currently live). My husband uses his account to receive his paycheck.

Budgeting for the Cost of Living

Allocating a budget for living expenses constitutes a vital aspect of overseas life preparation. The cost of living includes:

  • housing
  • food
  • healthcare
  • transportation costs
  • taxes

It can vary greatly depending on your geographic location. When budgeting for housing expenses, research average rent or mortgage costs in your desired area and factor in additional costs like utilities, insurance, and maintenance.

Note that different countries will require different security deposits. For example, in the US, it's common to pay 1 month rent as a security deposit. When living in Vietnam, we learned the norm is 3 months rent. In Italy, it's 2 but you typically owe a 3rd to the realtor, even if the landlord hired the realtor, not you.

To save on transportation costs, consider using public transport. As for daily expenses, these can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle and the cost of living in your new country.

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4. Housing Hunt Considerations

A view of a big piazza in Verona during the Christmas season with an outdoor market.

Securing a home in your new country is another significant step in planning your relocation. This includes understanding the local housing market, avoiding rental scams, and securing your new home.

I highly recommend you start off by renting a home before you commit to buying on, unless you've already spent ample time in the town/city you're relocating to and are confident in your decision.

Housing Options and Strategies

Your budget and choice of city will largely determine the housing options available to you. It’s important to research different types of housing and neighborhoods to find the best fit for your needs. To find housing and secure a rental, you’ll typically need to provide identification, proof of income, and possibly references from previous landlords.

Be aware of potential fees and charges associated with renting, and if possible, try to negotiate the terms of your rental agreement to get the best deal.

Avoiding Rental Scams

Regrettably, rental scams are prevalent in numerous countries, making vigilance a necessity during your housing search. Always verify the legitimacy of rental listings and landlords, and never send money for a property you haven’t seen in person. Always, always, always check the place in person or ask the realtor to showcase the home in a live video call.

Securing Your New Home

After finding a suitable home, the subsequent step involves securing it. This involves completing paperwork, negotiating rental terms, and finalizing your housing arrangements. You’ll need to provide several documents, most of all your work visa/residency, and proof that you're legally living in the country and have the means to pay the rent.

Negotiating rental terms can be a daunting task, especially in a foreign country, but with the right research and approach, you can secure a favorable deal. You should also be aware of any legal stipulations and ensure that you fully understand the rental agreement before signing.

A little foresight and careful planning can go a long way in ensuring that your new home feels like a real home. 

5. Health Care Considerations

A coastal view of Lake Garda with sailboat anchored and a backdrop of steep cliffs coming out from the water.

Healthcare is a central concern when settling in a new country. You need to understand the local healthcare system, secure appropriate health insurance, and be prepared for medical emergencies. The quality of healthcare, availability of health insurance options, and affordability may vary across countries.

If you're moving on a work visa, health insurance should be part of your package. If it's not, I would renegotiate the deal.

If moving on a tourist visa or other type, health insurance might be your responsibility. Some countries will require you to have local insurance as part of your visa. If they don't, I highly recommend SafetyWing. This will give you the peace of mind while you're getting established in your new country and shopping for the right local insurance.

Accessing Medical Services

Acquainting yourself with the healthcare services offered in your new country is essential. In most countries, some provide universal access to healthcare services, but the quality and accessibility of these services can vary.

Understanding how the local healthcare system works will help you navigate it more efficiently when you need medical care.

If you're coming from the US, pretty much every country in the world will be far more affordable than what you're used to so you can take a deep, refreshing breath here.

Emergency Preparedness

Another significant consideration is readiness for medical emergencies. Knowing the local emergency numbers and the location of the nearest hospitals can be lifesaving in a crisis.

I had to call the ambulance for my husband when living in Da Nang and it was such an eye-opening experience. I didn't speak enough of the language and the dispatcher actually hung up on me because they didn't speak English. Don't worry, a friend could help and he's a-OK, was just a very scary moment!

Don't wait until you're in a crisis - know the emergency number and the basic sentence to get an ambulance to your address.

6. Language & Communication Considerations

An upwards looking view of the buildings of Positano, Italy build up the steep mountain.

Language barrier is real! Depending on where you're moving and the language you already speak this could be more or less a challenge.

If you speak English, you're in luck. Simply by knowing this language, doors will open up for you as it's the international language.

Learning the Local Language

Even if you speak English, unless that's the native language where you're moving, do your best to learn at least basic phrases and vocabulary where you're moving.

Some people naturally learn languages easier and for those of us who don't, the process can be frustrating. Don't focus on perfection, focus on being able to get your point across. It'll get easier with practice.

Learning the local language of your new country is both a sign of respect and a practical necessity. It can ease your integration into the local culture and enhance your understanding of social norms and customs.

I love the app Mondly for at home practice but attending language classes and immersing yourself in daily life will help you pick up the language faster.

English Accessibility

Despite the benefits of learning the local language, you might question the prevalence of English in your new country. The proficiency level of English varies depending on the country and region.

I've lived in small towns in Latin America where knowing Spanish was an absolute must and cities throughout Europe where most people, especially the younger generation, knows basic English.

Google Translate

Google Translate will be a lifesaver though. Download the app before you arrive to the country and download the language needed for offline access. This app works best for text to text but voice to text and pictures to text works well, too.

7. Transportation Considerations

A street view in Procida, Italy of brightly painted homes and people walking and driving scooters.

Comprehending the transportation logistics in your new country is another crucial consideration. This involves understanding the local public transportation system, driving license requirements, and exploring vehicle ownership possibilities.

Just like all of these things to consider when moving to another country, how you can get around might be a deal breaker.

Although I'm from the US and grew up always needing a car to get anywhere, now that I've lived in East Asia and Europe where public transit just works, I don't want to go back to living without that option. To you, it might not be as big of a deal but it's something to consider as it'll affect your daily life.

Public Transportation Systems

Relying on public transportation can be a cost-effective and efficient means of traversing your new country. The availability and reliability of public transportation can vary greatly from country to country. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the local transportation options and how to use them.

Driving License Requirements

Before hitting the road in your new country, confirm the validity of your current driving license or the necessity to obtain a local one. It’s important to ensure that you meet the legal requirements for driving in a new place. Some countries allow you to use your home country’s driving license for a specific period, while others require you to get a local license.

You most likely will need to get an international driver's license so I recommend doing that before you move, just in case.

Vehicle Ownership Possibilities

Your transportation needs and duration of stay might prompt you to contemplate vehicle ownership or rental in your new country. Keep in mind that this comes with additional responsibilities such as vehicle insurance, maintenance, and understanding local traffic laws.

8. Making Friends Considerations

Two men walking in a piazza in Udine looking around at the old buildings.

Relocating abroad entails more than just securing accommodation or employment; it also involves:

  • Cultivating a new social network
  • Meeting new people
  • Joining local clubs and groups
  • Overcoming homesickness

All of these are part of the journey to make your destination country feel like your home country, as you adapt to your new country.

Meeting New Friends

Look, this can be tough. Even as an extrovert I've found that in some countries it's easy and it just clicks and in other countries it's been more of a struggle. The thing is, you have to try. You're the new one so putting yourself out there is a must if you want to make friends abroad.

What's really cool about living abroad is most likely you'll get the chance to meet new people from all over the world. Your social circle can be super diverse which is a great chance to expand your horizons, learn about different cultures, and make lasting friendships. Don’t be hesitant to step out of your comfort zone.

Many cities will host "expat meet-ups" via Facebook groups. Going to a meet-up is one of the easiest ways to make friends because everywhere there is looking to do the same thing.

It’s through these interactions that you’ll start to feel at home in your new country.

Joining Local Clubs and Groups

Participation in local clubs and groups can make this process easier. Whether it’s a sports club, a book club, or a community service group, getting involved in local activities can provide a sense of belonging and help alleviate feelings of homesickness.

When I used to work in-person abroad, making friends was easier thanks to my colleagues. Now that I work remotely, putting myself out there and going to meet-ups, events, or joining clubs is so much more a necessity than it was before.

Overcoming Homesickness

Despite the thrill of residing in a new country, bouts of homesickness are quite normal. Staying connected with friends and family back home and creating a new support network in your host country can help alleviate these feelings.

Remember, it’s okay to miss home, but don’t let it stop you from embracing the new experiences that your new life abroad has to offer.

9. Cultural Adaptation Considerations

A coastal view of Rovinj, Croatia taken outside of the city.

While culture adaptation can present challenges, it also offers an enriching experience. It involves understanding the social norms of the new country and dealing with the inevitable culture shock.

To me, this is one of the biggest differences between traveling abroad and living abroad. When you live somewhere, you get the unique chance to dive deep into day-to-day life and peek beneath the surface.

Understanding Social Norms

Each culture has distinct social norms. Some might be very strange to you but it is so important to respect these norms as you navigate through your daily life in your new country, even if you don't agree with them. Understanding these norms can help you avoid misunderstandings and build stronger relationships with the locals.

Dealing with Culture Shock

Relocating to a new country can often induce culture shock. This can range from minor confusion to feelings of isolation or frustration. However, it’s important to remember that these feelings are normal and temporary. With time, patience, and an open mind, you’ll soon adjust to your new surroundings and start to appreciate the unique aspects of your new culture.

Now that I've been living abroad for over a decade, I actually experience reverse culture shock (shock when I go back home to the US to visit) more than I do in new countries abroad.

Frequently Asked Questions

A dramatic mountain range in the Dolomites of Northern Italy

What is hard about moving to another country?

Moving to another country is challenging due to the numerous tasks that need to be addressed, such as housing, visas, language classes, and more. Additionally, managing immigration, moving expenses, and leaving behind family and friends can add to the difficulty.

What do I need to do to move to another country?

What you need will depend greatly on the type of visa you're applying for. Regardless you'll need a passport but the requirements and process will vary from visa to visa and country to country.

How much money should you have before moving to another country?

This really will depend on your lifestyle and if you already have a job secured abroad or are able to take your online job abroad with you. It will also depend on if you have dependents or are moving by yourself.

I moved to South Korea with less than $1000 USD in my bank account. This isn't something I would recommend but is something that is possible. It's even possible to move abroad for free but you need to be flexible with your lifestyle.

What are some ways to make new friends when moving to a new country?

To make new friends when moving to a new country, the first thing you should do is join the local Facebook group for expats and go to a meet-up. Also consider joining local clubs and groups, participating in community events, and learning the local language to connect with people. These steps can help you build a social circle and feel more at home in your new environment.

What should I consider when choosing a health insurance plan in a new country?

When choosing a health insurance plan in a new country, consider the cost, coverage, and the reputation of the insurance provider.

Summary: Moving Abroad Considerations

A glimpse of Roman architecture with the colosseum in the background.

Moving to another country is a thrilling journey filled with new experiences and opportunities. However, it also comes with its share of challenges. From securing the right visa and finding a home to adapting to a new culture and making friends, there’s a lot to consider and plan for.

Remember, the key to a successful relocation lies in careful planning, open-mindedness, and a willingness to embrace new experiences. Embrace this opportunity to expand your horizons, learn about different cultures, and create a new life in a new country.

Here’s to a successful move and an exciting journey ahead!

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