SO YOU WANT TO MOVE ABROAD? TIPS FROM AN EXPAT
After a year in lockdown, are you sick of the same old same old, feeling that wanderlust, and itching to try something new? Have you always dreamed of waking up to the sunrise in Greece, shopping in France, or having daily fika in Sweden? Maybe your company has another branch in Germany, and you’re debating whether you’d like to apply for a job there instead? Whatever the reason, living abroad is an amazing adventure and is something I highly recommend to anyone who is able!
When MacKenzie and I moved to Sweden in 2018, we were lucky enough to have a ton of assistance from the company that hired MacKenzie, and they were able to guide us through the whole process of moving abroad, helping us navigate visas and all the paperwork that comes along with an international move. Though they provided a ton of support, there were many other things that we had to consider that were outside the company’s control, and things we had to figure out for ourselves before relocating our entire life to a country we knew very little about.
Moving abroad is a big decision, and if it’s something you’re thinking about, it might be helpful to keep the following tips in mind.
Curious if moving abroad is for you? Keep scrolling for things to consider!
Decide how you’ll get there
Unfortunately, as an American it’s not as simple as deciding you want to live in Sweden/Scotland/etc. and boom you’re on your way. Most of the time, you have to have a reason for being there! In my experience, the two easiest ways to move abroad are for work and for school. Having a company or school take care of the paperwork and logistics makes everything 100 times easier! Lucky for me, MacKenzie was the one who accepted a job (I started my master’s degree once we had been living in Sweden for a year), and his company also sponsored my visa and right to work in Sweden.
Don’t have a job offer or university acceptance in hand? Many countries have volunteer or government programmes that hire internationals. Additionally, in countries like China and South Korea, it’s quite easy to get a job teaching English. I know quite a few people who are not trained teachers but lived abroad for multiple years teaching English!
How will you support yourself?
Unless you’re able to rely on savings, thinking about how you’ll be able to support yourself financially while living abroad is super important! One of the easiest ways to move abroad is by getting a job (this is what we did!). MacKenzie received an offer for a role in Sweden, and my plan was to look for jobs once we arrived. Thankfully MacKenzie had one, because it ended up taking me 5 months to get a somewhat steady role as a substitute teacher, and another 1.5 years before I accepted an HR role (which I’m working remotely in now) 😱. Every country is different, so make sure to do some research about the job market if you’re planning on working (I can’t stress this enough!) and consider which type of work you’d be willing to do if a job in your field isn’t feasible. Not sure where to start? Try joining expat Facebook groups in the city you’re thinking about moving to. People will be more than happy to give you a realistic view of how it might be to work there, and may be able to offer networking or job tips!
Between applying for visas, finding a place to live, organising belongings and pet passports, be prepared to wait a bit! For us, it took about 4 months between accepting a job in Sweden and actually getting visas to be able to move, and for Scotland it took a even longer. Every country and visa process is different, so just keep in mind that you may need to be patient and be able to adjust your plans!
What about your stuff?
Whether you’re planning to live abroad for a year or indefinitely, you’ll need a plan for you belongings. Many companies will help with relocation fees, but if your company doesn’t or you’re moving on your own , it’s up to you to foot the bill (which most likely means you’ll not want to bring as much!). Our plan was to move abroad for at least 5 years, so it made sense to ship over our belongings. Depending on how much you already have and the duration of your stay, it may be worth it to compare the costs of shipping versus the price of those objects in your new city.
Bringing a pet?
We adopted our two cats Winston and Clementine about 7 months before moving to Sweden. Having known we would be making an international move so soon, I’m not sure we would have chosen that moment to adopt. BUT anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with my fur children, so obviously there was no question that we would be taking them abroad with us. Pets definitely make things more complicated (read more about our journeys to Sweden and Scotland ), expensive, and stressful – but for us it was definitely worth it. Traveling with animals is different in every country, so be sure to check, double check, and triple check everything you need in order to bring your pet into a new country.
Are you willing to make a few sacrifices?
Something that I didn’t consider too heavily before moving abroad was the amount of important life events and holidays I would miss out on. For me, this has been the single most difficult thing about living abroad. Over the last 3 years, I’ve missed weddings, births, funerals, you name it. While I try to go home at least once a year (in pre-pandemic times), it’s just not possible to go back for everything. Unfortunately this is one of the harsh realities of living away from friends and family. While it will provide amazing opportunities for friends and family to come and visit you, it’s definitely something to consider before packing up and moving away!
Not sure where to start?
Do you want to live abroad but are undecided on a location? Look to the internet for inspiration! Start by reading travel blogs, watching YouTube videos, looking at travel guides. Is there a country or city that is in particular need of jobs in your industry? Did you visit a city a few years ago and have been longing to go back? Do you have friends or acquaintances who have traveled or lived in a place that seems interesting to you? Start by researching different places and you may be surprised about which cities stand out to you!
Are you planning a move or have any questions about living abroad? Let me know in the comments!