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Moving Abroad: how

So you decided that moving abroad is for you, is something that you would attempt, now or in the near future, perhaps by going through my previous article on the why you should try moving abroad. This is the practical article on the how to move abroad. Tons of little steps are needed to stably go from one country to another and while just packing your stuff and leaving may sounds cool, I don’t advise such a bold move. You’d be overwhelmed.

Thus, plan part of the process well in advance so you come to the new place prepared for the difficulties and novelty you are going to face. The more you can plan in advance, the better.

How to move abroad: job

If you are moving because you got a job, then it’s already settled. Otherwise, try to get one or an interview planned for when you have actually moved, as soon as possible ideally. It is not purely an economical reason but finding a job means that you will be immersed in the new place by staying at an office or similar for a few hours every day, meeting locals, getting to know more about your new place and eventually also get legal help from your company for matters as visa, work permit, medical insurance and any kind of documents you may need in the new country.

Adult Man Looking for a Job
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Of course this is all theoretically speaking. More realistically you won’t have any job after you just moved abroad or won’t have one that soon. Then it is crucial to spend the time before moving researching job portals in the new country in order to both knowing what is the job market and to be able to choose the location of your new apartment. Spending hours commuting every day is no fun, especially at the very beginning when you will need the more time to get acquainted with the new country you just moved in, so locate the most common areas of business offices and look for an apartment in those areas.

Try to pipe in a few interviews or at least contacts with recruiters well in advance. Polish your resume, update your Linkedin profile and research on Glassdoor which companies are hiring in your new location and for what positions. Then apply. Do all this at least one month before you are moving abroad because later you won’t have as much time to do so, especially if you are moving on your own as I did. Don’t underestimate how time consuming can be looking for a job, some recruitment processes take months, independently by how good a candidate you may be. Start early.

How to move abroad: a new house

The second most important thing to research, well in advance here too, is a new house/apartment. Usually each country has a few b that list real estates offers or renting places. As with the job search, start at least one month before leaving your country as it is critically important that you know where to stay once you have landed in the new country.

New apartment
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Research prices and locations. If your budget affords it, spend a little more to be more centrally-located. Your social life will thank you for it later. I don’t advise to rent an hotel room or an AirBnB at first, even if you can afford them, as you may end up being lazy and never move out. The comfort of being taken care, at least partially, from others may save you a lot of time at first but not make you self-reliant in the long run, nor independent. Both are important qualities to acquire when moving abroad.

Consider also paying a real estate agent to find you a house. It will cost, probably around 1 month of rent, but it will incredibly speed up the process as they handle hundreds of places and can quickly put you in contact with owners to show you the houses.

Packing for the move

Many will suggest you to throw away everything that you truly aren’t attached to, a la Marie Kondo, but that may be too extreme for some. It was for me. The process of how to move abroad shouldn’t be that drastic.

Better instead to separate what you truly need from what can be brought later or abandoned.

For sure you don’t need to, and probably can’t, bring with you all the things you are attached to or have memories with at first, like photos, your hobbies’ tools that are bigger than a book (like a guitar or your collection of stamps or your paintings etc.), your personal books and so on. If you are going to leave your family at home, those things can be taken in a second moment, after you have settled down in the new country. Not thrown away, obviously. But at first, leave them behind as they will be yet another aspect to take care of at the beginning which will add up to the already numerous list.

Brown duffel bag near a chair
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If you are not leaving anybody behind nor a house that you can use to store a few of your stuff, pack then everything and send them to yourself at the new address abroad. That will require knowing in advance where you are going to live and thus the importance of the previous point. You can plan with delivery companies to delivery everything on a specific date or later than you have took the keys of the new house. They will usually keep your stuff for you in a deposit and delivery it later.

Consider the costs of delivering: if you are moving to a country nearby yours it may be more reasonable to send all or part of your stuff with a night bus, for half the price, generally, than a courier. Check for companies that directly connect the new city to yours among the communities of workers from the new country living in yours. They often have specific travel agencies where you can set up everything beforehand.

Do not pack any kitchen tools, unless extremely expensive, as the cost of delivering them will be close to the one of buying them new abroad. It is this a perfect occasion to renew what you have.

Old clothes on a chair
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Same for clothes. Probably 50% of what you have is either old, out of fashion or you don’t wear it that often anymore. Be resolute here and honestly decide what to bring with you without remorse. You will find plenty of shops in the new country to refresh your wardrobe anyway and they can even be cheaper if you are moving to a poorer country than yours. My advice is to select 2 big bags at most of clothes and abandon everything else. That will be enough clothes for the first month or so, allowing you time to buy new ones without hurrying.

Personal items like laptop, tablet, documents, your favourite toiletries and perfume will have to travel with you when you last leave your home country. Use a checked baggage, pay more if you need, but these things have to be with you as soon as you can. It is worth being sure they will follow you. Be aware of the rules of exporting food and seeds (very often you can’t the latter), liquids on flight, cigarettes/cigars, cash money and electronics (if flying, pack them in their original box along with their original invoice if possible). The more you know the rules, the more you will avoid losing time at the customs.

How to move abroad: practicalities

Going on to the aspects of how to move abroad that have less priority but still need to be checked before leaving your home, we have a list of small checks that are so often forgot and cause a waste of time, and sometimes also money, when faced with the reality.

Man doing paperwork
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This means a few things to take into consideration:

  • Check that your electronics will plug into the sockets of the new country. Wikipedia has a wonderful guide about this.
  • Get a paper map of your new city. Don’t get lost straight away.
  • Get informed about the transportation system of the new city. Bike rentals too, if you plan to mostly use the bike. If you are bringing or travelling with your car, be sure about the requirements of insurance and taxes abroad too.
  • Bank: if you can manage to open a bank account in the new country online, perfect. Otherwise, take away a few hours before leaving and check all the major banks in the new country to choose the account that best fits your needs. Make it a point to open it in the first days you are abroad, you will direly need it (at the very least to get your salary).
  • Check how it is possible to have internet in your new house or if mobile internet plans are enough for you. Usually each country has 3-5 mobile providers so be sure to know which offer what you need and, as with the bank, subscribe to the plan as soon as you can.
  • If you need new furniture in your new house, Ikea is mostly everywhere. It is possible to buy online and let the goods be delivered directly at your new house. That’s very handy, albeit more costly.
  • Explore thoroughly the new area around you: where’s the nearest supermarket? Fresh bread? The closes pharmacy? An ATM? The public transportation stop? The park for jogging? The nearest gym? The list can be infinite here. Consider what are your most immediate needs and either browse OpenStreetMap or take a few walks around your new home.

Don’t be discouraged

I know this post is getting rather long and the list of checks to be done before leaving seems like a mountain. It is easier than it looks, don’t get discouraged. The bigger difficulties can be found in the laws and getting a visa, if you need to. This part I didn’t include as it depends on too many factors and require specific knowledge about your new country that I don’t possess. I was lucky enough to be a EU citizen moving to another EU country that the paperwork was minimal. Contact the embassy of your new country for specific questions.

Laws aside, getting a job and a house take the longest and can occupy you for the most time. But once you have both, the rest of the checks is a piece of a cake compared to them. Choose wisely your new country and go, knowing that your future awaits you there.

Don't Look Back after Moving Abroad
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Neapolitan programmer, traveller and metalhead, co-author of PaperSounds blog.

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