I Want to Move Abroad. Where Do I Start?

Whether you’re moving to South Korea to teach English for six months or working in Singapore indefinitely, you can streamline the entire process with this post. I regularly get asked how did I get a job abroad? How much money do I need to move overseas? How do I find an apartment? Often the same questions. So I decided it was time to answer these questions. If you want to move abroad but don’t know where to start, I’ve got you covered! Here are 6 things to keep in mind when you want to move abroad but don’t know where to start.


For me, it was a mission to completely change my life and move abroad to China. I was determined to step outside my comfort zone and relocate to a place that is so much different. It has actually never sounded glamorous. On the contrary, it was always like a challenge for me: learning a foreign language, interacting with people from other cultures and adapting to expat life.


To be honest, there’s a whole bunch of questions to handle before you move overseas. To help you clear up this problem, I’ve put together 6 things every future expatiate should know before moving abroad. Want to learn how to move to another country? Buckle up! Let’s get started!


I Want to Move Abroad. Where Do I Start?


I Want to Move Abroad. Where Do I Start


1. Determine Your Motives

It goes without saying that understanding your reasons and motives for moving to another country permanently is the first step in the planning process. It is very important to clearly understand why you want to relocate. Is it because of an economic recession in your own country, lack of prospects for you or is it because you’ve lost your job. I’ve met people who did their best to relocate to a nicer country just to create better opportunities for their children.

With so many true benefits and perks of relocating, a lot of people think the grass is greener on the other side. In fact, it is not always the case. In answering “what are the benefits of living abroad?”, it is not enough just to know the actual reasons for moving to another country. It is important to clearly understand how exactly will your life change for the better.


Moving to a foreign country for work or education is probably one of the most common methods of obtaining a visa, but surprisingly, not the most common reason for doing so. Before I packed my suitcases and moved to China I had my own quite ambiguous feelings and desires. Aside from working in IT, I wanted to improve my language skills and to acquire new skills way faster than back home. It is no secret that oftentimes people just want to experience a change of pace. It also might be a combination of completely different reasons. What really matters when it comes to moving abroad is a well thought-out, pragmatic, reasoning for taking the step.


2. Choose the Country To Move to

With so many things to consider before packing your bags and moving to Europe, choosing a country to live in is the most important. This may seem like an easy step that doesn’t require much time. But in fact, this step affects the funds you need and the entire experience abroad. How much it cost to move to places with a higher cost of living like in the US, Europe or Australia will mean you’re going to need to save extra than moving to some countries in Asia. If you haven’t decided what country should you move to then that’s the first step! Once it’s done, the next step is to set and reach the savings goals.


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3. Save Enough Money

How much does it cost to move to another country? Of course, it depends on a number of factors and it is hard to say how much will it cost you. When you take into account variables like location and employment, I’d recommend having enough money in your emergency fund to cover at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses. That should cover housing, groceries, and a few fun things since you’re moving to a foreign country for the experiences, right?!

Money and research are the two most important things to care about before moving abroad. During virtually every move in a foreign country, there are costs involved. Of course, you can predict the costs of airfare and international shipments. But there are always multiple other ones that can potentially make your wallet thinner – visa application, work permits, housing, currency exchange rates, international calls at pay-as-you-go rates… Those small expenses add up very quickly. That is why I always do the research and trying to figure out how much money I might need for the unknown as well and have some spare budget prepared. While researching it often turns out that certain locations are just not the right place for me.


If you want to move abroad but don’t know where to start I would recommend that you do the research on how much money you will probably need to have. The old advice of knowing what are the exchange rates and the cost of living in the new country makes a world of difference. This will give you an overview of how quickly you might be able to financially adjust after getting a job there. Unexpected expenses is something you should be prepared for.


4. Apply For a Visa

Depending on the country you choose, it may require that you obtain a visa to work legally. First of all, figure out which visa class you need to apply for, and the things you should do to maximize your chances of acceptance. For example, if your partner possesses special skills and knowledge, it may be best if they apply to make your chances of approval higher.


Check with your intended destination’s government website for details on how long the whole process can take and what supporting documentation you will need to send in for your application. Forums and blogs are good sources of information where you can learn a lot from those who have been through the process. You can gain valuable insight into this process and ask advice if you need help at any point.


On the other hand, you may choose to relocate to a country where you don’t need a visa. But you still have to acquaint yourself with the registration process you will have to go through, however. In most European countries, as well as in Russia, they require to report your presence and register at a local police station or town hall. This process is required to pay tax and become a fine upstanding member of your new community.


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5. Adjust to a New Culture

Adapt to a new culture before moving abroad. Learn about the history of your new country and find out who runs the government and how it is run. Read up on its cultural norm manners and rules of etiquette. Find more time to read books and indulge in films that take place in your destination country. Learn a few words and phrases when moving to another country to endear yourself to the locals, and have a more authentic experience. Researching and understanding the culture (however imperfectly) will help offset culture shock and minimize awkward mistakes.


6. Reconnaissance Trip

This step can be optional for those focused on work. But from my experience, it is extremely useful to acquaint yourself with the new environment, build a new support network and find the perfect residence during a pre-relocation reconnaissance trip.


Having chosen the best country to move to start over it is now important to look at it through the eyes of a new citizen rather than a tourist. So rather than hitting bars or visiting museums, I’d recommend taking a closer look at banks, hospitals, buses and metro, the cost of rent, the expat districts where you could live and the opening times for all the critical services you will want to access when you first arrive.


Even if you don’t find the perfect place to live during the reconnaissance trips, they are invaluable to ensure that you know what a destination is like out of the tourism season. The haunts of locals or cultural attraction can go a long way in feeling more comfortable about your decision and getting buy-in from anyone who will be moving with you.

If your employer doesn’t typically offer a relocation package, ask for it. Your main goal is to ensure you could make a happy new life for yourself and your family. So don’t be afraid to negotiate. It is crucial to start by calculating moving costs so that you have a rough idea of how much your relocation is expected to cost you. Knowing this will allow you to create a moving budget and present your employer with a detailed information.


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The Bottom Line

You can ask countless questions and read a lot of forums, but there’s no substitute for getting out there and giving a place a trial run. Think you might want to live in China like me but you’re not sure where? Get a one-way flight to Beijing or Shanghai and start exploring.


I spent almost three months in China a year before I moved here to work full-time. I knew from my previous trips which places I definitely did not want to live in. Even when they were affordable and looked good on paper. They just didn’t have the right feel. The only way to learn it is to pack your bags and go.


Every country has its pros and cons and the more research you do, before and on the ground, the more you’ll be ready to find your perfect culture, understand how local communities interact with each other, tackle resistance from family to change your life, handle your banking, and start getting your list together of details to take care of. Then take off!




1 Comment

  • I am planning to move abroad. Thanks for sharing some of your insights.

    2019-03-28 at 3:10 am

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